Muslim groups hold a protest to urge the passage of the Bangsamoro law at the Philippine Senate, Wednesday. The groups asked the senators to respect the peace agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).(MNS photo)

Muslim groups hold a protest to urge the passage of the Bangsamoro law at the Philippine Senate, Wednesday. The groups asked the senators to respect the peace agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer on Thursday expressed reservations about Senator Bongbong Marcos’ substitute bill for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Ferrer said though the parliamentary form of government was retained for the Bangsamoro, the composition was significantly altered to include mostly district representatives instead of party-list seats.

She said the substitute bill gives the Bangsamoro chief minister less powers than the current governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Some of the powers that have been granted to the ARMM have been taken away, that will be a little difficult to justify. If these are powers being exercised by the regional governor of ARMM today, why are we saying the future Bangsamoro chief minister will not be able to exercise these? That would amount to a diminution of the autonomous powers when the intent is to allow for more meaningful autonomy,” she said.

Marcos earlier said the substitute bill for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) addresses the concerns of several sectors and stakeholders that the Palace and Moro Islamic Liberation Front-backed BBL was not inclusive.

He said that under the substitute bill, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will have a role in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), a body that will govern the proposed Bangsamoro region during its transition period.

The MILF is a breakaway faction of the MNLF founded by Hashim Salamat in the 1970s. The Nur Misuari-led MNLF split after it entered into a peace accord with the government and produced what is now called the Tripoli Agreement of 1976.

The MILF also does not recognize the 1996 final peace agreement that the MNLF entered into with the government.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier said the passage of a diluted BBL would violate the comprehensive peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the MILF.

He stressed the MILF would not accept a watered-down law on self-determination because it would be a betrayal of all the years of struggle and negotiations.

“Let us be clear. We will not accept anything that will give us something less than ARMM (Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao) or even something similar,” Iqbal said at the forum hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance and the Pilgrims for Peace.

The MILF, he added, will not accept anything that gives control over the development of natural resources, including those that produce energy, to the national government. He also said the Bangsamoro should get the bigger share of the proceeds of development.

Iqbal said he personally conveyed this message to leaders of the House of Representatives.(MNS)