COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (8)

8th  of nine parts

The Only Option

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 03 January) — The only option that will give the Bangsamoro basic law bill a good chance to be filed in the Congress in July 2017 is the revision of Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) into Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) through convergence as proposed in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap. Let the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)  do this – the 10 GPH (government) nominees to come from all Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions including Misuari’s and the local government units  from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Indigenous Peoples (IPs) will be nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the same set up as in the 15-member BTC with two IPs on the MILF side.

To do this, President Duterte has to amend EO No. 08 to revise and specify clearly the BTC membership, including MNLF-Misuari, and to set definitely the parameters of convergence following the BPDR with Draft BBL as the mold. This also means the President must convince Misuari accept the one-track BPDR convergence process.  This is not asking him to sacrifice anything but only to see reason and accept realities.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must help in convincing Misuari — to prove sincerity in its statements supporting the BBL and, lately, the convergence of the BBL and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF. We believe Misuari is still the OIC’s “niño bonito” as he is the President’s “Brother Nur” and “friend”.

Misuari should be made to realize that under the talking plan that Parcasio presented, it may take a year or more to negotiate the three issues left out in the Tripartite Review. And, more matters may be brought out. With the OIC participating as facilitator, the Tripartite Review mode of negotiation will most likely be adopted. Has the GPH panel been organized? There has been no report in the media. When can the negotiation start?

Misuari should be made to see the reason behind the one-track BPDR convergence process. The all-Moro (except two IPs, perhaps) MNLF and MILF BTC can deliberate well on how to converge the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Draft BBL, FPA, R.A. No. 9054, etc. “in fairness” (to quote Duterte) to the Bangsamoro and the Moros – not to any single Moro Front leader or group.

Contentious issues must be carefully, calmly, wisely deliberated – putting away heavy chips on shoulders, axes and grinding stones — to reconcile conflicts and seek solutions fair to the Bangsamoro, the Moros and other people of the Bangsamoro. There are many such issues between the Moros and Government, between MNLF and MILF, among the MNLF factions strewn in the provisions of the agreements and laws to be converged..

For instance, as reported, Misuari wants the letter of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement strictly followed – particularly Paragraph 15 on the establishment of a provisional government for the original 13-province area of autonomy. Evidently, he wants to hold a plebiscite to affirm the composition of the Muslim Autonomy as provided in the “Second” part of the Agreement. This is setting time to forty years back. The provisional government is no longer practicable.

To avert the collapse of the GRP-MNLF Jakarta Peace Talks over this issue, President Ramos provided in the FPA the creation of the SPCPD (Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development), the CA (Consultative Assembly) and the SZOPAD (Special Zone of Peace and Development) with a plebiscite over the last. Even with Misuari at the helm, the SPCPD did not work; it was not workable ab initio.  Another plebiscite – the third since 1989 — will not change the minds of the Christian majority.

Let us cite more instances of provisions to reconcile:

[1] In forming the government of the Autonomy for the Muslims, the Tripoli Agreement (Part III, Paragraph 9) provides for the election of “A Legislative Assembly” that will appoint “an Executive Council”.

In the Draft BBL, the Parliament is elected by popular vote. On its inaugural session, it elects from among its members the Chief Minister as chief executive officer; he will appoint the other executive officers or ministers — the deputy minister from among the members of the Parliament.

In R.A. No. 9054, the executive branch is headed by the governor who is elected by popular vote together with the vice governor; the legislative branch is the Legislative Assembly with members elected by popular vote. These are in accordance with Part III (Phase II) Paragraphs 21, 23 and 24 of the FPA.

[2] In Part III, Paragraph 10 of the Tripoli Agreement, “Mines and mineral resources fall within the competence of the Central Government, and a reasonable percentage deriving from the revenues of the mines and minerals be fixed for the benefit of the areas of the autonomy.” This is among the three unresolved issues of the Review.

In the FPA (Paragraphs 146 and 147), “strategic minerals” was made an exception and was to be defined later. In R.A. No. 9054, “strategic minerals” was defined and the fees fixed including the sharing between the Central Government and the ARMM.

In the Draft BBL, as agreed in Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing, the

“competence” is transferred to Bangsamoro, the “mineral resources” classified and defined into “non-metallic”, ”metallic” and “strategic” – the fees and sharing fixed, the Bangsamoro getting 100 percent of the fees on non-metallic minerals.

The instances above are the contentious issues between Government and MNLF; they are provided differently in the FPA and R.A. 9054 on one hand and in Draft BBL and the CAB on the other. There are more instances. The MILF study group had presented to the House and the Senate more than 40 objections to the revision and deletion of Draft BBL provisions.  These issues might have been differently provided in the FPA and R.A. No. 9054 or not at all.

The bottom line is: If the convergence process will be done on the single BPDR track by the BTC with members from the MILF and all MNLF factions, the basic enabling law for the Bangsamoro will be – as Parcasio was praying for – common to all, is the just and lasting solution to the Moro Problem; and the proposed bill will have a good chance of meeting the July 17, 2017 timeline for submission to the Congress, That is the only option.

Conclusion tomorrow: Sad notes