Philippines continues efforts to ratify law for Muslim south

The government and region's largest rebel group are believed to have arrived at vital resolutions to include in the draft law.

Philippines continues efforts to ratify law for Muslim south

World Bulletin / News Desk

Prominent Muslim officials in the Philippine's south are convinced that the direct involvement of the president's chief aide in peace overtures between the government and the region's long-time largest rebel group will hasten the completion of the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL).

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao described Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa’s participation in peace efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday as a manifestation of President Benigno Aquino III’s commitment to find a lasting, negotiated solution to the decades-old Moro issue in the region.

“That is a very clear manifestation of Malacanang Palace’s [the office of the president's] direct involvement now in the efforts of the government and the MILF to craft a draft BBL that is acceptable to both sides,” Hataman said.

For two months, government and MILF peace panels have been trying to reconcile each other’s positions on many sensitive provisions of the law - an enabling measure needed to replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a politically and administratively empowered new Bangsamoro self-governing entity.

The region, located in the Mindanao island group of the Southern Philippines, is composed of predominantly five Muslim provinces, namely: Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Ochoa and the MILF’s chief negotiator, Mohaquer Iqbal, who is also presiding chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, discussed vital issues regarding the law in a series of meetings from August 13 to 15 in Davao City.

Hataman said Saturday that the two parties had arrived at vital “resolutions” which they agreed to include in the draft.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles said in a statement Saturday that the draft law may be submitted to Malacanang within the next few days. The office of the president, shall, in turn, endorse the law to congress for enactment, and, subsequently, be ratified via a plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory.

Iqbal and government counterpart Miriam Coronel-Ferrer separately announced over the weekend in a radio interview that government and MILF panels are to meet again - from August 18 to 28 - to resolve remaining contentious provisions of the draft law.

For local officials in Central Mindanao, Deles' latest statement was a clear indication that there had been a breakthrough in efforts to resolve any misunderstandings on its contents.

“We fully support President Aquino’s tasking of Executive Secretary Ochoa to help in the finalization of the draft BBL,” said Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu, who has jurisdiction over 36 towns that are all bastions of the MILF, is the sole ARMM provincial governor to throw his voice behind the peace initiative.

“Skeptics and cynics have no more reason now to doubt President Aquino’s sincerity in dealing with the MILF now that his very own executive secretary is involved in the process of making the draft BBL become acceptable to both sides,” said Mangudadatu, who chairs the inter-agency Maguindanao provincial peace and order council.

The MILF's Iqbal and Executive Secretary Ochoa also signed a joint statement while in Davao City stating that they had “concluded discussions” on various issues regarding the law.

Gov. Hataman reiterated Saturday his readiness to vacate his post and help facilitate a smooth transition from the ARMM to the new Bangsamoro political entity once the law is enacted.

“We shall turn over to the government and MILF all fiscal and property assets of the ARMM government and the personnel of all line agencies and support offices under the Office of the Regional Governor once that draft BBL becomes a law,” Hataman said.

Mangudadatu said one of his major concerns now is the continuing granting of scholarships to qualified Moro, Christian and lumad (tribal) students and the implementation of socio-economic interventions to hasten the restoration of normalcy in MILF enclaves.

“These efforts will, in effect, strengthen the peace we now enjoy in the province as a result of the on-going government-MILF peace endeavor,” the governor said.

On March 27, the government and the MILF signed a peace deal that brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.

The deal committed Aquino and the MILF to pass a law creating the Bangsamoro Region -- which will supplant the ARMM once the law is passed and ratified -- before the 2016 presidential elections.

The Bangsamoro Transition Committee submitted the law to the government in April for review prior to submission to Congress, only for the government to return it two months later with proposed revisions.

Former rebel outfit the MILF has since suggested that the government is seeking to renege on its commitments by diluting the wording of the law.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Ağustos 2014, 15:17