MILF hopes Aquino will use SONA to push for 'undiluted BBL'

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said he is hoping President Benigno Aquino III will use his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27, to push for the law meant to end the decades-long war in Mindanao.

"We are expecting the president will reiterate his commitment to support the passage of the undiluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)," Murad told reporters on Saturday, July 25, inside Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao.

"We hope that through his SONA he could enlighten more those who are still opposing the Bangsamoro Basic Law as submitted to Congress," said Murad during the interview organized by the Mindanao Media Forum.

The BBL is meant to create a new Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (WATCH: #HearMindanao: Why we should talk peace?)

In exchange for wider political and economic powers for the new Bangsamoro, the MILF – the dominant Muslim rebel group – agreed to drop its bid for the independence of Mindanao and lay down its firearms.

Murad highlighted that the final version of the BBL should follow agreements in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The House of Representatives' ad hoc committee approved in May its version of the law. But the MILF said the House version violated the peace accord they signed with the government. (READ: MILF: 2 House BBL amendments violate peace accord)

The Senate has yet to draft a new timeline to tackle BBL in plenary although Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed it will be among the measures they will prioritize in the next 6 months before the 2016 election fever kicks in.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, is expected to submit his report on the BBL in the first week of August.

Drilon said they will draft the timeline after his submission.

The BBL appeared to be on its way to be passed in March 2015 when it was derailed two months earlier by deadly clashes in Mamasapano, Maguindanao resulting from the bungled operation of the police Special Action Force (SAF).

The death of 44 elite cops in the hands of armed groups, including MILF fighters, has put public sentiment against the Muslim rebel group and the peace process.

Lawmakers who were previously supportive of the BBL withdrew their support.

Chief peace adviser Teresita Quintos Deles told Rappler she is confident in spite of the delays and opposition that a law "acceptable" to the MILF will be passed under the Aquino government. – Rappler.com