December 12, 2017, 9:11 am
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Commitment, not just a promise

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte told a motley group of Mindanaoans attending the Bangsamoro Assembly sponsored by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao that the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress is his commitment, not a mere promise, to the Moro people.

Duterte assured the MILF that he will work very hard for it, and that he will ask Congress to hold a special session to hear the Moro leaders, including the MNLF, talk about the proposed legislation on autonomy in Muslim areas in Mindanao.

“I said this is sacred. This is important and valuable. It would involve eventually, if the people wish it, a new structure for the entire country,” the President said.

The Duterte administration sees the BBL as the ultimate panacea for all the violence, torture, killings, burnings, kidnappings, rape and pillage happening in Mindanao which may be part and parcel of the Islamist insurgency that started in the 1970s and has claimed some 120,000 lives.

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014 following negotiations under the auspices of Malaysia but the enabling law, the BBL, has yet to pass three years and a change of administration after.

Even if it becomes a law, it would be a long way to go before full transition to autonomy is effected in the Muslim region, whose residents will signify in a plebiscite their intention to join the new autonomous region.

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will have to be constituted in 2019 in preparation for the first election of the officials of the new autonomous government in 2022, said Bangsamoro Transition Committee chair Ghadzali Jaafar. His panel prepared the draft of the bill now under consideration in the House of Representatives.

Just how popular is the Bangsamoro initiative in the areas purportedly dominated by Muslim Filipinos? One may get a glimpse of the answer in the number of participants or plain attendees in the Bangsamoro assembly with Duterte as principal guest. The MILF announced half a million people registered their intention to attend, and the Agence France Presse quoted one of its eyewitness reporters as seeing “hundreds of thousands of participants.” Another figure reported was 10,000.

Any gathering of Filipinos with hundreds of thousands participating should merit at least one aerial photo in the major newspapers or in their online editions the next day. But curiously, there was none for this particular assembly. Even the Malacañang photo department did not have any.

We can only wonder why, especially because the organizers initially touted this meeting as one which will galvanize support for the BBL among the populace.

Let us renew hopes that the BBL will pass the Congress so that the government can indeed try if it would work or not.
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