“What is your stand as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission on President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to shift to Federalism, and what will happen to the MNLF Final Peace Agreement?” asked by one of the viewers of documentary film-showing on the Bangsamoro History and Struggle during the open forum Q&A, held recently at SM Cinema in Baguio City.

About 1,903 members of the Committee on Da’wah and Masajid (mosque) Affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held their 1st Commencement Exercises on Tuesday, July 26 at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao.

Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on putting closure to the Bangsamoro Question during his First State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday (July 25), former Cotabato City Vice Mayor and Chairman of the MNLF-Council of 15 said that, “There is a possibility that he (Duterte) would be the last president we are to negotiate with. We are inspired by his being positive on the peace process and for that we will reciprocate with honor and vigor”.

In his recent visit to Buluan in Maguindanao , President Rodrigo Duterte  ordered Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to release an initial P300 million for farmers in oil palm plantations in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had expressed willingness to support any initiative for the establishment of Halal Agro-industrial parks in the country that will provide Muslim consumers wider access to Halal products and help lift the Philippine economy.

Philstar correspondent John Unson reported yesterday that Maguindanao 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, the spouse of the Datu Muslimen Sema of the Moro National Liberation Front-Council of 15 (MNLF) has re-filed in Congress on June 30 the original version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is to principally benefit the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

All signs are leading to the resumption of the GPH-MILF peace process. This was secured after Secretary Jesus Dureza and the MILF Central Committee led by Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last July 21. Other points decided during the meeting were: Government will reconstitute its peace panel, now dubbed as GPH implementation panel (The MILF panel will still be the same, as has been constituted), and they will meet in early August in Kuala Lumpur; the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be ahead of the effort to change the form of government from unitary presidential to federal parliamentary; and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will be reconstituted to come up with a new proposed basic law. However, the issue of whether to enlarge the BTC’s membership from 15 to 17, 19 or 21 is lodged with the two panels to decide once they meet in Kuala Lumpur.

Motives in entering into peace negotiations can be varied, from purely tactical in character such as buying time or the need to be viewed as peace-loving to real problem-solving exercises. At one time or another, the GPH-MILF peace process had assumed all of these characterizations. However, for the most part, it was government which resorted to these dirty tricks notably the paikot (running around) that clearly manifested in many moments during the Arroyo administration. But as time went by, the negotiations gathered momentum and evolved into one of problem-solving engagement. Trust and confidence had been patiently built over the years and they peaked during the Aquino administration. The test of its durability was measured when the Mamasapano tragic incident happened on January 25, 2015 where 44 Special Police Forces, 17 MILF combatants, and five civilians were killed, as well as scores of others wounded. The incident almost exploded into high intensity conflict.

About a year before President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, the MILF had already embarked on its war on drugs especially shabu (methamphetamine). It had identified hundreds to thousands of drug pushers especially in Central Mindanao and saved so many users or addicts from further destruction. Its campaign slogan is: “Shabu is haram and the roots of all evils.” For this, the MILF has not only achieved some successes but also earned praises from many sectors including Christian leaders in nearby provinces.

There has been pronouncement lately about the need for inclusivity in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as if to say that what was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and introduced to Congress as House Bill No. 4994 in the Lower House and Senate Bill No. 2408 in the Upper House was lacking in such quality. This calls for clarification, lest the impression or perception would be accepted as fact. And the quick way to do that is to look at the proposed law.

There has been various new views or proposals on how to translate into law called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is provided for in a political agreement known as Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).  This agreement, which contained the political solution to the Bangsamoro Question or Problem, had been signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the presence of international personalities, including two heads of state, on March 27, 2014.

In democracy, sovereignty resides in the people, and thus any major decision that affects their lives especially in legislation requires a consultation with them. One such piece of legislation is the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which will serve, if enacted into law, as the basic law for the Bangsamoro political entity that it seeks to establish.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 22, 2016 – Unless it is his way of finding relief from his promises, presumptive President Rodrigo R. Duterte must restrain his cabinet-member designates and top allies in the Congress from making public statements contrary to his campaign and post-campaign commitments like what Davao del Norte representative-elect Pantaleon Alvarez said at the “Headstart” program of ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) last May 19. He is Duterte’s candidate for House speaker.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 18, 2016 – Will the Bangsamoro be established under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte? MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim sounds optimistic. (MindaNews, May 15, 2016: MILF’s Murad to Duterte: “We will partner with you and your administration”)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, February 11, 2016 – Bangsamoro is stalled. The BBL that would have launched it by June 30, 2016 had been disabled early in the Congress and substituted with the BLBAR. But, BLBAR had failed to take off when the Congress adjourned last February 5. Whether Bangsamoro can be relaunched during the next administration hinges on how Moro-friendly would be the next President and the non-Moro members of the 17th Congress.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 25, 2016 – “A-DL” is Anti-Dynasty Law; “FOIL” is Freedom of Information Law. BBL is the original Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. All three are still bills marooned in the 16th Congress. As BBL has been debased and pining for redemption and passage, A-DL and FOIL, long resigned to their fate, are comforting it: “Hindi ka nag-iisa” (You are not alone.)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 14, 2016 – No matter how unacceptable, let it be stated simply: The Bangsamor is banished indefinitely. This is seen through prevailing circumstances that look irreversible. This is squarely facing the fact. Let’s hope, though, that by a miraculous stroke of fate, the statement is proven wrong.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, December 19, 2015 – The Philippine Star (December 16, 2015: House drops opt-in provision from BBL) reported the House of Representatives “has decided to delete the controversial opt-in provision from the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in a move to lessen opposition to the measure.” 

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The peace process in Mindanao, and perhaps elsewhere in the world, has been likened already to a journey. Prof. Paul D. Hutchcroft’s book, titled as “Mindanao: The Long Journey to Peace and Prosperity”, is obviously a work that also subscribes to that metaphor.

We, the members of the Bangsamoro Justice-Seekers for Martial Law Massacre Victims, a community of victims, survivors, and descendants of the horrendous bloody massacres committed in Mindanao during the Martial Law administration of the President Ferdinand Marcos make known our unequivocal position.

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