COMMENT: Bangsamoro: Fulfillment or Denial Anew? (1)

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I. Duterte Peace Roadmap

One major plank in the platform of presidential candidate Rodrigo R. Duterte was peace with the Moro and the Communist rebels. He planned a two-prong approach – implement all agreements with the Moro rebel groups and continue the negotiation with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), the umbrella of the Communist rebel forces.

These are now the two roads in the Duterte peace roadmap. This he enunciated in his inaugural address: “On the domestic front, my administration is committed to implement all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms.” While his two paragraphs immediately following suggested reference to the Moro rebels alone, viewed from his later statement in his State of the Nation Address, he must also be referring to the Communist insurgents.

Even before he formally assumed office, Duterte and his peace teams held exploratory talks with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) on the Bangsamoro issues and with the NDFP for the resumption of the stalled negotiations. During a cabinet meeting on July 18, 2016, he approved the roadmap to peace for the implementation of all peace agreements with the Moro rebels.

Peace and Development

No official copy was released immediately; none until now; and none has been posted in the websites of the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Processes) or of The Official Gazette under the Office of the President. However, Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza, who prepared the roadmap, has optimistically said much about it in his press interviews and statements published in MindaNews (MN), Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), The Philippine Star (Star), Rappler (R), and other media outlets.

Incidentally, we received from a friend who begged to remain anonymous what appeared to be a guide in a briefing for the government and the Moro rebel peace teams entitled, “The Bangsmoro Peace and Development Roadmap”. It corroborates official statements in the media.  We attach to it the same authenticity as the matrix of MILF demands that we received in 2001 under the same circumstance and subsequently proven authentic. We will refer to the BPDR as the “authentic Duterte roadmap”.

From Secretary Dureza, it is inferred that the Bangsamoro roadmap is not only about peace but also development, for he has repeatedly said that for him signing many peace agreements would mean nothing without the massive development of the Bangsamoro. From the peace secretary’s pronouncements – echoing the President’s SONA (Paragraphs 34, 35) – may be inferred the essential features or elements of this Bangsamoro peace and development roadmap.

Implementation

Negotiations with the Moro rebels are over. Hence, the peace process will focus on the implementation of the agreements. The government and MILF negotiating panels have been reconstituted into implementing panels. They will meet in the Philippines, no longer in Kuala Lumpur, except when third-party facilitation is necessary..

Dureza (Star, 7/20/16) said that a new enabling law will be drafted to implement the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro) and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement of the government and the MNLF under the leadership of Chairman Nur Misuari.

Stated in other reports, for more inclusivity pertinent provisions of the ARMM law (R.A. No. 9054) and of IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) will be included in the enabling law to complement the CAB and the 1996 FPA. The inclusion of the IPRA will address the concerns of the Lumads or IPs.

The convergence of the CAB, FPA, and R.A. No. 9054 will implement all agreements with the Moros since 1976. The CAB contains all agreements between the government and MILF from 1997 to 2014. The 1996 FPA is dubbed the final implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and related accords between the government and the MNLF; it was used to amend R.A. No. 6734 into R.A. 9054.

R.A. No. 9054, the original Organic Act that established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was drafted in 1988 by the Mindanao Regional Consultative Commission composed of 50 members — 25 Muslims, 17 Christians and 8 Lumads – created by President Corazon C. Aquino.

Two Simultaneous Tracks

The implementation process will follow the legislative and the federalism tracks. As reported in the OPAPP website and cited by MindaNews, the enactment of the the new proposed Bangsamoro enabling law “will be done simultaneously with the moves to shift to a federal set-up, the latter expected to come later under the planned timeline.”

Dureza, in his text-message to MindaNews, reiterated: “Simultaneous but enabling law obviously ahead. Bangsamoro governance unit can be a test bed for future federal states.” (MN 7/19/16) It seemed to clarify the somewhat confusing “the latter expected”-clause in the OPAPP report.

What does the clarification mean? The expanded BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) once reconstituted will start immediately to draft the new enabling law and within six months submit the draft to the Congress. By that time, the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to shift to the federal system could be in progress at the Constitutional Assembly. While awaiting the ConAss draft before constituting itself into a constitutional assembly, the Congress would be tackling the Bangsamoro enabling law.   

That the “Bangsamoro governance unit can be a test bed for future federal states” implies the intent to pass the enabling law immediately – as President Duterte has assured the Moros (MN, 7/23/16) – and to establish the Bangsamoro while the ConAss is still working on the federal constitution so it can use Bangsamoro as the model of the federal states. The proposed federalization timeline is to finish the constitutional amendments in 2017 and submit it to a plebiscite in the midterm election of 2019.

Convergence and Inclusivity

In a meeting with MILF Central Committee, Dureza assured Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, “We will continue the process. We are not reinventing here. We will build on what has already been gained.” Murad affirmed the MILF commitment to “preserve all the past agreements.” (PDI, 7/21/16) This also means that unless changes are necessary, the same visions, parameters, objectives, mechanisms and modalities already in place will remain as guide and in use.

Convergence and inclusivity are critical concerns. This means that all – Moros (rebel factions and Sultanates), IPs and settlers – will be consulted, their concerns embodied in the enabling law and represented in the Bangsamoro government. The perceived lack of these in Draft BBL is among the reasons for its revision into the substitute bill BLBAR (Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) and its eventual failure to be passed by the 16th Congress. The burden of convergence and inclusivity is on the BTC.

The implementing panels have agreed to expand the membership of CAB-based BTC to 21 – eleven, including the head, to be appointed by MILF and ten by Government. To make the new BTC truly inclusive, it is expected Government will tap representatives from the Misuari, Sema and Alonto MNLF factions, the Sultanates, other Bangsamoro representatives, the local governments and the IPs.

As already stated above, the BTC will draft a new Bangsamoro enabling law to replace Draft BBL out of the CAB and the 1996 FPA with pertinent provisions from R.A. No. 9054 and IPRA and to submit the proposed enabling law to the Congress six months after its constitution. Dureza (MN, 7/19/16) said the new BTC “will also be mandated to propose amendments to the Philippine Constitution that are pertinent to the Bangsamoro as inputs towards eventual federalism in the land”.

In BPDR, the “New BTC will call for an inclusive ALL-Moro Assembly to approve the new draft” before submitting it to the Congress “by July 2017”. It is also mandated to “[s]pearhead the dialogue and conversation of people in Mindanao on the Bangsmoro peace process”. These are the ultimate quests for inclusivity.

Economic Development

Dureza said that the government will also implement “massive development on the ground” while the passage of a Bangsamoro enabling law and the shift to federalism are being done simultaneously (MN, 7/19/16). This development refers to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that will become the Bangsamoro. 

Other than in general statements, Dureza has not mentioned specific details and timeline about the economic component of the peace process in the Duterte peace roadmap. None appeared in the apparent briefing guide that has been anonymously sent to us. But this is not a new element in the Mindanao peace process.

This is Paragraph 6, Third Part, of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement: “The authorities of the autonomy in the South of the Philippines shall have their own economic and financial system. The relationship between this system and the economic and financial system of the State shall be discussed later.”

The above provision of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement was fleshed out in Part “III.D” of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, Paragraphs 126 to 151, with the sub-title “The Economic and Financial System, Mines and Minerals”. The FPA, as stated in its Paragraph 153, “is the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement”.

For the interim, from a month after the signing of the FPA in 1996 until the ratification of R.A. No. 9054 in 2001, President Fidel V. Ramos created by Executive Order No. 371 SZOPAD (Special Zone of Peace and Development), the transition mechanism – instead of Provisional Government — of the autonomy under the FPA. The National Economic and Development Authority formulated the “Integrated Development Framework and Investment Program 1997-1999” for SZOPAD.

One of the three aspects of the 2001 Tripoli Agreement on Peace is “Rehabilitation”. It was fleshed out in an agreement   signed on May 7, 2002 the Article V of which provides how rehabilitation and development projects are to be implemented through “a project implementation body”. This body was later created as BDA (Bangsamoro Development Authority) that according to MILF’s Luwaran reports has performed well its task within the means available from the government, foreign countries and international agencies.

The negotiations between Government and MILF under the Arroyo and Aquino III administrations were repeatedly stalled by contentious issues – not only political but also economic. The failure of Draft BBL to pass the 16th Congress was a denial of meaningful economic concessions granted to the Moros, as much as a rejection of political provisions perceived as unconstitutional.

The Peace Commission of President Corazon C. Aquino, tasked to tackle peace problems in the country, deemed “economic development” as one of the foundations of “full and lasting peace” together with “social justice” and “political stability”. To acknowledge, the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, it explained, the 1987 Constitution mandated the creation of autonomous regions (Article X, Sections 1, 15 to 21). Section 20 provides that the autonomous regions must have legislative powers over the “Creation of sources of revenues (2) and “Ancestral domain resources (3).

In the Six Paths of Peace, the peacemaking guide under President Ramos, the economy was one of the three concerns in the first path: “a. Pursuit of Social, Economic and Political Reforms: This component involves the vigorous implementation of various policies, reforms, programs and projects aimed at addressing the root causes of internal armed conflicts and social unrest. This may require administrative action, new legislation or even constitutional amendments.”

In all administrations from 1976 to the half of 2016, economic development had been a key component of the peace process – clearly formulated, signed and promulgated. But this was half-heartedly implemented or not at all.  Will fulfillment come under Duterte?  As stated to the media, it is a major part of the Duterte peace roadmap. However, there is no way to know the details and timeline of this economic development initiative since no official copy of the roadmap has been released to media or made accessible on-line.

However, here’s a report from government news sources in relation to Dureza’s espousal of “massive economic development”: “President Duterte forthwith directed that the executive order of the peace office be amended to enable it to oversee all development projects and at the same time empower it to implement projects that are related to peace. (OPAPP Website, PIA: 7/19/16)”  

Tomorrow: Imperatives and Options

 

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