Malacañang on Tuesday, November 28, reiterated President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s commitment to ensure the passage of a more inclusive Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. echoed the Chief Executive’s latest pronouncement during his visit in Maguindanao on Monday, November 27, wherein he stood by his promise to pass the BBL during his presidency.
“The President’s message is very clear. It was a campaign promise and it is a commitment from him as President that he will do all that is necessary to rectify what he described as the historical injustice committed against the Muslim population of Mindanao,” Roque said.
He further stressed that unlike the previous version of the bill, the new BBL would be more inclusive and would take into account proposals of different stakeholders, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) or Lumads in Mindanao.
IPs in the region earlier protested the previous version of the BBL, claiming it had classified them as “Bangsamoro” as well. In the new draft proposal, the proposed entity is expected to still recognize laws protecting non-Islamized tribes.
Roque said President Duterte considers the BBL as one of his top priorities. He said although no specific deadline has been set by the executive, the President may call on Congress to hold a special session to work on the bill’s passage.
“[W]hat is important only is that if they run out of time, a special session is required for Congress to meet as a body… I don’t want to pressure Congress right now, but I think they have received the message that this is one of the top priorities of the administration,” he said.
On the other hand, Roque said the Palace would leave it to Congress to craft the policy for the expanded Bangsamoro entity.
The Cabinet official further clarified that the proposed law would not in any way permit secession or the creation of new states. He said the new region would remain part of one republic.
“[T]here will still be only one political entity known as the Republic of the Philippines… We are not allowing the creation of a new state. It will have to be within the framework of the existing Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
Peace talks with Reds over for now – Palace
Meanwhile, Roque restated the President’s decision to formally end the government’s peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“We have to shut the doors for now to any ongoing peace talks. I am not in the position to say that the door will forever be shut,” he said, stressing that negotiations with the communist rebels would not resume unless the group proves its sincerity to the peace process.
Roque for his part gave credit to President Duterte for showing “maximum tolerance” in dealing with the rebel groups, citing how his administration had initially considered the CPP-NPA as stakeholders in government.
In the same press briefing, Roque made an appeal to allow President Duterte the discretion on whether he would return the lead role in the drug war to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
He said unless the President issues the necessary written directive, the government’s anti-drug campaign remains under the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“I will again reiterate that let’s leave the President be on this issue as he studies the matter very well,” he stressed, as he assured the public of the President’s zero-tolerance for abusive cops. ###PCO-Content