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Commission finalizes Bangsamoro Basic Law draft

PEACE PROCESS. Government panel chairperson Irene Santiago says the Bangsamoro Transition Commission has finalized its draft BBL. Presidential photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has finalized its draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and hopes to submit it to Congress when it resumes session in July.

Government peace panel chairperson Irene Santiago said the 21-member commission finalized the draft on Tuesday, June 6.

The target is to submit the draft bill to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval by mid-June, Santiago said in a press conference in Davao City on Thursday, June 8.

Santiago hopes that the document will be submitted to Congress when it resumes session on July 24 – which is also the date of Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) – or in the last week of July.

"We hope the President will mention it in the SONA and say, ‘This is a priority bill for me,’" said Santiago.

Asked if she thinks Duterte would certify the BBL as urgent, she said, "I have no doubt he will."

The final draft included the inputs of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Muslimin Sema and Yusoph Jikiri.

“There were 21 members of BTC; 10 were nominated by government. Of these 10, 3 are members of the MNLF Sema-Jikiri faction so there was input from MNLF in the new draft,” Santiago said.

A separate group will deal with the MNLF faction led by Nur Misuari.

Santiago said the new draft is a “better version” of the one made during the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III.

Santiago said the new draft reflects changes in provisions on transitioning from passage of the law to ratification. The new steps, she said, are more “practical” than those in the previous version.

“Everybody was very pleased with the draft that they made,” said Santiago.

Bringing peace to Mindanao through the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law is among the key promises of Duterte, who hails from the region.

His administration sought to have a more “inclusive” Mindanao peace process by expanding the number of BTC members to include other groups, not just the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

During the Aquino administration, the measure was gaining ground in Congress until the Mamasapano encounter on January 25, 2015, which sparked public outrage. This prompted a number of lawmakers to reconsider their support for the proposed law that would give wider autonomy and bigger resources to the Muslim-dominated region in Mindanao.

The BBL is supposed to be the culmination of the historic peace deal entered into by the government and the MILF in 2014. – Rappler.com