CSOs unanimous in their call for BBL enactment

A large number of civil society organizations consisting of networks of people's organizations, non-governmental organizations, peace advocacy groups of IPs,and religious groups, labors, academe, and other sectors, are united in calling for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by congress. 

This has been the summary of the manifestos submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) during the Bangsamoro Assembly held at the old Maguindanao Provincial Capitol at, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last November 26-27, 2017 where President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the guest of honor. 

At least 67 CSOs submitted their respective statements asking President Duterte to urge the House of Representatives (HOR) to pass BBL into law. When approved in congress, BBL shall serve as the legal basis in the establishment of the Bangsamoro government. 

"To sustain the gains of all peace processes between different Moro groups, and the Government of the Philippines, there is a need for the immediate enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is consistent with the signed agreements," reads the consolidated manifesto in support of the enactment of BBL. 

These networks of CSOs are mostly based in mainland Mindanao, and the Island provinces with some few based in Manila, and in the Middle East with members who attended said two-day assembly.

According to the organizers, and based on the registration records, about 1.2 million participants attended the Bangsamoro Assembly. The event was convened in compliance with E.O. No. 8 issued by President Duterte last November 7, 2017 that mandated the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to "convene an inclusive Bangsamoro Assembly as a consultative body to discuss the proposed BBL.” 

Speaking during the event, President Duterte reiterated his policy on "correcting the historical injustices committed against the Moro people" at one hand, and the "preservation of the state" on the other hand.  In that connection, his administration has been supportive of the peace process. He even said that he will  asked congress to hold for a "special session" to tackle the proposed BBL.

Accordingly, said special session shall be held on the early months next year before congress adjourns on late March, 2018. 

Press Secretary Harry Roque told media during the assembly that President Duterte supports the passage of the BBL. Asked about the timeline, Roque told that it shall be determined by congress.

The Philippine Star however reported lately that congressmen said "there is no more need to hold a special session to tackle the BBL." Instead, "they could pass the bill upon the initiative of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez," said the national daily reported.

House majority leader Rodolfo Farinas is also quoted to have said that Speaker Alvarez said Congress shall pass the BBL on   March 21 next year. In another occasion, however, former House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said that both senate, and congress shall pass the BBL by June 11 in 2018. 

Recalling that the BBL of the expanded BTC version was certified urgent by President Duterte late September, this year, together with the tax reform bill. 

Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Chairman, said during the Bangsamoro Assembly: "We push for the enactment of BBL because we firmly believe it is the right thing to do." 

Related thereto, it is important to note that BBL has been receiving popular support. 

"We came to the assembly to register our full support to the BBL, as the more appropriate political solution to the Bangsamoro issue," MNLF Chairman Yusoph Jikiri said during the Bangsamoro Assembly. The current BTC version is based upon the "principle of convergence or harmonization" of the MNLF and MILF peace agreements with the GPH.

Likewise, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo OMI DD also expressed the same support to the BBL. "I strongly support the inclusive BBL that was drafted by the expanded BTC as it answers the centuries-old aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination, and addresses the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro," he further said.

Timuay Melanio Ulama, an IP BTC commissioner, delivering his speech in Filipino, also manifested his support to BBL as it showcases the unity of the Bangsamoro, and that it's immediate passage into law shall fulfill the age-old aspiration of the Mindanaoans for peace with justice, dignity and real progress. 

For BTC Chair Ghazali Jaa'far, "BBL is an anti-dote to violent extremism."

Very recently, recruitment by radical and extremist armed groups, particularly those ISIS-inspired terrorists, was reported. The fact is that, this extremist ideology is appealing to youth due to frustrations from the turnout of the GPH-MILF peace process, and the BBL fallout in 2015. To them, GPH has been just playing the fool of the MILF.

“The recruitment is now happening very, very rapidly,” Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) recently said.

Very recently, President Duterte warned of "unrest in South" if the Philippines will not address the historical injustice committed against the people of Mindanao. He told that, otherwise, "there will be trouble," while giving his remarks during the celebration of the 2nd Philippine Construction Congress in Pasay City last November 28. 

The warning was given in the light of the destructive aftermath of Marawi crisis where ISIS-inspired Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group occupied said town for five months since May 23 this year.