ILIGAN CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has denied issuing “threats or hints of war” if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed by Congress.

“War is not an option to the MILF,” the group said in a statement posted on its official website Monday, June 8.

“On the contrary, the MILF consistently maintains that no matter what happens to the BBL, the pursuit of peace would remain the menu in settling the armed conflict in Mindanao,” it added.

The MILF issued the statement in light of calls from Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the group to refrain from issuing any threats of violence if the BBL is diluted or not passed by Congress.

The BBL is currently under intense scrutiny at the plenary of the House of Representatives, which is now debating a substitute version of the original BBL draft.

The measure is also experiencing rough-sailing at the Senate with Marcos still adamant at continuing to hold hearings to delve into the various issues that are supposedly affected by the new political arrangement that an enacted BBL could bring.

On Tuesday, June 9, Marcos convened a hearing among local government officials, representatives of the business sector, and finance and economic officials of government.

The committee on local government chaired by Marcos is the main anchor in the Senate that is considering the details of the draft BBL.

“Mr. Senator, thank you for the reminder and discernment! Rest assured that we are on the same plane in the abhorrence of war,” the MILF said.

“This is the reason that we agreed to talk peace since 1997 because, more than anybody else, we -- and those soldiers who served in the battlefields in Mindanao -- know exactly what war really is,” the group emphasized.

“People who are outside of the war zone can only imagine the horrors and devastations of war, but can never feel them. We did and do,” the MILF added.

Fast-track the process

The MILF appealed to Marcos “to fast-track your process and come out with your committee report.”

As the main anchor, the report of Marcos’ committee will be crucial to bringing the BBL into the Senate plenary.

“You may have all the best intentions, because you want a good BBL, but time is running out. The BBL has been in Congress for nine months already and, therefore, it is not true to say that the BBL is being rushed up,” the group pointed out.

“The flipside is truer: The passage of the BBL is getting snagged. This is the popular impression thus far created,” it added.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body created by President Benigno Aquino III in December 2012 to draft the BBL, submitted the document to Congress September last year.

The MILF also belied Marcos’s claims about the lack of consultations among key stakeholders of the peace process.

“… Virtually, all those who were invited to your recent Senate hearings, Mr. Senator, were reached out or consulted by the MILF and government peace panels, the BTC or the civil society organizations who push for peace in Mindanao and the BBL in Congress,” the MILF told Marcos.

“In many special ways, the MILF had also consulted these groups. Similarly, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) is not remiss in this regard,” it said.

“More prominently, the Lower House’s Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, in its more than 40 hearings, had also invited and consulted the various sultans, MNLF factions, and politicians especially those from Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi. None of them can justly assert that they were not consulted,” the group added.

In a separate statement, Candido Aparece Jr., spokesperson of the Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace (MCSOPP), said there have been a host of public consultations throughout Mindanao “at the time the BBL was written, just after its first draft came out, and after it went to Congress.”

Aparece said that MCSOPP and its key partners did some 300 public consultations that reached more than 20,000 people, primarily in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory.

“The results of these were channeled to the BTC for consideration in coming up with a BBL draft, and the relevant committees of the House and the Senate considering the BBL,” Aparece said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro)