GENERAL SANTOS CITY, December 21, 2012 – President Benigno Simeon S. Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 120, s. 2012 last December 17 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as provided in the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro. Two days after, the two Houses of Congress passed separate resolutions supporting the EO. The President can appoint at any time members from the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front lists of nominees to constitute the Commission.
Could it be said that progress on the FAB roadmap is on track and on time – meaning, the Commission can start drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in January to make its timely submission to the 16th Congress in July 2013 possible?
The Commission can start drafting the BBL in January, if it were not for the “technical impasse” that has snagged the negotiation of the four annexes to the FAB during the 34th Exploratory Talks. As FAB provides, these annexes are parts “of this Framework Agreement”. The FAB plus the four annexes constitute the Comprehensive Compact or Agreement.
Part V, 4.a of the FAB states the first function of the Commission: “To work on the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with all agreements entered and that may be entered into by the Parties.” The annexes are within the context of “all agreements”. The Commission’s “work” must be “consistent” with the Comprehensive Agreement.
What does the impasse imply? The Commission cannot start drafting the BBL until the FAB has been completed and signed as the Comprehensive Agreement.
This will derail and delay the peace talks. The peace process is already in a tight race against time. The FAB roadmap is so crammed that, at the longest, the real transition period for Bangsamoro is only one and a half years. A delay in the passage of the BBL – including unforeseen snags in Congress – will delay the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and shorten further the transition period, the real one.
With the looming delays, it may be asked: Can Bangsamoro be properly established during President Aquino III’s term? In fact, it could be seriously questioned if within the one and a half year transition period Bangsamoro can be properly established?
Is the Government Panel bothered about the impending delays? Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer dismisses the “impasse” as within the “flexibility” of the negotiation process and is confident no “difficult issues” are “insurmountable” (OPAPP Website, 16 December 2012). The Palace echoes Ferrer, considering the “impasse in the peace talk not a problem” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 18, 2012).
Ferrer’s rationalization must be the position of the government Panel. Its echo from the Palace tends to belie MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal magnanimous assumption, his belief, that “this position of the government peace panel [does not reflect] the thinking of President Benigno Aquino III” (Luwaran, December 16, 2012).
The impasse is a fact. The Government panel chair sees no problem. The MILF panel chair had seen it coming and “forewarned the parties”. But, its adverse impact on how the Transcom would fulfill its task should not be taken for granted. The earlier the impasse is resolved, the earlier the Transcom can draft the BBL and pass on to the Congress the burden of averting further the delay in establishing the Bangsamoro.
However, this concern is tempered by the following positive notes:
First, the speedy passage of the Senate and House supporting resolutions reveals the good will and support President Aquino III has from Congress concerning the FAB. This augurs well for the BBL draft when he certifies it to Congress as “URGENT”.
Second, both Panel Chairs Ferrer and Iqbal say that Transcom upon the appointment of its members can immediately start work by putting up “its office and staff” and do all the “preliminary steps” for its regular functions (MindaNews, December 20, 2012). This is an assurance that they will not delay the resolution of the impasse, most probably by January 2013, so as not to render idle the Transcom and upset its time-table
Those who have been alarmed by the “technical impasse” – fearing it “may imperil the peace process” (See: “Special Feature” in Luwaran, December 20, ongoing) – should calm their fears. – (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)