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Catholic Church ‘supportive’ of BBL – MILF negotiator

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MANILA, April 11, 2015 -– Backing from a major institution. This is how MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal sees the Catholic Church’s “support” for the hotly-debated Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The Catholic church is supportive of the BBL, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Ateneo de Davao President Joel Tabora, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo at Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Jr. [support it],” Iqbal told the foreign correspondents and a sprinkling of diplomats and a couple of officers from the American Chamber of Commerce recently.

MILF Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the Catholic Church, as well as other faith-based groups are supportive of the BBL. In a briefing with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Iqbal said there lies a need to go on a massive information campaign for the people and to engage lawmakers as the "real battle" is in Congress. To his right is Chief Government Negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. (Photo: Melo M. Acuña)

Iqbal said there is also growing support from other Christian churches such as the Protestant groups, specifically the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches along with civil society organizations and non-government organizations.

‘Real battle in Congress’

“There is an overwhelming support from Moro groups including traditional leaders, politicians and ordinary people,” he added.
Despite this, however, Iqbal said there is a need to increase and strengthen the support base for the BBL pending at both Houses of Congress, saying “the real battle now is in Congress.”

Speaking before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines Tuesday, Iqbal said in his opening statement that BBL supporters need to be identified thoroughly and ways have to be found to strengthen and consolidate partnerships with them.
He went on to describe international support for the BBL as “very strong.” Iqbal also shared he looks forward to further developing close relations with the business community such as the Makati Business Clun and the Mindanao Business Council.

Pulse of the people

Iqbal said there should be a massive information campaign on the salient provisions of the proposed BBL and the “need for peace in the country.” He added more often than not, “the attitude of politicians are conditioned by the pulse of their electorates.”

“We have to rally educational institutions and academicians behind the BBL’s passage,” he stressed. He also mentioned future engagements with 18 surviving members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission.

Iqbal likewise cited the challenge of engaging those who are against the BBL’s passage, including the “majority of media practitioners”, especially after the Mamasapano incident. He said some politicians and opposition groups are using the BBL as “tool of politics”, while majority of the Filipinos have not read nor studied the draft law.

Strong biases

He bewailed the fact there still lies anti-Moro biases and prejudices which he described as “very strong in Luzon and the Visayas as there are hostile opinion-makers, columnists, talk show hosts and a lot more.”

Should the BBL fails to be passed, the MILF’s clout, popularity and effectiveness will sink to the lowest level as there will no longer be decommissioning of its weapons and combatants and no Exit Agreement will be signed.

He candidly said the radicals “will have greater say on how the situation develops in Mindanao.” (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)


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