MANILA — The Palace has defended the organization of a National Peace Summit, announced by President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday, arguing that it is not intended to override the work of Congress in crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
In a radio interview on Saturday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the intention was for the public to understand the peace process and the BBL.
Through the peace summit, the public could provide inputs to the BBL so that in the end, a more refined Bangsamoro law could be crafted by Congress, Valte told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.
The Palace official also commented on a statement made by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel that the review of the citizens’ council on the BBL would not have any impact on the Congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro law.
“Certainly, your senators will act and comport themselves as they see fit,” Valte said. “But it also contributes to the public discourse when there is a space wherein people can discuss and debate the issue of BBL without disinformation, without misinformation, and that contributes to the understanding of the BBL, as well.”
The intention is not to replace the legislative process but to provide an avenue for discussions on the BBL in a rational and calm manner, so that improvements can be made, Valte said.
“So, nasa sa mga senador na po natin ‘yan kung pakikinggan din nila ang boses ng mga citizen leaders na bubuo dito sa summit,” she added.
Valte further said that the citizens’ council was created, not to supplant Congress and override the legislative process that the BBL has to undergo, but to create an opportunity for well-respected community leaders to come together and discuss the BBL.
In the end, she said, the body could propose ways to move forward.
Doubts on the passage of the BBL, as well as on the sincerity of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have heightened following the Mamasapano incident last January 25, which resulted in the death of 44 police commandos, 18 MILF fighters, and several civilians.
There are fears that the incident would derail the passage of the BBL, which is already behind schedule.
President Aquino said on Friday that he has invited citizen leaders known for their wisdom and integrity to stand as independent convenors, among them Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.
He said they would gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL “in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness,” with the end in view of improving the law.
“They will write a report that will be made public, so that everyone may be informed, and so that more of our countrymen may understand the matter. In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” the President said.