Mohagher Iqbal: Problem with passing of BBL is political, not legal

Written by VERONICA PULUMBARIT, GMA News.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Thursday said the problem with the stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was political, not legal.

Iqbal made the statement during his speech on the last day of the two-day forum on "Global Autonomy, Governance, and Federalism" in Makati City.

"The parties especially government implementing panel and other stakeholders should continue to push or lobby for the early passage of the BBL," Iqbal said as he reiterated the MILF's stance that BBL should be passed before a shift to federalism is undertaken.

"Congress should adopt a liberal interpretation of the Constitution in relation to the BBL and so should the Supreme Court. The problem is political rather than legal," he added.

The need to pass the BBL was "mainly a government responsibility," Iqbal said, adding that, "The delivery of the BBL is a commitment of government, as provided for in the CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro]."

He noted that the "Executive Order that would reconstitute the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) so that it can start to craft a new BBL has not yet been signed until now."

Iqbal claimed the "passage of the BBL first will set the stage for federalism, while federalism will entrench the grant of self-rule or autonomy to the Bangsamoro people."

"The shift to federalism, without passing the BBL into law, will stunt or inhibit meaningful Moro autonomy," he added.

The BBL would have established a new Bangsamoro political entity and provide for its basic structure of government.

Its passage was stalled after the Mamasapano incident in January 2015 when 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police, 17 MILF guerrillas and three civilians were killed in an armed conflict. The police was serving the warrant of arrest for Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was killed in the said encounter.

ARMM's stance on federalism

As for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), it does not matter which gets passed first: the BBL or the law on federalism.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said, "Whichever gets realized first, whether it may be a new organic act for the Bangsamoro or a shift to federalism, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is ready to take the lead."

In his speech delivered during the forum by ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia, Hataman said, "We are ready and we will continue to make a strong case for empowered local governments, whether as an autonomous region opening the doors for federalism, or as a model federal state for other regions."

While the Duterte administration is pushing for federalism as a way of decentralizing powers, Hataman said, "This is not to say that power is not already decentralized in our country."

He cited the Local Government Code of 1991 which devolved some functions of the national government to the LGUs and allocated a share of the national revenue, known as the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), to LGUs.

Hataman acknowledged the limitations of the Local Government Code, saying, "while it allowed for independent initiatives at the local level, the limits of the said law became apparent as the years passed."

He also cited deficiencies in the ARMM system. "The case of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, although similar, is distinct from other regions. While it appears to enjoy more autonomy than LGUs, that appearance is far from reality," he said.

"We need an autonomy that goes beyond paper, one that is rooted not on personalities or partisan politics, but in our shared values and aspirations. There is also another option, and that is federalism," Hataman said. 

Source: GMA News