Summit to tackle Bangsamoro law

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Friday, March 27, 2015

FILE -- A peace talk between Philippine government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is held at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP)

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III announced on Friday the holding of a National Peace Summit that will discuss the importance of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Aquino said he invited citizen leaders like Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman to stand as independent convenors.

The President made the announcement in a speech delivered on the first year anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The lead convenors, who are known for their wisdom and integrity, would gather other respected leaders to spearhead the peace summit to review and deliberate on the BBL.

"They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness. This way, the BBL can be improved," Aquino said.

The group will also write a report that will be made public to inform and help Filipinos understand the matter.

Aquino said if the proposed bill is lacking, it can be addressed by pushing through with the debates on it.

"Even then, there are those who oppose its enactment. Unfortunately, their criticism solely stems from a lack of understanding of the BBL; take, for example, their statements that there will be a separate police force for the Bangsamoro once it is enacted into law. Should we trust those who say that the peace talks should be ceased, yet offer no other solutions? If we believe these people, where will they take us?" Aquino said.

The President said it should be expected that as the country moves closer and closer to attaining the long-held dream for peace, "the cacophony that aims to dismantle our trust in each other will also grow louder."

"It is only right and prudent for us to prepare, for them not to succeed," he said.

He also hit those who have been calling for an all out war in Mindanao.

"And I ask them: What gain do you see from waging war? Now that we are moving forward as a nation and are on the cusp of success, do they really think that we should advance violence, only to bring us back to the path of hardship?," Aquino said.

He noted that previous administrations, like during the late president Ferdinand Marcos and former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, tried an all-out war approach.

But it only resulted to hundreds of thousands of casualties, ruined livelihoods, and a status quo of suffering in Mindanao, he said.

Aquino warned that if the peace process is derailed once again, the government would lose ground for sincere dialogue with leaders and with all the Moros who are ready to listen to reason and who genuinely seek peace.

"This is the crossroads we face: We take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow. To those who have called for all-out war as the solution, do you think we’ll be able to talk peace after the shooting has started, when the wounds, and the failure of the talks, would be raw?" he said.

Senator Grace Poe agreed with the President in seeking help from "credible" individuals but stressed that Congress must be given the opportunity first to come up with a constitutional version of the BBL.

"Before these eminent individuals would be given the chance to help in objectively communicating to all Filipinos, the goals and the practical necessity of a political settlement towards peace and development in Muslim Mindanao, Congress must be given the opportunity first to come up with a constitutional version of the BBL," said Poe.

She said that with the help of Tagle and other citizen leaders the Filipinos should be enlightened on the provisions and goals of the BBL. (SDR/Ruth Abbey Gita/Sunnex)

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