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Stop dire warnings, 3 senators tell MILF

THREE senators warned the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Friday  against threatening Congress on what they will do if a watered-down version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said threatening Congress would be counter-productive, and they stand to lose friendly forces who also want peace in Mindanao.

Angara

Angara was reacting to an earlier statement by the MILF that the decommissioning of its forces will not push through if the BBL they wanted is not passed.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said threats from the MILF will not help their case.

He said the BBL must be constitutional and Congress must clearly define the powers and resources the national government is willing to give to the regional government.

“I am in favor of giving more power and resources to them,” he said.

But he also said the regional government must respect the autonomy of local governments in the area.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III said halting the decommissioning would mean that the war would continue.

The substitute to the BBL, drafted by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is being debated in the Senate.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said he came out with a substitute bill to ensure it would pass legal scrutiny in case it will be questioned before the Supreme Court.

He rejected the claim of MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in comparing the substitute bill to a person with no soul.

The senator insisted that instead of just dealing with one group, the MILF, they involved all stakeholders.

He pointed out that the statement of the MILF was dictated by their hardline stance to press for the approval of the Malacañang backed BBL without any changes.

However, Marcos said he was confident he can explain to the MILF leadership the necessity of instituting changes in the substitute bill.

In the Palace-supported BBL, he noted that it is largely the MILF that would run the government. “What we did was to allow other groups to participate in the process by giving them representation in the Bangsamoro parliament,” said.

The Palace  on Friday  said it would continue to push for its own version of the BBL.

“The relationship between the normalization process and the passage of the BBL is clear in the CAB,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the MILF.

“That is why we are working hard on the passage of a BBL that is consistent with the CAB,” she added. “We are confident that Congress understands the importance of this.”

In a statement on its website, the MILF described a watered down version of the BBL as “the worst case scenario.”

The MILF said a weakened BBL was not about the number of provisions “deleted, substituted or amended.”

“Just one issue, for instance, the aspect of natural resources, can make the BBL diluted and would force the MILF to reject it,” the MILF said.

“Of what use an entity, dubbed as autonomous, if it has no access or power over or share of the revenues derived from the natural resources? Both the House and Senate versions have deleted or seriously diluted this provision,” the statement added.

“Both the House and the Senate versions of the BBL have seriously unnerved or mutilated the right leg and amputated the left leg, so much so that if it is not restored would render the Bangsamoro entity inutile,” the group said.

The BBL is the embodiment of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF. It provides for the creation of a new autonomous entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in the Muslim Mindanao.

Versions of the BBL are now pending in the plenary of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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