Philippines president receives draft law on Muslim south
Draft law on autonomous Muslim region submitted to Aquino after months of negotiations between government, MILF.

Nearly five months after its initial drafting, a proposed law aimed at ending decades of fighting in the Philippines' south by creating a Muslim autonomous region has finally been submitted to President Benigno Aquino III.

A report posted Thursday on, the official website of the country's one-time largest rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the revised draft was received by Aquino's office at around 8:00 pm Wednesday.

In the cover letter of the document addressed to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., MILF chief negotiator and Bangsamoro Transition Committee chair Mohagher Iqbal said: "We are respectfully submitting the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) … and we are ready to adhere to our understanding to work on the final text of the proposed BBL after its review by the President."

The report on the MILF's website said Aquino would begin his review Thursday, adding that the submission had beaten the workflow timeline set by the peace panels of the government and the MILF during their August 15 meeting in Davao City.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said Aquino will prioritize the bill so it can be passed by Congress as soon as possible in accordance with the roadmap and timetable.

Coloma expressed their desire for the law's passage into law and implementation before the end of Aquino's term in mid-2016 so that leaders for the Muslim autonomous area could be elected alongside the national elections.

On March 27, the government and the MILF signed a peace deal that brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao – which has claimed at least 120,000 lives - while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.

The deal committed Aquino and the MILF to pass a law creating the Bangsamoro Region -- which will supplant the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao once the law is passed and ratified -- before the 2016 elections.

The Bangsamoro Transition Committee submitted the law to the government in April for review prior to submission to Congress, only for the government to return it two months later with proposed revisions.

The MILF has since suggested that the government is seeking to renege on its commitments by diluting the wording of the law.

After Aquino reviews the revised draft, the peace panels will meet again to finalize the BBL, to be submitted by the president as an urgent bill to Congress.

President Aquino's review of the BBL falls on August 21, the anniversary of the assassination of his father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., more three decades ago.

Last Modified: 2014-08-21 10:15:15
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