By Francis Wakefield
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo Thursday expressed optimism that the approval by the Congress bicameral committee of the final version of the proposed Bangsamoro law will be the key in achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.
In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Arevalo explained that achieving peace and development in the southern part of the country has always been the dream by most Filipinos, be it the soldiers or even the civilians.
“Well we in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), we are very hopeful that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be the key in solving when and how we will achieve what we call lasting peace in Mindanao,” Arevalo said in Filipino.
“This has always been the desire by all people, all Filipinos either soldiers or civilians,” he added.
Arevalo, at the same time, said with peace settling in Mindanao, the AFP can focus on other pressing matters or challenges it is facing especially with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and local terrorist groups.
“Kung magtutuloy-tuloy at magtatagumpay ang BBL napakalaking bagay na mababawasan yung bilang ng ating inaalala (If the BBL will succeed, this will be big for us because the number of things we have to worry about will lessen),” Arevalo said.
“Ang grupo for example ng MILF ay magiging katulong na natin at kapanalig natin and of course ‘yung mga nag aagam- agam pa at sumusuporta sa mga local terrorist groups because of their misgivings tungkol sa kakulangan ng benepisyo na natatangap ng rehiyong Mindanao ay mawawala lahat ito (The MILF, for example, will be our partner and ally and of course those who still has doubts and supporting local terrorist groups because of their misgivings because of the lack of benefits receive by Mindanao will also disappear).”
“That’s why its important for the BBL to succeed and we are hopeful and optimistic that this will help bring peace and stability in Mindanao,” he added.
The Congress bicameral committee approved Wednesday the final version of the proposed Bangsamoro law.
After almost two weeks of debates — which even involved the President — and two missed self-imposed deadlines, the bicameral panel approved the reconciled version of the bill that is seen to address conflicts and violent extremism in Mindanao.
From the original Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) the bill was amended to be the proposed “Bangsamoro Organic Law” to adhere to the 1987 Constitution.
A ceremonial signing of the bicameral committee report took place as a clean copy of the bill is yet to be produced.
Following the approval, the two chambers of Congress are set to ratify the reconciled bill in their respective chambers when sessions resume Monday, in time for President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The approval of the final version marks the first year anniversary of the submission of the draft BBL to President Duterte.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, chair of the Senate bicam panel, expressed hope that the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law will “address the aspirations of our brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro” and “convince the population not to join extremist groups.”
Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Ghazali Jaafar said they are satisfied with how the Bangsamoro measure came about.
“It may not be a perfect law, but it is good to start with,” Jaafar said as he thanked the bicameral committee.