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Muslim religious leader urges pols to spare BBL in political mileage

COTABATO City– A Muslim religious leader on Monday urged politicians not to make use of the Mindanao peace process to advance personal interest at its expense.

“Politicians should refrain from using the Bangsamoro peace process as a platform from which to launch their political bids in the 2016 elections,” Ebra Moxsir, Al Haj, Imam Council of the Philippines (ICP), said.

In a statement, Moxsir said that politicians using the Bangsamoro peace process in their political campaign is committing “injustice.”

“The Bangsamoro peace process, at its heart, is about social justice for a segment of our population who, for decades, were made to endure gross injustices and discrimination. Using it to further a personal, political agenda will be a form of another injustice,” Moxsir said.

The draft BBL, once enacted by Philippine legislature, will entrench the proposed new political entity Bangsamoro that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

He expressed fear that the elections might affect the peace process when politicians dip its fingers to gain mileage ahead of the 2016 balloting.

“President Aquino is to deliver his SONA (State of the Nation Address) today. We are already beginning to hear in the news political rumblings and rumored pairings for 2016. It is very evident that our country is about to be gripped soon by political fever,” he said.

“They should leave the Bangsamoro. We need to detach the process from the political noise and see the process for what it is – a democratic means being attempted to close the socio-cultural divide among the peoples of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.

MILF chieftain Al Haj Murad earlier told reporters that the MILF is hoping President Aquino will highlight the gains of the 17-year-old peace process aimed at ending the decades old Moro problem in the south.

Sulu 1st district Rep. Tupay Loong, Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, admitted that the committee had always been aware that the BBL might be dragged into politics.

Loong said the House of Representatives will continue with the plenary debates on the BBL once session resumes after President Benigno Aquino’s SONA.

“As they say, the Philippines has three seasons: summer, rainy and elections. To be honest, we wanted our work on the BBL to be done before election season arrives because we know for a fact that there are those who’d make the basic law another casualty in their quest for power,” Loong said.

“But passing the BBL didn’t happen, and we’re nearing October. What I can personally promise is that we’d do everything in our capacity to ensure that the remaining House debates will be sober. And that the fate of the BBL will be determined by its own merits, not by political forces,” he added.

“If passed, the BBL would come as an act of brinkmanship in state craft,” Lawyer Nasser Marohomsalic, acting national secretary of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said in a statement.

Retired Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and other surviving framers of the 1987 Constitution, said the envisioned Bangsamoro autonomous region can close the centuries-old gap between law and justice in Mindanao for the Bangsamoro.

In separate statement published in the MILF website, Dean Antonio Laviña of the Ateneo School of Government, urged lawmakers to complete the peace process so the country can move on to benefit from its fruits.

“It is important to have a vibrant, strong and autonomous Bangsamoro,” he said.

Laviña said the envisioned autonomous region would remain part of the Philippines, contrary to statements of anti-BBL lawmakers. It would also give the Moros more power to fulfill their aspirations for self-governance while remaining within Philippine society and territory.

“The Supreme Court held that the President has the power to negotiate peace with the MILF, and to determine in what form and manner the peace process should be conducted, which includes the signing of peace agreements,” he said.

Laviña said the President also had the authority to propose new legislation to Congress, as was done in the case of the BBL.

House leaders have assured that the BBL will be prioritized alongside with the proposed 2016 national budget when sessions resume. (pna)

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