MANILA - Peace advocates, including a retired Chief Justice, assured the House of Representatives Monday that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was faithful to the Constitution amid fears that it would create a substate where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would have full control of the bureaucracy, security and revenue.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. assuaged fears of lawmakers in the House ad hoc committee hearing that the draft BBL contained provisions that would violate the Constitution.
Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, who spoke for peace council member Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, said that it would be "foolish" to drop the proposed BBL now and start all over again.
"The BBL does not guide the interpretation of the Constitution; the Constitution guides the interpretation of the BBL," said Davide, who nevertheless called the BBL "imperfect."
The BBL would create a new region for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao as part of the comprehensive peace agreement between the government and MILF.
The Bangsamoro autonomous region can have a bigger territory than the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that it will replace depending on the outcome of a plebiscite.
Tabora said that while the proposed BBL needed "some refinement," the peace council reckoned it to be "overwhelmingly acceptable and deserves the support of all Filipinos."
"To set it aside now would be foolhardy. Peacemakers on both sides-the government and the MILF-have spent 17 years to bring us to this juncture.
There is enough goodwill on both sides to bring this agreement to its conclusion, one that would provide communities in one of the most deprived regions in the country with a genuine fresh start," Tabora said.
"It would be foolish for us to end at this time and try to restart again in an indefinite future," Tabora added.
Davide said: "The negotiations for a Bangsamoro peace agreement have dragged on for 17 years. The result is an autonomous law that broadens the original one and more fully complies with our government's constitutional promise and duty.
"With the Aquino [administration's] commitment and the trust that it has generated among the Bangsamoro people, the current context provides an auspicious timing for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
And with the fast approaching elections, and the upcoming transition in government, further delay in the completion of the process could effectively derail the peace agreement."