Philippines gov't welcomes amended Bangsamoro bill

In June, senator charged committee with drafting new bill suggested changes to law expected to seal peace in Muslim South, after saying the original was unconstitutional.

Philippines gov't welcomes amended Bangsamoro bill

World Bulletin / News Desk

Government officials affiliated to a peace process with the country's one time largest rebel group have welcomed a report by a committee offering suggested changes to a bill that aims to seal peace in the country's Muslim south.

In a statement issued to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process  Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said: “We welcome the completion and submission by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)."

Deles noted that her office is happy with the development because it will allow “plenary deliberations for the passage of the law to now proceed with all due diligence and without further delay." 

She added that her office can help “explain and clarify the different provisions and their importance in addressing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people,” even before plenary senate deliberations begin Aug. 17 on Marcos' report.

BBL legalizes the creation of a new region to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, under the terms of a 2014 peace deal.

The deal, inked between the government and one time rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in March 2014, is aimed at bringing an end to 17 years of negotiations and a decades-old armed conflict, while granting Muslims greater political autonomy.

The bill was initially set to be passed by March, but a clash between elite police and Moro rebels in January left 67 people - include 44 police commandos - dead, endangering the peace process.

Marcos - the son of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 21 years - rejected the original bill in June, saying it was unconstitutional, and will “lead us to perdition.”

On Wednesday, he said about 80 percent of the original version of the bill had been amended by his committee, with 115 “major and minor” changes.

A major change was the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. The authority will serve as the interim government once the bill is ratified in Congress and through a plebiscite.

In the original version, MILF will lead the body, with non-Moro indigenous peoples, women, settler communities, and other sectors included in the authority. Yet Marcos said this provision was amended.

Marcos also said that the substitute bill deleted some of the provisions that the House of Representatives also omitted from its own version.

The MILF has described Marcos' report as “50 percent bad”.

Called Senate Bill 2894 under Committee Report 200, it is 100 pages long, with 17 articles and 215 sections.

Like the House's amended version, it is titled “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

It was the product of 12 public hearings, one briefing, and two separate hearings of Senate constitutional amendments by hosted committee chairperson Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

In an editorial in July posted on its official website, the MILF had warned against watering down and delaying the bill.

It said that beyond October, it is unlikely for the bill to pass as politicians focus on campaigning for the May 9, 2016, general election, and it would not accept a “diluted BBL."

 It underlined that the BBL had already passed through various levels of review and decision-making, during which changes took place and were agreed on by all parties involved.

“Many quarters are beseeching the MILF to compromise. We do not know where to compromise," it said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Ağustos 2015, 09:12