July 21, 2018, 11:30 am
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Duterte: Gov’t needs more time to pass BBL

PRESIDENT Duterte on Saturday night asked for more time for government to pass the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) as he said, for the nth time, he is committed to the passage of the priority legislative measure along with the shift from the unitary form of government to a federal form.

The President, during the Eid’l Fitr celebration in Davao City, reiterated he does not like fighting with fellow Filipinos. Duterte has said some members of the Muslim community might be forced to take up arms again in case the BBL is not passed.

“If per chance, if nothing really works out dito sa (in this) BBL, then give us time because I do not want to fight, I do not wage a war against my own countrymen,” he said.

The President said government will pass the BBL which will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, which will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The creation of the new region is part of a peace agreement signed by government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March 2014.

The MILF has said failure to pass the BBL could add to frustration in Mindanao, which could fuel extremism.

The Senate and House of Representatives passed their own versions of the BBL month before going on break early this month. The two versions will be tackled by a bicameral panel and a consolidated report is expected to be signed by President Duterte on July 23 when Congress resumes session.

The original target was to pass the BBL by March, then before the congressional break.

Among contentious issues in the BBL are the “opt-in” provision and setting up of regional armed and police forces in the Bangsamoro region, which the national government is opposing.

The President expressed hope that Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace accord with government in September 1996, will join discussions on the BBL and the peace efforts in Mindanao.

“We will try to pass the BBL. I hope chairman Misuari can be convinced to join the talks so that if there are corrections or maybe additions or provisions that could not sit well with the Tausug and the rest of the southern part of Mindanao, then maybe we can realize altogether the friction of MI (MILF), MN (MNLF) and the rest of Mindanao,” he said.

The President stressed that the passage of the BBL and a shift to federalism would not just address the historical injustice committed against Muslims but also usher in peace and development in Mindanao.

“The time for federalism has come to our country. We have to move away from the style of unitary form of government which has been in existence or set up originally by the Spaniards,” Duterte said as said Filipinos should “not forget that we belong to the Malay race.”

The President reiterated that he is willing to step down before his term ends in 2022 if the shift to federalism would be realized soon.

A consultative committee formed by Duterte to review and recommended amendments to the 1987 Constitution is expected to submit its proposals, including a draft Federal Constitution, to the President on or before July 9.

The committee is set to kick off its regional consultations in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental today and proceed to Baguio City for its June 25 to 27 presentations and consultations.

PLEBISCITE

Deputy Speaker Fred Castro advised the administration against holding the plebiscite for the proposed shift to federalism simultaneously with the 2019 midterm elections, saying the new constitution will surely be “half-baked.”

“There’s no need to do it in 2019,” he told dzBB. “If we’re talking about saving money, the quality of the amendments might be sacrificed because of time constraint.”

Castro proposed that the plebiscite for the proposed shift to federalism be held before May 2022, or before President Duterte’s term expires.

“If we can’t really beat the 2019 election (deadline) and our President really wants to establish a federal government through the ratification of a new Constitution by the people (in a plebiscite), let’s not impose a time constraint on ourselves,” he said.

Castro, however, admitted that the 2022 national elections may still be cancelled as the government transitions to federalism. He said the election may be postponed for a year before an election of new federal officials be held.

Castro tried to disabuse the public’s mind that such no-election scenario in 2022 would only lead to the term extension of elected officials.

“That’s (election postponement) not for term extension as some detractors would say – that’s not an extension,” he said.

The administration lawmaker reminded the public that the election was also suspended when the Constitution was amended after the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

“That happens every time a Constitution is amended because you’ll need time for a transitory period to put in place the government under a new Constitution,” Castro explained. – With Wendell Vigilia
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