GPH, MILF peace panels begin 10-day meet to finalize draft Bangsamoro Basic Law  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /02 August) — The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels began Friday afternoon their 10-day meeting here to finalize the text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that both parties hope President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will submit and certify as urgent to Congress this month.

“I think we’re still on the same roadmap so there is an imperative for us to finish this (final draft) this August and give Congress sufficient time to really go through the legislative process,” government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews Friday noon, shortly before the panels moved to the meeting venue at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here (see other story)

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the BBl, told MindaNews they hope to finish the task “ASAP” (as soon as possible).

This is the fourth time the panels are meeting since the BTC passed a resolution on July 3 elevating its concerns over Malacanang’s proposed revisions to its 97-page 18-article draft.

The panels had met for a total of 11 days in July — in Kuala Lumpur on July 8 to 11, in Manila on 18 to 21 and again in Manila on 25 to 27 — but failed to come up with a “mutually acceptable” draft before Congress reopened with President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 28.

Also attending the 10-day meeting are members of the International Contact Group (ICG) the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) and the newly-created Pool of Independent Lawyers (PIL) composed of four lawyers, most of them Mindanawons who were chosen by both panels to provide advice when they get stuck in the interpretation of provisions in the draft. (see sidebar)

The Malaysian facilitator is not attending the meeting but the MILF has proposed that the parties meet again in Kuala Lumpur after the Davao meet.

“Concerns”

The BTC submitted the 97-page 18-article draft to Malacanang on April 22. The reviewed draft with Malacanang’s proposed revisions was turned over to the MILF-led BTC on June 21. MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Iqbal raised their “concerns” over the proposed revisions to President Aquino in Hiroshima, Japan, in a meeting held shortly before the President delivered his keynote address at The Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao seminar on June 24.

No details of the “concerns” were divulged but Iqbal in a speech in Istanbul, Turkey on June 26 said Malacanang’s proposed revisions had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and if this were to be made the basis of the law, would render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it seeks to replace.

While in Iloilo on June 27, the President had expressed hope that both parties can work on a draft that “both sides can fully support and endorse” so that this would be submitted to Congress on or before the SONA.

Palace advisers also convened a nearly four-hour meeting between the President and BTC members to discuss the unresolved issues even as the BTC had elevated the same to the panels.

Flexibility of 1987 Constitution

The government through then government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, then dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law (now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court), had repeatedly said the Bangsamoro can be set up “within the flexibility of the 1987 Constitution.”

Ferrer in a statement on July 21, said they had been “trying to stretch” the parameters of the 1987 Constitution “to accommodate the ideas that have been put in the BBL, in addition to what have been put in the signed documents. But it is very clear we cannot overstep the boundaries of the Constitution.”

The MILF in an editorial on its website on July 23 said Malacanang “adopted a very conservative interpretation of the Constitution, which is a radical departure from what the government has been saying — and promised — that the flexibility of the Constitution would enable them to implement the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and its Annexes.”

It said the Malacanang-proposed revisions “diluted” the BTC draft and in many instances “departed from the letter and spirit” of the FAB and its Annexes.

“Obviously, the government peace panel line is to let the MILF accept a version of the BBL that may be constitutional but will not solve the Bangsamoro Question. On the other hand, the MILF overall objective is ‘to end tyranny, restore dignity and secure a bright and prosperous future all in the Bangsamoro Homeland,’” the editorial said.

It reiterated that “all those issues that are settled in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation” and that “settled language in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation.”

“Bangsamoro can’t be worse than ARMM”

Ferrer told MindaNews Friday noon that the BTC draft had some provisions that were not found in the text of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that both parties signed on March 27 this year. The CAB contains the FAB and its annexes as well as other agreements previously entered into by the parties in the 17-year peace negotiations.

She explained that the CAB itself “already availed of the flexibility of the Constitution” in that the parliamentary system that the MILF envisions for the future Bagnsamoro is “a very flexible interpretation” of the Constitution.

“We already saw (flexibility) in the CAB. We will still see it in the draft BBL. But like a rubber band you an only stretch up to a point before it breaks di ba? “ she said.

Ferrer noted that the reaction that Malacanang’s proposed revisions to the BTC draft would render the Bangsamoro worse than ARMM is “really an emotional reading of the comments.”

“How can it be worse than the ARMM when all the key features that were stated in the CAB and that would make the major difference than the ARMM are all intact?” Ferrer told MindaNews.

She said she doesn’t want to go through a “tit for tat” exchange on the earlier reactions but stressed that in saying that the draft should be within the bounds of the Constitution it does not mean that government is turning its back on flexibility within the Constitution.

“In fact, ina-accommodate lahat ngayon kasi lalabas ka na pag sumobra. Stretched na stretched talaga” (In fact, everything is being accommodated. But you cannot go beyond because it has really been stretched).

Back to KL? Back to BTC?

Ferrer said the MILF has a pending proposal to meet again in Kuala Lumpur after the Davao meeting.

But Ferrer said it was the BTC that gave the panels the mandate when it passed a resolution elevating its concerns on the draft to the panels. She said she thinks that whatever output they would have “should got back to the BTC” for the BTC to endorse the final draft to Malacanang.

Ferrer said whatever was put in the BTC draft was reviewed by Malacanang because “it is a new document.” The CAB also underwent a similar review, she said, explaining that all provisions in the CAB “were subjected to a series of Cabinet meetings to get the consent of all and understanding of everybody on their respective concerns so when there were new elements that were put in, the President again referred the matter to them.”

“Was there a huge difference between the CAB/FAB and the BTC draft?” MindaNews asked.

Ferrer replied that sometimes “the issue is not the idea but how the idea is put in text.”

The process during the meeting is that the MILF explains the basis of their opposition to the proposed revisions and the GPH explains the comments “and then we try to find alternatives.”

She said the bottomline is what was agreed upon “but with openness to accommodate new ideas,” exchange ideas and find ways to overcome the difficulties.

Political agreement and law

To understand what is happening, Ferrer said it is important to distinguish between a political agreement and a law.

“A political agreement is between a rebel group and a government. A law is about a government body so if you were avoiding references before, like reference to certain laws including the Constitution in a political agreement with a rebel group in transition, in a law, iba na yung mga requirements. Besides this law is for the Bangsamoro government, this will be part of the Philippine government and the same national laws will apply to everybody except as modified by the special law. So it’s not as if the special law is already the totality of laws inside the Bangsamoro.”

She explained that the references are needed to ensure that when the provisions are read, they will not be read maliciously because “you have phrases that can guarantee that they will be read in a manner that will not cause false accusations about unconstitutionality.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/08/02/gph-milf-peace-panels-begin-10-day-meet-to-finalize-draft-bangsamoro-basic-law/

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  • opinon only

    filipino leadership love to talk, talk some more, keep talking, and in the end achieve nothing. filipino leaders are only good at talking and stealing.