STATEMENT OF THE PEACE ADVISER ON THIS WEEKS MEETING WITH MILF LEADERS

 “If this does not get done during the presidency of President Duterte, we seriously doubt if we can do it at all, in the future. President Duterte is now our only and last card.” — Kagi Al Haj Murad March 27, 2018)

Upon request of the MILF leaders, President Duterte met with them in Matina Enclaves last night in Davao City. Secretary Adelino Sitoy of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) and I joined the President and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. This is part of the previously agreed arrangement that there will be periodic and regular meeting of both sides as efforts for the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are underway in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

President Duterte reiterated to them his continuing and consistent desire and commitment to install the enhanced government structure and governance that will hopefully solve the root causes of the Moro rebellion and address the historical injustice suffered by the Bangsamoro over generations. The President said he would assist even to the extent of relaying to both chambers of Congress his determination to help push for the passage of the BBL that is compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro and as close as possible to the new draft law submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. In the event this does not take place in Congress, he said he would go to the extent of even exercising his residual powers thru administrative directives to fulfill this commitment.

The timely meeting yesterday also dispelled negative speculations following the visit of President Duterte the other day in Jolo, Sulu where he told the Tausugs that he would meet with Moro leaders at the soonest possible time due to reported opposition of some Bangsamoro leaders (in Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-tawi) to the BTC-crafted BBL. He again stressed the “inclusive” character of the new BBL where all tribes and sectors, including non-Muslims, will benefit from the new BBL when it is finally entrenched.

During the meeting, former President Gloria Arroyo in a phone conversation with me and Kagi Murad committed to support the BTC-drafted version that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez authored. She said she would withdraw authorship of her previously signed bill to fast track the approval of the new version. Senate Sub-Committee chair Senator Miguel Zubiri, who was then in London, also said the Senate would act on the bill before Congress adjourns “sine die” on May 15 this year. Kagi Al Haj Murad of the MILF said they never doubted the sincerity of President Duterte in his commitments. “If this does not get done during the presidency of President Duterte, we seriously doubt if we can do it at all, in the future. President Duterte is now our only and last card,” Kagi Murad said.