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COMMENT: Good! Enough? In All Honesty … (3)

Last of three parts
III. Not That Simple

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 February) — When Secretary Jesus Dureza hailed the release of the names of the members of the New Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)  as a signal to start drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to create a genuine political autonomy for the Moros and the IPs, some, if not many, must have seen the New BTC as the only body tasked for the job and their mandate coming only from EO 08. The end will be as planned and expected – the formal establishment of the Bangsamoro after the 2019 election. However, it is not that simple.

Besides the complications that will inevitably arise from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari separate engagement with the Duterte government for the full implementation of the 1996 FPA, the New BTC may come up with a BPDR-compliant (Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap) Bangsamoro enabling law but least CAB-compliant (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) – a must in Section 3 of EO No. 120, s, 2012 deleted when amended by EO 08.

EO 120, Sec 3a states: To draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.” Note: The CAB, after signing in 2014, took precedence over the FAB.

EO 08 amended this by substituting: “To draft proposals for a Bangsamoro Basic Law which shall be submitted to the Office of the President for submission to Congress.”

While the BPDR (Ways Forward for the Bangsamoro Process) provides the “Issuance of an EO to amend the composition and mandate of the BTC”, the functions of the New BTC in EO 08 are not as the BPDR mandates. There is no direct reference to the BPDR in EO 08.

New BTC Mandate in BPDR:

The mandate of the New BTC as provided in the BPDR: (The Bangsamoro Peace Process: Peace and Development Roadmap – Two Simultaneous Tracks: Federalism + Enabling Law Approach” and “The Bangsamoro Transition Commission”):

Mandate: (I) Recommend amendments to the Constitution via the federalism project to establish the Bangsmoro government. (II) Craft the enabling law for submission to Congress. (III) Spearhead the dialogue and conversation of people in Mindanao on the Bangsmoro peace process.”  [Note: There is no reference to the CAB.]

Note: “(I)” and “(III)” are Sec 3b and Sec 3d of EO 120, respectively, as amended by Sec 2 of EO 08.

The following are specific mandates under the two simultaneous tracks:

“A. Enabling Law or Legislative Track: (1) Consolidate and converge all peace agreements and legislations (e.g. 1996 FPA with MNLF, 1995 IPRA Law for IPs; RA 9054 or ARMM law). (2) If there are constitutional issues in the proposed Bangsamoro enabling law, these are to be “parked” and, await Supreme Court ruling and ConCon deliberations. (3) New BTC will call for an inclusive ALL-Moro Assembly to approve the new draft. (4) New BTC will submit to the new version of enabling law by July 2017.”

Note: Only “A(3)” is in EO 08, Sec 2 .an amendment to EO 120  as Sec 3c.

Note further: While the CAB is not among the examples in parenthesis, this is within the meaning of the phrase “all peace agreements and legislations”.

“B. Federalism or Convention Track: (1) New BTC will call for an inclusive All-Moro Assembly to discuss its submission to ConCon. (2) New BTC will submit proposals compliant with peace agreements to the ConCon within six months. (3) The Bangsamoro governance until installed will serve as pilot federal state.”

Note: “(3)” is not a mandate for the New BTC.

Crossing the Bridge

MindaNews quoted Iqbal (MN 2/10/17: GPH, MILF …) as saying that they are “not starting from scratch” as “there are existing drafts that can be made as the working draft to hasten the process of the drafting”. He was referring to the drafts for the ill-fated Draft BBL. But the draft proposal the New BTC will submit to the President must be free of constitutional issues. These issues must be culled from the old drafts amd Draft BBL; the process will slow down the New BTC.

The final drafts after the four-month review and revision of Draft BBL was considered consistent with the 1987 Constitution. What unconstitutional provisions will the New BTC remove? By the Supreme Court’s November 20, 2016 decision dismissing the complaints against the CAB without ruling on the issue of constitutionality, the CAB can be presumed constitutional until proven otherwise.

What will the New BTC do? EO 08 only provides the general mandate for it to draft proposals for a Bangsmoro basic law to be submitted to the President. The specific mandates are in the BPDR.

What option has the MILF? Its implementing panel accepted the BPDR during the August 14, 2016 meeting in Kuala Lumpur.  As leaders of the New BTC, how will they cross the bridge?

The New BTC is implicitly being told to do these:

First: Submit to President Duterte a Draft BEL that, FOREMOST, is BPDR-compliant even if it is LEAST CAB-compliant. Play safe. As working draft, use the BLBAR (Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) – the substitute bills of the House and the Senate of the 16th Congress. The Moros should settle for a watered-down – least CAB-compliant – BEL if they want the 17th Congress to pass the BEL by July 2018 and the Bangsamoro inaugurated after the election of 2019

Second: The forty or so provisions of Draft BBL that the MILF study group had asked the 16th Congress to restore should be included as proposed constitutional amendments to be submitted to the Congress as the Constitutional Commission under the federalism track of the BPDR.

Two crucial questions: (1) How certain is the New BTC’s BEL will prevail over the MNLF-Misuari draft to amend RA No. 9054 to strengthen the ARMM? (2) Even if it does prevail, what if the ConCom rejects the proposed amendments? Will the Moros settle for good with the least CAB-compliant Bangsamoro?

In Duterte’s Hands


What is the crucial option? The New BTC uses Draft BBL as its primary working draft. Converge to this all the other peace agreements and legislations as provided in “(1)” of the “Legislative Track” of the BPDR. President Duterte convinces the 17th Congress to presume the ensuing CAB-compliant Draft BEL as constitutional.  Let the constitutional issues, if any, be decided by Supreme Court. Constitutional amendments may still be proposed to the ConCom.

But this option will be futile if MNLF-Misuari will continue its engagement with the Duterte government, The Congress has been entrusted with the task to consolidate the two draft bills; but the impossibility to abolish the ARMM as proposed by one and to keep and strengthen it as proposed by the other can be an excuse for the 17th Congress to write a substitute bill unacceptable to the Moros.

To recapitulate:  That President Duterte, finally signalled the New BTC to start drafting the Basic Enabling Law for the Bangsamoro is good. But, in all honesty, that is not enough. Complications will arise from the separate negotiation of the government and the MNLF-Misuari to implement fully the 1996 FPA and from the BPDR. Does President Duterte have the wisdom, prudence, tack and, above all, political will to preempt these complications?

Like the proverbial bird, whether “the clamor for a genuine political autonomy for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao” – Bangsamoro in the CAB or Autonomy for the Muslims in Southern Philippines in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement – will be fulfilled or be denied AGAIN is in the hands of President Duterte NOW.

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