Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chair and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Vice Chair Ghazali Jaafar explained the different conditions under which the new draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was drafted from those of the BBL draft under the Aquino administration.
In an interview with ANC on Monday, Jaafar outlined the new backdrop as:
- the political climate in the country under the Duterte administration;
- the situation in Mindanao, particularly in war-torn Marawi City; and,
- the process in coming up with the new draft BBL.
In terms of political climate, Jaafar said the old BBL reached Congress during the 2016 election campaign season, which had "polarized" people, unlike the situation now, just one year into the Duterte administration still enjoying popular support.
"During the previous administration, when BBL reached the Congress of the Philippines, it was a political season, so to speak. Politicians, lawmakers were campaigning at that time because it was campaign season, and so there was a polarization. It polarized the country. But that is not the situation now. There is no campaigning now, this is not political season, and so therefore, there is no danger of again of polarizing the people," Jaafar said.
He also said the old BBL was derailed because of the bloody Mamasapano incident, where the MILF engaged Special Action Forces (SAF) in a bloody battle leading to 44 SAF killed, which is different from the MILF's role in the current Marawi City siege.
"There was this Mamasapano incident, and the Mamasapano incident, unfortunately, directly involved us. We did not like it, but people in Luzon and Visayas thought all the while it was our fault. They blamed us. They said, why at the time there was a peace process, then why did we kill those policemen? We did not, but we were forced," Jaafar explained.
This time, the MILF is playing a key role in humanitarian and rescue work in Marawi City.
"So this time, we have the Marawi City siege. But the difference is that the Marawi City siege, we are not involved on a combatant basis. We are involved on humanitarian work. From day 1, the MILF leadership started helping the civilians by distributing food. And number 2, we voluntarily presented a plan to our beloved president for the MILF to voluntarily help so that those civilians trapped in Marawi City will be able to come out, and we are still doing that. That is a big difference in the situation now and the situation before," he added.
Jaafar also said that all major stakeholders were represented in the new draft BBL, unlike in the previous draft.
"In terms of language in the BBL, you see, in today's BBL crafted by the 21 commissioners, expanded from the previous 15 members, we saw to it that all important stakeholders in the peace process are represented in the provisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law," he said.
"For example, we gave reserved seats to indigenous peoples, to the Christian settlers, to the traditional leaders. Before, we did not have this one. Even to the youth, to the women, even to the religious sector, to the ulama, they were given reserved seats there. Besides, there is a provision in the BBL providing for a group advising, who will advise the chief minister, this council of elders, and in the council of elders, governors in the area will be members, indigenous peoples were represented, Christian settlers will be represented, the youth, the women, and so everybody will be a part of the governance," Jaafar added.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to receive a new draft BBL, in an important step at completing the peace process with the country’s largest Moro rebel group.
The BTC is set to submit the new BBL to Malacañang at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced last week.
Dureza said he would recommend that Duterte certify the BBL as urgent so its approval by Congress can be expedited.
The BBL is the enabling measure of the peace compact signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014.
It will give a new homeland to the Bangsamoros in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.