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Iqbal: Catholic church backs BBL

ALTHOUGH “the real battle now is in Congress,” MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said even the Catholic Church supports the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that has been criticized as being unconstitutional by lawmakers.

“The Catholic church is supportive of the BBL, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Ateneo de Davao President Joel Tabora, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo at Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Jr. [support it],” Iqbal was quoted by a news item on the CBCP website.

“There is an overwhelming support from Moro groups including traditional leaders, politicians and ordinary people,” Iqbal also added.

Despite this, however, Iqbal said there is a need to increase and strengthen the support base for the BBL pending at both Houses of Congress, saying “the real battle now is in Congress.”

Speaking before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines last week, Iqbal said BBL supporters need to be identified thoroughly and ways have to be found to strengthen and consolidate partnerships with them.

He went on to describe international support for the BBL as “very strong.”

Iqbal said he looks forward to developing close relations with the business community such as the Makati Business Clun and the Mindanao Business Council.

Iqbal said there should be a massive information campaign on the salient provisions of the proposed BBL and the “need for peace in the country.”

He added more often than not, “the attitude of politicians are conditioned by the pulse of their electorates.”

“We have to rally educational institutions and academicians behind the BBL’s passage,” he stressed adding that there are future engagements with 18 surviving members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission.

Iqbal likewise cited the challenge of engaging those who are against the BBL’s passage, including the “majority of media practitioners”, especially after the Mamasapano incident.

He said some politicians and opposition groups are using the BBL as “tool of politics”, while majority of the Filipinos have not read nor studied the draft law.

He bewailed the fact there still lies anti-Moro biases and prejudices which he described as “very strong in Luzon and the Visayas as there are hostile opinion-makers, columnists, talk show hosts and a lot more.”

Should the BBL fail to pass, the MILF’s clout, popularity and effectiveness will sink to the lowest level as there will no longer be decommissioning of its weapons and combatants and no Exit Agreement will be signed.

He candidly said the radicals “will have greater say on how the situation develops in Mindanao.”

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