Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said “history will prove me right” in pushing for a shift in governance to a federal form as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) faces uncertain waters in Congress.
The shift away from the present presidential unitary form of government is the solution to the Moro problem in Mindanao, he said.
As Congress deliberates on the BBL, the Bangsamoro people are ready to bang the war drums to start to resume fighting if the law is not approved.
This is the reason why he had been “passionately” selling the idea of federalism as the only solution to the Moro insurgency problem, Duterte said in the Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa television program on Sunday, June 7.
I am passionate about federalism because Mindanao particularly Davao City would suffer the most if BBL fails, he said.
Davao City was bombed twice in 2003 as government forces launched offensives against the MILF in Central Mindanao. The separate bombings a month apart of the Sasa Wharf and the Davao International Airport killed 48 people and injured more than 300.
In the television program, Duterte expressed fear the final form of the BBL to be approved by Congress may not be acceptable to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and could send back to square one efforts to final lasting peace in Mindanao.
Congress is now on its final stage of reviewing the proposed BBL in a race to have it approved on June 11 before it goes into a recess.
The MILF had warned it would go back to the battlefield if the BBL is rejected by Congress or if its provisions are drastically pruned down or amended.
Having read the draft of the BBL, Duterte said he had foreseen the proposed law would undergo harsh fine-tuning by legislators.
He had also said earlier that the legality of the BBL approved by Congress may be questioned before the Supreme Court.
He had suggested that the government should have a Plan B in case the BBL fails to avert a new round of violence in Mindanao.
He suggested Federalism as the Plan B.
Since early this year as Congress started reviewing the draft BBL, Duterte went on a nationwide tour to drum up support for federalism as the solution to the Mindanao problem.
In what is seen as a messianic advocacy, Duterte’s Listening Tour visited key cities in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, drawing large crowd and support from political leaders especially from Mindanao and the Visayas.
I was a babe in the woods, said Duterte in the television program on ABS/CBN television program, referring to his advocacy on federalism.
“History will prove me right” that federalism is the answer to the Mindanao problem, he said.
Already looming as a presidential candidate in the 2016 election, many sectors suspected that Duterte’s Listening Tour and his advocacy for a shift in form of government were clever ploys for his presidential bid.
Although he has landed third behind front runner Vice President Jejomar Binay and second placer Senator Grace Poe in surveys for presidential preference, Duterte insists he is not running for President.
The BBL would create a new Bangsamoro juridical entity in parts of Mindanao. It is the third step to nailing a final peace with the MILF, after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last year. The historic agreements were reached after nearly two decades of negotiations between the government and the MILF, the biggest Moro group in nearly four decades in the Moro secessionist war that has cost the lives of more than 200,000 people.
The draft of the BBL crafted by a Transition
Commission created by the CAB was endorsed to Congress by President Benigno Aquino who has vowed the new Bangsamoro government should be in place before he bows out of office in 2016.
Duterte said a new round of violence could erupt in Mindanao once the draft of the proposed BBL is mangled by Congress and would be rejected by the MILF.
He recalled President Aquino as he urged Congress to pass the BBL saying that “we will be counting body bags” if the BBL is not approved.
Duterte also quoted Philippine peace panel chief negotiator Teresita Deles warning of violence in Mindanao if the BBL does not pass Congress.
The doomsday scenario is further exacerbated by the warning of MILF chairman Ebrahim al haj Murad that there would be war if Congress rejects the proposed BBL.
Murad has also said the MILF would not accept a final BBL draft that is “watered down.”
Last week, Senator Bongbong Marcos said his committee on local government has dumped the proposed BBL submitted by the Transition Commission and would be crafting an entirely new Senate version of the bill.
In the House of Representatives, the ad hoc committee on the BBL headed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez came out with drastic amendments to the proposed bill that is expected to be further caponized during deliberation at plenary.
Published in Durian Post No. 167 June 8-14, 2015