BBL draft ready for submission to President on July 17

Mohagher Iqbal

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is set to be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for him to certify it as urgent in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) to Congress on July 24.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told the Inquirer that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) would submit the draft BBL to Malacañang on July 17.

Iqbal said the BTC had received word on the final schedule of the BBL submission, moved several times for various reasons.

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The BTC, a joint panel comprised of representatives from the government, the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), hopes the President will certify the bill as urgent for Congress’ passage in his Sona.

Iqbal earlier told the Inquirer that Mr. Duterte reiterated during the Eid al-Fitr celebration in Malacañang two weeks ago his promise to pass the BBL.

Stalled peace process

“The sense of urgency is still in the statement of the President … He said whatever he promised to the MILF, we should hold on to it because he would fulfill that,” Iqbal said.

Geoffrey Hartman, a fellow at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the Marawi siege, led by the Maute-Abu Sayyaf coalition, “highlights the perils of a stalled peace process.”

“The Philippine government should move forward on the BBL in order to preserve the central role of the MILF and prevent further defections to more extreme groups,” Hartman said.

He warned in a June 29 commentary regarding fears that the breakdown in the government peace process with the MILF “would lead to disillusionment and a return to violence, exacerbated by the influence of international jihadist movements like IS (Islamic State), appear to be coming to pass.”

“The Maute-Hapilon coalition represents a threat to even the MILF, and there are indications that the Maute group has been successfully stealing away young MILF followers disillusioned with their leadership’s continued cooperation with the Philippine government despite the stalling of the peace process,” Hartman said.

Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon is said to be the IS “emir” in Southeast Asia.

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The longer the Moro people wait for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro region, which will supersede the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the greater the possibility that the younger ones will be attracted to joining more radical groups like the Mautes, Iqbal said.

Battle for legitimacy

This is why not only the MILF, but also some analysts, believe that the passage of the draft BBL is key to dealing with the threat of terrorism in the country, according to Iqbal.

For one, it would provide a legitimate entity to fill the ungoverned spaces in Central Mindanao that have become terrorists’ lairs.

“The challenge [to the MILF] is very confrontational and harsh,” Iqbal said of the Maute group.

“If you ask the Maute group, they look at the MILF as a non-Islamic organization. The real challenge is the battle for legitimacy,” he added.

It is also a battle for “supremacy, territory and recruits,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the Maute group indeed wanted a bigger territory and had been enlisting young people who were “attracted to something daring and to new ideas.”

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