GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) – In our last two-part article, “Believe Them or Not?” (MindaNews: June 17 and 21), we tackled the questions of what could be: (1) the real reason or cause for the OP legal team in reviewing the BBL draft for so long; (2) the real Bangsamoro that will ultimately be entrenched by June 2016.
Of the first, it can be seen from the reasoning of the Palace and the Peace Process Office and the 17-year history of the negotiation that the BBL will be “refined and strengthened” to entrench Bangsamoro as the autonomy Government is willing to grant – what it deems fit for the Moros and beneficial for the entire country, not necessarily what MILF has envisioned even if hailed as the “solution to the Moro Problem”.
Of the second, the real Bangsamoro will be provided in the BBL. However, granting that, as provided, what Government is willing to grant is what MILF has essentially envisioned, the real Bangsamoro will still depend on how it is properly transitioned from the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).
The transition proper is a vital phase in the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro. Done properly, it’s “boom”; improperly, “bust”.
In the second part of our two-part article, we discussed generally the four essential components of what we believe to be the “proper transition”. We are reproducing them (in italics) below and we will discuss these further to elucidate some points and the ultimate impact of the failure to draft and enact the BBL within 2013 and promulgate it by March 2014.
The four components of proper transition are:  what must be done;  the means to do what must be done;  the right people to do what must be done; and  enough time to do what must be done. They are inter-dependent. A serious flaw in one will mean the failure of all.
Component  consists of the objectives of self-rule which must include the re-orientation of the moral, political, social and economic values of the Moro people and their leaders. These objectives are the mission of the Bangsamoro; the transition is for the proper take-off.
The objectives are defined in the “Concepts and Principles” of the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) and essentially permeated the agreements. These and the re-orientation are must as the foundation of the quest to change the unacceptable status quo.
Component  consists of the BBL and the necessary funding support. The BBL will define the concepts, principles and objectives of the Bangsamoro and provide the basic features and functions of government. We only know that the Bangsamoro is ministerial in form of government and asymmetrical in its relation with the Central Government; for details we have to wait for the BBL.
The BBL is the architectural plan of the political edifice, the Bangsamoro. This is the guide in the construction of the edifice from the laying of the concrete foundation right after the abolition of the ARMM until its inauguration. The Bangsamoro is expected to be as envisioned by MILF; the edifice built according to that vision with adequate fund support from the government. The edifice, figuratively speaking, will provide the Moros comfort, security and windows from which they will have a better view of their ancestral domain and plan their own future.
Component  consists of the BTA. In all probability, its mandate, membership and tenure are defined in the BBL draft; the President will base on the final provisions in the BBL the Executive Order to create the BTA and appoint its members. But this is the imperative: The BTA members must be best prepared.
The BTA is the construction crew of the edifice. They must possess the necessary skills to build the edifice according to plan and provide it with the basic furnishing before its inauguration for all to see its difference from the old edifice, the ARMM – one of the unacceptable status quos. From this edifice, long after its inauguration, the Moros should be able to change completely all the unacceptable status quos.
However, to accomplish its mission well, the BTA must be best prepared. The Bangsamoro has a ministerial form of government asymmetrically related with Manila. Detaching the Moro people and their leaders from the unacceptable status quos to start the necessary value re-orientation is as herculean as the legendary cleaning of the Augean stable. Among the prospective members of the BTA, none might be comfortably familiar with the ministerial system; they will be in need of re-orientation.
It is most advisable that the BTA is constituted now to give its members the ample time for the best preparation. From the BBL draft, the composition of the BTA and its mandate can be anticipated. The President does not have to wait for the promulgation of the BBL to create and constitute the BTA. Letting an unprepared BTA transition the Bangsamoro is suicidal.
Preparing properly the BTA will take time. First, the members have to undertake extensive and comprehensive seminar at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute under visiting experts then do some field study in countries with ministerial form of government. Second, they have to assess the political, social, economic and cultural values now prevailing in Bangsamoro to see how to change these to what must be as envisioned.
With this preparation, the BTA will be in the best position to set up the ministerial government according to the BBL and run the transitional government properly; it will be able to undertake programs and projects – among them values re-orientation – by which the Moros will appreciate the difference of the Bangsamoro from the unacceptable status quo. This will trigger change of values that can influence the formation of parties and the electorate election in the first regular election of the Bangsamoro.
To reiterate, all the above cannot be done overnight and should not be done haphazardly. But doing them is the imperative.
Component  is the time essential – not just available – for the BTA to accomplish its mandate to the optimum. In general, this mandate must be to set up the ministerial government mechanism and instrumentalities according to  and  with which the Bangsamoro can properly take-off. Can the BTA accomplish this in 275 days or nine months? Or, it can be shorter!
To fathom this question, we have to know the BBL draft provisions on the BTA. However, in the absence of the BBL draft, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the Annex on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities (ATAM) and the Annex on Power-Sharing (APS) will be of help.
FAB.VII.10: The BTA “shall ensure that the continued functioning of government in the area of autonomy is exercised pursuant to the mandate under the Basic Law.”
ATAM.I.F: “The BTA shall have as its core function the preparation for the transition to the ministerial government in the Bangsamoro.”
APS. Part Twoon Governance Structure (Bangsamoro Ministerial Government) provides that:
(a) pertaining to the Bangsamoro assembly: it “shall be representative of the Bangsamoro’s constituent political units” and of its diverse sectors(2); it shall “… be composed of at least 50 members …” (3);
(b) pertaining to the Bangsamoro electoral system: “… to entrench an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government” which “shall be contained in the [BBL] to be implemented through legislation enacted by the Bangsamoro Government and correlated with national laws.” (4).
The above definitely refers to the BTA as the interim ministerial government. Since the core of the ministerial government is the legislature, it is the interim assembly composed of 50 members to prepare “for the transition of the ministerial government of the Bangsamoro”. Among its first tasks are to legislate laws to create the ministerial offices and the mechanisms and modalities as the BBL provides and to elect the interim prime minister who will appoint the interim ministers.
These first tasks are just preparations for transition. These will take time. Adding the time taken by the President in selecting the 50 BTA members, how many days out of the 275 will be left for the actual transition? More of the 275 days will be taken if the 50 BTA members have to undergo orientation in ministerial government before they assume office.
Restating the nagging question: Are 275 days sufficient for proper transition?
Will it be the BTA that will entrench the Bangsamoro electoral system for the election of first regular officials of the Bangsamoro? YES, according to Luwaran, the official website of the MILF Central Committee on Information – the MILF mouthpiece. This is one task the BTA must do on assuming power. Below is an excerpt from COMMENT, MindaNews, March 26, 2014: “Bangsamoro: Deals to Be Done, I. Impact of Transition (Very Short Transition)”:
“Luwaran in its editorial(March 16, 2914: ‘No rocky hill for an iron will’) said the BTA would have daunting tasks to do when it “formally assumes power in 2015”. Within the “one year transition” the BTA has to “ set up institutions, write  the local government code,  the administrative code, and  the election code for the Bangsamoro. More importantly,  it has to provide leadership and unify the Bangsamoro people and rally them towards the vision set forth more than 40 years ago by the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim.”
To reiterate the imperative: Can the BTA properly set up in 275days – not one year – the ministerial government mechanism and instrumentalities and undertake programs necessary for the proper take-off of Bangsamoro? Whether the Bangsamoro that will be established in June 2016 is what MILF has envisioned will depend on the BTA and the sufficiency of time for it to accomplish its task.
Will the imperative happen? The probability that it will not is great.
The BTA, according to the revised FAB roadmap, will be appointed after the ratification and promulgation of the BBL. The members will, in all probability, be unfamiliar with the ministerial system of government. On assuming office, they cannot set up the offices and provide the mechanisms and modalities suitable to the ministerial system.
It can just be asked:
- Will the abolition of the ARMM upon the promulgation of the BBL just to the extent of the resignation of the elected regional officials?
- Will the ARMM offices remain for the BTA, the interim prime minister and ministers to occupy?
- Will these offices operate under the same structures and codes while the BTA members and interim prime minister and ministers are familiarizing with the ministerial system and until the BTA, as the interim Bangsamoro assembly, can set up the proper offices and enact the local government and administrative codes suitable to the ministerial system?
- If the interim Bangsamoro government cannot enact the suitable election code¸ will the first election of the regular officials be conducted under the Omnibus Election Code as amended?
The primary thrust of the agreements is to change the unacceptable status quo. The Bangsamoro will embody the new acceptable order after the change. It appears, however, that the transition from the unacceptable status quo to the new acceptable order will be done under circumstances bred by the unacceptable status quo. With “no rhyme and reason” this is a “no-no transition”.
Under such transition, the BTA and the interim minister and prime ministers, in reality, will likely be only OICs from the time the ARMM is abolished, as agreed, until the inauguration of the Bangsamoro that will also likely be the new name of the ARMM. Those to be elected are – 99.9 percent – oriented in the unacceptable status quo.
But who really cares about proper transition?
Not the President and the Palace! Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in his press statement last April 15 (GMA News and philstar.com), said the Palace “aims to have the BBL ratified by the first quarter of 2015 so that there can be sufficient preparations for the conduct of the elections for the officials that will regularly administer the Bangsamoro political entity” – hoping “that the elections can take place simultaneously with the 2016 national elections”. The President had made the same pronouncement a number of times.
MILF cares. But what can it do now? The agreements have been drafted into the BBL. It’s the BTC following up the enactment of the BBL draft. While the BTC is headed by the MILF chief negotiator and majority of its members are MILF appointees, the BTC is not the MILF. Besides, like the siren’s song, the GPH’s wooing can lull MILF into accepting the “no-no” transition.
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According to ATAM (H. Exit Document), the “implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition”will be reviewed, assessed and evaluated by the Government and MILF negotiating panels, the Malaysian Facilitator and the Third Party Monitoring Team for the drafting of the “Exit Document officially terminating the peace negotiation” which will be “signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented”.
Will this be noted well? Proper transition in the spirit of the agreements must be factored in the Exit Document. Unacceptable status quo is a key point in the agreement. The ultimate aim of the negotiation is to change the unacceptable status quo. Even if the agreements are implemented in their letter as provided in the BBL but if these are improperly implemented because of improper transition, the unacceptable status quo will remain unchanged.
Can the Exit Document be the alarm bell for the re-opening of negotiation to put on hold the inauguration to give more time for the BTA to transition properly the Bangsamoro?
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Communications Secretary Coloma said the CAB is a substantial input into the crafting of the BBL. Correct. In fact, it is the substance. But transition is vitally critical – fatally critical if improperly done.
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This COMMENT updates “Bangsamoro: Deals to Be Done (I. Impact of Transition)” which discusses comprehensively proper transition.
["Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.]