WATCH | ‘NOW IS BBL’S CHANCE’: Senators visit MILF HQ, Marawi ground zero, conduct BBL public consultations

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While in Mindanao for a two-day joint public hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law from Thursday to Friday, some senators visited the headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat; and ground zero in Marawi City, where the fighting between government forces and the Maute Group occurred from May to October last year.

Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros, and Juan Miguel Zubiri visited the MILF headquarters in Maguindanao on Thursday to gauge the sentiments of MILF leadership regarding the proposed BBL. There they were received by MILF officials led by MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim.

They were joined by Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman, Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, and 6th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega.

On Friday, Angara, Ejercito, Hontiveros, and Zubiri were joined by Senators Bam Aquino and Cynthia Villar on a visit to ground zero of Marawi City, where they saw the ruins left by the siege and which led them to believe that the passage of the BBL will pave the way to peace.

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Following the visit to the MILF headquarters, as well as the first joint public hearing on the BBL in Shariff Kabunsuan Complex, ORG Compound in Cotabato City on Thursday, Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman and MILF 1st Vice-Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar was optimistic that the BBL will be passed soon.

He hoped that all senators will ultimately be in favor of the BBL in the wake of the consultative hearings.

Zubiri, the Senate Sub-committee for the BBL chairperson, on Thursday said the Senate will try its best to pass the draft BBL by the first quarter of the year.

For his part, Angara, the Senate Committee on Local Government chairperson, said in his opening remarks during Thursday’s hearing, “(W)e commit full support to this and we ask for your support also. Let us come up with a bill that is truly representing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro and the people of Mindanao para talagang ‘yung kapayapaan, ‘yung prosperidad, at ‘yung progreso ay makita natin sa ating henerasyon (so that peace, prosperity, and progress will be fulfilled during our generation).”

“The president as mentioned with his Maranao roots, the Speaker of the House, (and) the Senate President are all from Mindanao. Kaya narito na po ang tsansa (That’s why here’s the chance). We see the military and the MILF – dati nagbabakbakan pero ngayon po, pag nag-o-operate, magkasama na po (they used to fight one another, and now they operate together). Sayang po ang tsansa na (We should not waste the chance) to build on that,” Angara added.

The second public hearing was held at the Dimaporo Gymnasium, MSU Main Campus in Marawi City on Friday.

In another speech on Wednesday before the graduating students of Mindanao State University (MSU) Main Campus during its commencement exercises for the first semester of 2017 to 2018, Angara urged the youth to “speak up” and participate in the crafting of the legislation.

“For the best laws are written directly by the people, and the ones understood and embraced by all,” he said.

Hontiveros, in a press release on Tuesday, had called on both the Senate and the House of Representatives to “devote time and energy to passing the BBL.”

“It’s time that we pass this long-delayed measure. It is an institutional recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people. We must once and for all address the historical injustices committed against our Muslim brothers and sisters, help build lasting peace and support them in realizing their dream of self-determination,” she said.