Duterte vows to create Muslim autonomous region in planned federal government
President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to create a special autonomous region within the federal government for Muslims in Mindanao as he signed an executive order reconstituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
Duterte signed the order creating the 21-man BTC in a ceremony in Malacanang, which was also attended by leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and another faction of the then secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Muslimin Sema.
Nur Misuari, founding chairman of the MNLF and who recently resurfaced after a lower court suspended his warrants of arrest for the 2013 Zamboanga bloody attack, was not present.
While the government's purpose for reconstituting and expanding the BTC from 15 members to 21 was for more inclusion among stakeholders in Mindanao , Misuari's MNLF faction would not be part of the BTC, according to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
"Chair Misuari will be handled in another track," he told reporters after the signing of the BTC.
He said another government panel will engage Misuari's group.
He said Misuari's faction will craft its own proposed measure, while the BTC will have its own draft.
"The convergence will take place in Congress because the Congress will eventually craft one (law)," Dureza explained.
The BTC will be composed of 11 members from the MILF, and the remaining 10 would be nominated by the government, which include among others three from Sema's MNLF faction, one from the Sulu Sultanate, one from the indigenous peoples group, and one from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Duterte reiterated that if Congress could amend the Constitution to pave the way for a federal government, he would be ready to quit.
"If you can just finish it, in three to four years, I am out. That I commit you," Duterte said.
"So let's fast-track it. We can have special autonomous within the federal government for the Muslim Mindanao," he said.
Murad expressed hope Congress could immediately pass a law for the Bangsamoro.
"It is our hope the signing of the executive order on BTC will result in the immediate passage of the law," he said.
He said the law will translate the aspiration of the Bangsamoro for lasting peace and development.
"I'm here not merely to witness the signing of EO but rebirth of new hope that we may finally achieve the fulfilment of peace for future generation," Murad added.
MILF implementing panel head Mohagher Iqbal also appealed to Congress to fast-track the passage of the bill.
Dureza said they hope to submit the draft measure to Congress in July 2017.
It could be recalled that during the Aquino administration, the BTC, then led by Iqbal, proposed the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
But it did not even reach the second reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Iqbal said.
Some lawmakers opposed the passage of the proposed BBL because of some questionable provisions. Celerina Monte/DMS