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COMMENT: Bangsamoro: Fulfillment or Denial Anew? (3)

3rd of a series

  1. BBL to BEL

    GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 Nov)What will happen to Draft BBL? The question appears simple; but, for Bangsamoro, it is destiny-bound – to paraphrase a classical question, Bangsamoro, quo vadis?

Media reports quoting or citing Dureza said that BBL will be “junked”. Lead paragraphs of two national newspapers online state:

INQUIRER.net, July 19, 2016: “President Duterte has junked the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and approved an inclusive peace road map where an all-Moro body would be tasked to draft ‘a new enabling law’ to replace the BBL (Duterte’s peace road map to clear way for federalism – Dureza, by Nestor Corrales).)

The Philippine Star, July 20, 2016: “The Duterte administration has junked the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the President approved a ‘Roadmap for Peace’ on Monday evening. (Duterte junks BBL, approves ‘Roadmap for Peace’, by Christina Mendez and Jose Rodel Clapano)”

It should be noted, however, that “junked” is not in the agreements of the two parties in Kuala Lumpur; neither is it in the “apparent briefing guide” we received. Is the word just mere media usage or that of Dureza in his media interviews but not in his other briefings?

Yet it should be asked: Does drafting a new enabling law mean “junking” the BBL?

Complicating Questions

The enabling law must be CAB-compliant. Draft BBL is CAB-compliant. What will be junked? Will it be the title “BBL” and the entire content, or, just the title and enhance the content as MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim would want it?

The enabling law must be the convergence of the CAB, 1996 FPA, R.A. No. 9054, IPRA and relevant provisions of other laws and agreements. Draft BBL has incorporated significant provisions of R,A. No. 9054 which are essentially provisions of the FPA; CAB has the same principles of ancestral domain as those in IPRA. Will Draft BBL be completely junked and craft BEL starting from clean slate or will it keep the BBL content to be enriched through convergence?  

These issues can complicate the transition of BBL to BEL, delay its submission to the Congress and upset the timetable for the establishment of Bangsamoro. Another setback in the fulfillment of the Bangsamoro dream will be too disenchanting for the Moros.

Time Constraint

The transition of BBL to BEL is now facing time constraint. More complications will enhance the constraint. According to the roadmap as cited in media reports, BEL must be submitted to the Congress by July 2017. That will allow less than a year to pass BEL and to have it ratified so that the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) can have one year to entrench Bangsamoro before the election of its regular officials in the May 2019.

With the July 2017 time target, BTC has six months to craft BEL, counting from January 2017. Can it start real work in December?

According to media reports on November 5, 2016, President Duterte was set to issue the EO creating the New BTC on Monday, November 7. If it can start the convergence and drafting processes in December, it will have, at the longest, seven months to finish crafting BEL.

Tall order!  It took the first BTC 16 months to draft the original BBL even if in drafting, it only had to transform the agreements and annexes in the CAB into legal form and style – in some instances, according to the BTC chairman, copy-pasting CAB provisions on the draft. It took another four months for the Office of the President, the Peace Panels and BTC to review, revise and refine the original BBL into Draft BBL for approval of the President and the MILF Chairman.

How can the new BTC beat the time constraint?  Can there be more constraint?

Ironic Necessity

Convergence and inclusivity are deemed necessary and imperative for the BEL to be fully acceptable. Ironically, however, they are sources of conflicts and complications since inclusivity will bring in divergent parties and personalities with divergent agenda that can complicate and disorient convergence to delay the crafting of the BEL.

Is Draft BBL truly lacking in convergence and inclusivity? The truth lies in an objective scrutiny of the composition of the BTC that drafted it and of the agreements and annexes on which it is based. Consider also the conduct of the negotiations and of the efforts to reach out and involve all stakeholders. And, finally, read closely Draft BBL. Whatever lack there is may not justify its “junking”.

It should be asked: Are ethnic pride, biases, jealousies and prejudices together with traditional sensitivities and political interests not making a mountain of the molehill lack of convergence and inclusivity perceived in Draft BBL?

Crafting the BEL

How will BEL be made more convergent and inclusive than BBL as now planned?

First, involve together with MILF the MNLF factions, the IPs, Sultanates, the ARMM and the local governments. This means their having representatives in the new BTC or their being closely consulted in the crafting of the BEL.

Second, quoting from the apparent briefing guide, “[c]onsolidate and converge all peace agreements (CAB) and legislations (e.g. 1996 FPA with MNLF, 1995 IPRA Law for IPs; RA 9054 or ARMM law)” into BEL. The same has been published in media.  Implicitly, minus IPRA, BEL will be ultimately the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

How will this complicate the crafting of BEL? Let us clarify some points.

Concerning the “First”: The prevailing perception is that “minority” Moro groups – referring to MNLF factions, the Sultanates and traditional leaders in the ARMM and the local governments — have been left out in the peace negotiation. The perception is inaccurate if not entirely false.

Government-MILF peace process records submitted to the Senate hearing showed that all the above parties had been consulted – MNLF Chair Nur Misuari and the sultans of Sulu among them — even if only MILF negotiated. However, they must have been dissatisfied with the consultations.

Inclusivity is embodied in the Preamble, VI.5 re-Council of Leaders, VII.5(3) and 6 re-reserved seats for non-Moro IPs and settlers, etc. in Draft BBL. MILF has made it clear that Bangsamoro is not for MILF. After the transition period, the regular Bangsmoro government will be formed through popular election. With their political parties, MILF, MNLF, traditional leaders and IPs will be on the same footing in seeking mandate from the Bangsamoro electorate.

Only the Tedurays in Maguindanao among the IPs in the country are actually concerned about their fear of losing under Bangsamoro the economic, political and cultural benefits guaranteed in IPRA. IPs in other parts of Mindanao are outside of the ARMM that will become the Bangsamoro territory.  The traditional leaders including those from the Sultanates have no known serious issues with Government.

 The perception alluded to prevailed in GRP-MNLF negotiations.  MNLF had negotiated with Government for 20 years, 1976 to 1996 when the FPA was signed.

 During the 20-year off-and-on GRP-MNLF negotiations, MILF and all others were left out; neither were they consulted. In the Jakarta peace talk, according to a report, MILF was interested to participate but MNLF rejected it. President Ramos invited MILF to a negotiation in 1996 immediately after the signing of the FPA. The GRP/GPH-MILF had been continuous until the consolidation of all agreements into the CAB which was signed on March 27, 2014 – now on its 21st year and in its implementation phase.

Concerning the “Second”: By the mandate “consolidate and converge all” there is no clear presumption of CAB as the primary agreement to which all others will be consolidated. That BEL will be crafted on clean slate, not Draft BBL enhanced, is not a remote possibility.

Secretary Dureza’s and Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim’s understanding to “preserve all the past agreements”, to “continue the process” — not to reinvent but to “build on what has already been gained” (PDI, 7/21/16) — will probably not be binding to all participants of the convergence process. This understanding means BEL is the enhanced Draft BBL.

Will the MNLF factions, particularly that of Misuari, go along with the Dureza-Murad understanding and just continue what has been started – converging to Draft BBL?

Tomorrow: Essentially convergent

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