MILF: ‘No BBL, no troop decommissioning’

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 07 2018 12:30 PM | Updated as of Jun 07 2018 01:14 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte confers with MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar during a Bangsamoro Assembly in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on November 27, 2017. Albert Alcain, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader on Thursday warned that his group would not decomission its forces if no Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar called on Congress to ensure that the BBL would comply with the 2014 peace accord between the rebels and the government.

"When there is no BBL, there is no decommissiong for us," he told a Makati forum, referring to the last stage of the peace process.

Jaafar cautioned against a "useless" BBL, which could end up rejected in a plebiscite.

Such a version will also fail to convince groups such as the Maute and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to support the peace process, he said.

"How can we convince them if the BBL passed in Congress is inutile?" he said, courting a negative reaction from Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, who helped steer the bill in the House of Representatives.

"Please don’t call the BBL inutile because we worked hard for it," she said, noting that the House retained some 95 percent of the version drafted by the Jaafar-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

END GAME

Senators and House members are set to sit down from July 9 to 13 to reconcile their respective BBL versions.

One major point of departure is the Senate’s removal of the delineation of exclusive, concurrent, and reserved powers between the national government and the Bangsamoro.

The Senate versions also included what Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III described as "paramenters" for the use of a multi-billion-peso block grant for the Bangsamoro.

These include the condition that the money won’t be used to purchase firearms and ammunition.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser Jesus Dureza called on groups to "manage their anxiety" over the current status of the BBL.

"Difficult provisions," he said, could eventually be accommodated under a federal constitution.

"I’m not saying that let’s just take it easy now because federalism will be the end game," he said.

"Let’s move forward and work hard towards getting something very close to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro, but we have a stop gap."