BBL not for lasting Mindanao peace – Escudero

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BAGUIO CITY – The crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by government peace negotiators and their counterparts was not actually intended for the attainment of lasting peace in Mindanao but it was primarily geared towards the interest of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Senator Francis Escudero said here Saturday.

Escudero said government peace negotiators seemed to have compromised the interest of the country in achieving lasting peace in Mindanao to the interest of the MILF leaders because the crafted BBL was tailor-fit for the interest of the revolutionary group and not for the interest of the people living in Mindanao.

“The stand of Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles and government peace panel chairperson Dr. Miriam Ferrer to have the draft BBL approved as it is will not hold ground because of various unconstitutional provisions. If they insist on the approval of the BBL without amendments, the Senate will not do so,” Senator Escudero stressed.

He said the government was not able to pinpoint which among the grumps in Mindanao represent the true clamor of the people for peace because the grant of autonomous status to some provinces and the subsequent peace agreements never achieved lasting peace for Mindanao.

While it is true that the government and the MILF had a 3-year ceasefire agreement, Senator Escudero questioned why did the Zamboaga siege initiated by the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) happen.

Furthermore, the senator disclosed that while the ceasefire was underway, the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were able to burn three barangays in Mindanao which illustrates that the government was not able to master having peace with the right group.

He cited when the Ramos administration signed the peace agreement with the MNLF, the MILF emerged and now that the Aquino administration signed the peace agreement with the MILF, the BFF and the Justice Islamic Movement again emerged that is why there is no actual guarantee that lasting peace in Mindanao could be achieved.

However, he claimed the MILF peace agreement could contribute to the significant reduction of lawlessness in Mindanao but it is not the actual solution to the conflicts in the area.

Senator Escudero asserted lawmakers are inclined to along the provisions of the BBL to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution as there are around six contentious issues that were discovered in the course of their study on the submitted BBL.

He pointed out it is not possible that the decision of the Shariya Court would be final and executory since the Supreme Court (SC) has been identified by no less than the Constitution as the final arbiter of the laws of the land that includes Mindanao.

On the provision that Shariya Court judges will be subject for disciplinary action by their own Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the lawmaker argued the Constitution provides there is only one JBC and the creation of another JBC by the BBL is unconstitutional.

Senator Escudero emphasized the creation of a separate Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in the Bangsamoro government is also unconstitutional because the said constitutional bodies were created by the Constitution covering and governing the whole country.

On the plebiscite requirement for barangays, municipalities, cities and provinces adjacent to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Escudero criticized the 10 percent requirement of voters favoring the inclusion of their local governments to the Bangsa moro government, saying that 10 percent of the voters does not represent the plight of the majority and that it is contrary to the rule of the majority which is 50 percent plus one.

According to him, Secretary Deles, Dr. Ferrer and their Muslim counterparts do not own absolute knowledge and intelligence in the crafting of laws beneficial to the greater majority of Filipinos that is why it is not right for them to dictate upon Congress on railroading the approval of the BBL without studying its implications to the laws of the land and even the Constitution which is the fundamental law of the country.

Another unfair provision of the BBL, according to Escudero, is that local governments could be asked annually whether or not they want to join the BBL but they could not be asked whether or not they want to be out of the BBL.

“The existence of an opt-in provision and the absence of an opt-out clause is another questionable provision of the BBL that needs to be refined and put in its proper perspective,” Escudero asserted.

Escudero refused to comment on whether or not Congress will be able to pass the BBL right in time to the self-imposed deadline of the Palace in June, saying that deliberations will surely go a long way.

In the creation of the Peace Council by the President and the calling of a National Peace Summit, Senator Escudero said the outcome of the peace summit is totally different from the law-making powers bestowed by the Constitution to the Congress.

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