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Officials see Congress approving BBL by May

Special Correspondent .

OFFICIALS are expecting Congress to pass the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law before it would end its sessions next month.

Deputy Presidential Peace process Undersecretary Nabil Tan said the Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, would immediately follow in the battlefields in Mindanao.

“We are expecting 5,000 to 9,000 men of the MILF to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated if the BBL is passed by Congress in May,” Tan told reporters.

Tan said that based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government with the MILF on March 27, 2014, the rebels agreed to disarm and demobilize their 10,000-strong Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in four phases.

He said the first phase–around 75 firearms–was already completed in October 2014.

Tan said he expected the MILF to disarm and demobilize 30 percent of its armed fighters after Congress will pass the BBL in May.

He said the third and fourth phase of the  disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the remaining armed fighters or 70 percent would follow after.

The peace agreement was supposed to end the decades-old Moro insurgency in Mindanao

Both houses of Congress already finished their public consultations on the controversial bill.

President Duterte gave the MILF leadership that assurance during a meeting in Davao City on the eve of the 4th anniversary of the CAB in March 27.

A press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said President Duterte told MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim  that he would relay the urgency of the proposed bill to both houses of Congress.

“In the event this does not take place in Congress, he said he would go to the extent of even exercising his residual powers through administrative directives to fulfill this commitment,” the Pesident was quoted telling Murad.

Duterte allayed the concerns of the MILF leaders after he told a meeting in Sulu in March 26 that he would like the Bangsamoro territory can be divided into regions representing the ethnic tribes in Mindanao.

Duterte told the MILF leaders that what he meant is that for the new BBL to be “inclusive where all tribes and sectors, including non-Muslims will benefit from it.”

The MILF leaders accepted the President’s assurances.

“If this does not get done during the presidency of President Duterte, we seriously doubt if we can do it at all, in the future,” Murad said.

MILF panel member Abhoud Syad Lingga said they are willing to cut some slack on Duterte.

“After all he is the president. He wants to include everyone to benefit the Bangsamoro entity,” Lingga said.

Lingga said Congress should realize the urgency and pass the BBL amid the growing concerns of the Isis presence in Mindanao.

He said the non-passage of the bill would allow the Isis to take advantage of the Moro people frustrations.

“A breakthrough in the peace is direly needed to address these frustations,” Linga said.

Congress failed to pass BBL in 2015 after the public uproar following the Mamasapano that killed 44 PNP Special Action Force and 17 MILF fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Feb. 4, 2015

In 2008, the Supreme Court also rejected the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain signed by government and MILF.

Following the rejection, armed members of the MILF staged attacks in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Central Mindanao, triggering massive evacuations of residents.


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