GPH, MILF peace panels urged to return to nego table, agree on new timetable

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 May) — A former member of the government (GPH) peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is proposing that the peace panels return to the negotiating table to agree on a new timetable given that the continued delay and difficulties in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will leave no more time for a transition period.

Dean Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government, who served as member of the GPH peace panel in the last days of the Arroyo administration, proposed at the Experts’ Forum of the Cotabato City-based Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City  on Friday that the new timetable should ensure there is at least one year transition from the ratification of the law and not peg the establishment of the Bangsamoro government to the May 2016 polls since “no real transition can happen.”

La Viña said passing on to the next administration the passage of a BBL may also be considered instead of rushing under the Aquino administration the passage of law that may create a “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” with “lesser autonomy and powers than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

In the same forum, Gerry Salapuddin, former House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and principal author of RA 9054, the law passed to incorporate the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) warned that “if Congress will give another failed experiment, do not expect the Bangsamoro to produce miracles. The same failed experiment will also be the result of the kind of law that Congress will enact for the Bangamoro.”

The peace panels are in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the “Normalization” activities on decommissioning of weapons and combatants, among others.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in a text message to MindaNews on Saturday afternoon said “no comment” on the La Vina proposals while GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer sent no reply.

“Less than ARMM”

The House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) approved on May 20 its substitute bill that, benchmarked against the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the GPH and MILF signed on March 27, 2014 and the ARMM that it seeks to replace, is “less than ARMM,” a section-by-section presentation of the Bangsamoro Study Group pointed out (see other story).
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Committee chair, will deliver his sponsorship speech on the BBL at the plenary on Monday, June 1, the same day the plenary debates will begin. Rodriguez told MindaNews he remains optimistic the bill would pass before they adjourn sine die on June 11.

At the Senate, however, Senator Franklin Drilon announced Saturday that they are now looking at a new timetable – October – within which to pass the law.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Governments, has yet to wrap up his public hearings on June 2 and 3.

A dozen senators, including himself and Mindanawon senators Teofisto Guingona III and Aquilino Pimentel III have signed the report of Sen. Miriam Santiago, chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendment and Revision of Codes, that says the BBL should be “substantially revised” to withstand legal scrutiny. 

Moving forward

La Viña noted that the Senate vote is a signal to the President “because by voting that way, they are putting themselves in a situation where it would be very difficult for them to reverse themselves.”

“I think it is a very clear signal. What we don’t know is how they’re going to move forward but if they move forward, we can expect a much more conservative version (of the BBL). So in other words, from an autonomy point of view, from a CAB point of view, this is the best that you can get – the Ad Hoc (Committee) version. Are we actually even willing to lower the bar for that?” he asked.

The peace process, he said, is “strong enough” and there are “political processes in the peace process that they can actually go back and say ‘let’s change the timetable.’ You don’t have to change any substantial agreement. You can change the timetable and negotiate a transition agreement.”

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012, the government and MILF agreed that the peace panels “shall continue the negotiations until all issues are resolved and all agreements implemented.” They also agreed that “an exit document officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

For next President

“With apologies to my colleagues in OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), who’d really want this closed, I actually think a BBL that is owned by the next President is much better than a BBL owned by this President,” La Viña said.

He explained that it is necessary for the next President to own the process, to “champion this” because transitions that do not have the support of the President, will not work.

“Under the circumstances now, it’s gonna work with President Aquino totally committed but President Aquino will no longer be there” next year, he added.

President Aquino steps down from his six-year term on June 30, 2016.

Under the roadmap that the GPH and MILF agreed upon since FAB in late 2012 was to ensure at least one year transition period for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to perform its tasks and prepare for the May 2016 election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro.

Passing the BBL in October, as Drilon said, means the plebiscite would be in January 2016 . “No real transition can happen” La Viña told MindaNews, as it is too close to the May 9 elections and by March, it would already be campaign period for the synchronized national, local and regional elections.

From seven years

The MILF originally negotiated for a seven-year transition period, one year of that as pre-interim.

The transition was shortened to three years following the August 4, 2011 meeting of President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan where they agreed to fast-track the peace process by signing a peace agreement within the first three years of Aquino’s term (2010 to 2013) so implementation can be done in the second half (2013 to 2016).

But it took until January 25, 2014 to finish all four annexes to the FAB that should have been completed before yearend 2012. And the CAB was signed only on March 27 last year.

“Very, very rationally, we’re actually better off assuming that the peace process is strong enough to withstand a one year extension of the deadlines– and assuming that it is – as we’ve seen in Mamasapano, the military forces on both sides are very committed to the peace process already, we’re probably better off taking time and really getting this right than have to push a law that ‘s not only imperfect but worse than what we have here.”

He said he knows that legislators who support the BBL are trying their best. “History will judge you but we should also think, if it doesn’t work, then the alternative is actually not so bad and will actually be even better from an implementation point of view.”

La Vina also said the Supreme Court is another arena to watch out for as quite a number have vowed to question the BBL there.

Three years

Salapuddin recalled that before the January 25, 2015 tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, he submitted in writing a proposal to Ad Hoc Committee chair Rodriguez, requesting for an extension of the period for the BTA “so they can fully perform their functions.”

“If the BTA will still be created and ARMM abolished, truth of the matter is they will not be able to do their duties very effectively,” he said.

He cited as example the ARMM under Governor Mujiv Hataman who was appointed as OIC Governor on December 22, 2011 when the ARMM election scheduled in August that year was synchronized with the May 2013 polls, and when he was elected in May 2013.

Salapuddin said that as OIC Governor for nearly two years, Hataman “did not even finish the reorganization and reforms.”

He said Hataman has been serving as ARMM Governor for nearly four years now “but he has not yet fully filled up the necessary plantilla in the ARMM.”

“Yet he was not (heading) a new political entity,” Salapuddin, a former Governor of Basilan, and a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said.

Unlike the ARMM, the Bangsamoro will have a parliamentary form of government.

The ARMM was set up in 1990 following a Constitutional provision creating autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Cordilleras. It was expected to ensure autonomy for the Moro peoples, following the non-implementation of the autonmy set-up in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

The agreement provided for an autonomous region in 13 provinces and nine cities in Mindanao and Palawan but then President Ferdinand Marcos, using his legislative powers under martial law, created two instead of one autonomous region. Following the collapse of the 1976 agreement, then MNLF vice chair Salamat Hashim left to set up the MILF.

Disastrous

Salapuddin said it would be “disastrous” to pass a law that is not acceptable to both the MILF and the MNLF.

He said he wonders what the BTA can do given the time constraints “and if they will fail, we will again blame them, that they are a failure, that they are not competent, that they are not this and that.”

“That is why I told the Senate… during the hearing last week that if you do the same thing over and over again, do not expect another result. Therefore if Congress will give another failed experiment, do not expect the Bangsamoro to produce miracles. The same failed experiment will also be the result of the kind of law that Congress will enact for the Bangamoro,” Salapuddin said.

If the BBL is “not successfully passed, as much as possible as a true expression and reflection of whatever is in the CAB… I don’t think the Moro mujahideen will accept their fate to be cheated twice — from the MNLF to the MILF. If in case this one will still fail, then it’s not only going to be a recipe for disaster but it might be the glue that will reunite all the different factions … to continue the struggle not anymore for autonomy but even if I don’t have to tell you this, but I know you will be guessing the same as I do, but for independence,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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Comments

comments

4 COMMENTS

  1. There is no need to delay BBL. We are talking about peace here. I think by just saying peace we know there is urgency.

  2. I am from Luzon..i am ashamed of the political immaturity of Congress & Senate…even the Anti BBL crowd…they are hostage of emotions & fear! Be brave to think outside the box! Dont delay BBL and DONT WATER DOWN!

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