COMMENT: BBL* Ahead of Federalization (3rd of 4 parts)

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III. Uncleared but Clear

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 March) – We stated earlier that the IM discussions significantly hewed to the “hindrances” and “obstructions” President Duterte challenged the New BTC commissioners “to navigate” at the launching of the Commission last July 24. While the President did not specify or clarify the challenges, it was evident in their discussions that the IM members clearly understood the challenges and the implications.

The President could have cleared or helped clear away the hindrances and obstructions; he did not. Instead, he created some or made them more complicated. Is his challenge not unfair?

To the point: For not creating the New BTC right after the GPH-MILF meeting in Kuala Lumpur on August 14, 2016, he delayed its work for at least six months. For granting the separate peace deal with MNLF (Misuari), he split the legislative track. For mandating in the BPDR the “no constitutional issue in the draft proposal” caveat, he made the work of the commissioners extremely difficult.

His challenge stands. His statement last March 11, addressed to the MILF (MindaNews 3/13/ 17: Duterte on BBL: “I pray it would sail on still waters” in Congress), was blunt: “…you’re about to complete the Bangsamoro Transition draft, I will study it before we submit it to Congress and pray that it would sail on still waters”. [Note: The new basic law draft is not about to be completed; the New BTC, at the earliest, cannot start drafting work until after April 6 – the target date for it to finalize its internal rules.]

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III saw almost the same complicated realities and problems discussed at the IM meeting. He set two imperatives: (1) the New BTC start working double time on the Bangsamoro basic law draft and submit it to Congress by July; (2) the Moro fronts do the convergence of the New BTC and the MNLF (Misuari) drafts and submit only one proposed law to Congress. (See: MindaNews 3/ 1/ 17: Pimentel urges BTC to work “double time” on draft Bangsamoro law).

Parcasio, Misuari’s man-Friday and spokesman, heads the MNLF (Misuari) panel that will talk over with the government the full implementation of the 1996 FPA. While he favored the calling of a Moro Congress, he sounded pessimistic about the Bangsamoro agenda. In urging the establishment of the Minsupala federal state – not just one confined to the Moro-dominated provinces – he hinted that the contentious issue of territory will be revived in the forthcoming GPH-MNLF (Misuari) peace talk.

Sinarimbo raised the imperative need of a platform from which the Moros can take part in the federalism discourse. His proposal reiterating the calling of a Moro Congress was well taken. But convening a Moro Congress is not that simple, that easy and that quick. It’s an idea as old as or older than the Moro liberation fronts’ rebellion.

From the IM discussions, as reported, we can see that the Moros have a clear picture of the problems confronting the Bangsamoro agenda. They see that CAB-compliant basic law can become irrelevant with the federal constitution and the CAB-uniqueness of the Bangsamoro can diminish or even be obliterated if the CAB has no place in the federal constitution. This underscored the imperativeness of the platform.

The Moro leaders, most especially those of the MILF and MNLF (all factions), must take their cue from Pimentel. Have the BBL passed by December 2017 and the Bangsamoro government established after the 2019 election. The Bangsamoro Parliament will be the platform from which the Moros can participate in the federalism discourse – to preserve the CAB-ness of the Bangsamoro secured in the federal constitution of the Bangsamoro federal state should federalism eventually become a reality.

New BTC Navigating

Commission Chairman Ghazali Jaafar told MindaNews (3/13/17: Duterte on BBL: I will pray…) about their April 3 – 6 session — “they hope to finalize their internal rules by April 3, set up the committees and decide on the working draft they would use in crafting the BBL”. He would push for the adoption of the “agreed version” of the BBL as their working draft.

Using the “agreed version” – the Draft BBL “agreed upon by the BTC and the Office of the President and submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014” – will simplify and expedite the work of the Commission. The commissioners will only review the Draft article by article and, as they go along, decide (1) what to refine with reference to the deliberations of the 16th Congress; (2) what to incorporate by way of convergence; and (3) what more to enrich and enhance by way of inclusivity. This approach will save time.

The “suggested” May 18 submission of the draft to the President sounds like a big joke. Read it only as loud words to fend off daunting odds – that the New BTC will overcome the time constraint by working double time. In the Luwaran editorial of March 16, 2017, MILF said, “Time is too short for the BTC to be able to submit the proposed BBL to Congress through the Office of the President.” More or less, the Commission has 110 days, including Sundays, to submit the draft to the President on July 24.

If the commissioners will only stick to the three-point approach in revising Draft BBL, they can deliver the new draft by July 24. Yet that is not an assurance the BBL will be passed by December 2017? The New BTC can only manage time within its control. But other obstructions and hindrances with their constraint on time beyond the control of the BTC and can hold hostage the BBL.

Seeing the New BTC facing these daunting hindrances and obstructions, MILF, in the same March 16 Luwaran editorial, rued, “… To expect the BTC to work and accomplish something beyond its capacity is like forcing a child to do a man’s work”; declared, “Our view is that the BTC had accepted the challenge but it also expects all the help needed especially from government”; and, exhorted, “It also expects that no one from among its membership will rock the boat and becomes obstructionist”.

(Last part tomorrow : IV. Do Something)

(“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 patpdiazgsc@yahoo.com.)

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