The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted on Monday its proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, just a week before the president's second State of the Nation address, following the opening of the regular session of congress. The proposed law has been facing constitutional challenges to Bangsamoro's total control on agriculture, food, trade, banking and education.
Ghazali Jafaar, BTC chairman and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vice chairman for political affairs, handed the draft law to Duterte in a well-attended ceremony in Malacanang that gathered MILF leaders, lawmakers, peace advocates, the diplomatic community and representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Jafaar said that the BBL is the "best antidote" to violent extremism, referring to the Marawi incident by the Daesh-linked Maute group in the Philippines.
Duterte promised to certify the new draft of the BBL that will create a new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao. "The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law embodies our shared aspirations of a peaceful, orderly and harmonious nation. After decades of armed struggle and violence, we will soon come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing real and lasting peace in Mindanao. Within the context of the Republic of the Philippines there shall be a Bangsamoro country," Duterte said.
Duterte is also hopeful the proposed law creating a Bangsamoro region will be passed by the end of the year. "It takes time, but I will also try to hurry up so we'll have something to show to the people at least before the year ends. Turnover of the proposed BBL is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust and injustice that cost and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos," Duterte added. Irene Santiago, the chief government peace negotiator, said that the government expects the bill's passage within a year.
MILF officials are hoping that the BBL will be passed under Duterte, which they say will help correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people. "You have been given the unique privilege of correcting the historical injustice through the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We trust you will shepherd the passage of this law and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro government," MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim said.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed between the government and MILF on Oct. 15, 2012. In this context, the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) was founded to observe the peace progress. The TPMT has five members of two local nongovernmental organizations, two international nongovernmental organizations and one independent person. The Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed between the government and MILF on March 28, 2014, in Manila. According to the agreement, MILF agreed to decommission its armed faction. In return, the government allowed establishing an autonomous Bangsamoro region. As part of the peace deal, the government will provide cash handouts to former fighters for education, training and livelihood.
Peace talks were interrupted with an unexpected clash in Mamasapano on Jan. 25, 2015. Clashes took place between the Philippines National Police, including special forces, a joint U.S. military special force, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and MILF. According to a military source, 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members, 18 MILF militants, five BIFF militants and several civilians died. Over the Mamasapano clashes, then President Benigno Aquino failed to complete the process when congress withdrew support for the bill. Even though MILF has reached a strong position with its more than 50,000 armed militants, it decided not to go to war but to instead have peace talks. MILF started to hand over weapons in June 2015 in order to show its commitment to the historic peace agreement. Seventy-five heavy weapons, including howitzers and rocket launchers were handed over in the presence of the president and MILF leader Ebrahim. Aquino said at the ceremony that the first phase of the decommissioning of the front was a big step, showing their sincerity for building a lasting peace.
The government and MILF hope to end the 45-year conflict. The Moro people have long suffered from human rights abuses. About 120,000 people have been killed while around 2 million have been displaced. About 200,000 homes, 535 mosques and 200 schools were destroyed by the Filipino military.