10 April 2015

Bangsamoro Basic Law must be discussed based on its merits, says Palace official
Lawmakers must discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) based on its merits, and not on such issues as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s use of aliases, the Palace said on Friday.“The BBL should be discussed on the basis of the merits of the law itself, or of the draft bill itself, and not other attendant issues that may be related but perhaps are not really at the core of the BBL draft itself,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Opposition senators have recently warned that Iqbal’s admission that he has been using an alias, could have adverse implications on the peace negotiations between the MILF and the government.

Valte however denied that there was any deception on the part of Iqbal.

“The real names of the entire MILF negotiators are known to government, so there was no deception on their part. Yes, that’s quite clear. There’s no deception on their part because they made their real names known to government,” she said, adding that they possess Philippine passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Valte further said that when the peace process began in 1997, the MILF negotiators, like negotiators from such rebel groups as the National Democratic Front, Moro National Liberation Front and Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, were allowed the courtesy to continue using their aliases.

They used aliases when they went underground to ensure their personal security, she added.

Reacting to reports that the non-passage of the BBL would result in bloody wars in Mindanao, Valte said people cannot be stopped from voicing their fears but it is important for the government to raise public awareness of the proposed law to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

“What we are here to do is to open the discussion on the merits of the BBL and to continue to explain the position of government as to why we think that this is a real solution to the conflict that is happening in Mindanao,” she said.

The National Peace Council, which was announced by the President, has also been formed and has already had its first meeting last April 6, Valte said, noting that it is a private group that is not funded by the government. PND (as)