MNLF, ARMM legislators will be in Bangsamoro Transition Authority

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QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) — If the provision in the House Committee-approved Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is adopted by the plenary, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front -led governing body in the Bangsamoro during the transition period will now be composed of 60 instead of 50 and will now include representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front and all 24 incumbent members of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The 15-member joint government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL (now proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee to be renamed “Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region”), provided for 50 members in the BTA, including representatives from “non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler communities and other sectors” who will be appointed by the President.

The GPH and MILF roadmap to peace targets June 30,2016 as the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.

As the principal party to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the parties signed on March 27 last year, the parties agreed that the MILF “shall lead the BTA, in its leadership and membership.”

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL), however, amended the provision by adding “with the participation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in its leadership and membership.”

It also included “all the incumbent members” of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly, who shall serve in the BTA “until the expiration of their term.”

The ARMM’s legislative body has 24 members elected in 2010 for a three-year term.

The AHCBBL also amended the list of sectors to read “non-Moro indigenous peoples, women, Christian residents, youth and other sectors.” It also provided that “at least two members thereof shall come from non-Moro indigenous peoples” and that women “will be adequately represented in all decision-making mechanisms.”

Who introduced what?

The color-coded Committee’s consolidated working draft shows who introduced what amendments.

Davao del Norte Rep. Anthony del Rosario, Batanes Rep. Dinah Abad, Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor and Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, one of eight vice chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL), did not touch the first paragraph of the section and maintained the MILF leadership in the BTA.

They proposed to add “nominees of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) shall likewise be appointed to the BTA.”

But Representatives Tupay Loong of Sulu, vice chair; vice chair Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao, Maryam Arbison of Sulu, Mariano Piamonte of A Teacher party-list, vice chair Democrito Mendoza of TUCP party-list, Rep. Dhjalia Turabin-Hataman of Anak Mindanaw party-list, Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental, vice chair Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, Lilia Macrohon-Nuno of Zamboanga City, Imelda Dimaporo of Lanao del Norte, Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato and Ansaruddin Adiong of Lanao del Sur proposed to add in the first paragraph the participation of the MNLF in the BTA’s “leadership and membership.”

The proposal to increase the BTA membership from 50 to 60 came from Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, AHCBBL chair.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat proposed “50 plus 36 members.” MindaNews sought Lobregat for a clarification on the figure but he has not replied as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

Representatives Rodriguez. Loong, vice chair Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, Sema, Surigao del Sur Rep. Philip Pichay, Sacdalan, Amatong (not indicated if Isidro or Rommel), Turabin-Hataman, Macrohon-Nuno proposed to include in the BTA “all the incumbent members of the Regional Assembly of the ARMM which shall serve in the BTA until the expiration of their term” and the rest of the BTA members, as proposed by Loong, will be appointed by the “incumbent” President.

Only RLA members

The Chairman’s Working Draft as well as the Chairman’s and Vice Chairpersons’ Working Draft carried the proposal of the group but amended it to read “all incumbent members of the ARMM.” Loong’s proposal was not carried in both drafts.

At the section by section deliberation last May 19, the ARMM membership in the BTA was specified to mean only RLA members.

The RLA has 24 assemblymen from the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Ansaruddin Adiong asked, “what about the Vice Governor?” but Rodriguez replied the BTA membership is only for the RLA.

Rodriguez said ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman had signified his intention to resign once the BTA is set up. Hataman’s wife, Rep. Dhjalia Turabin-Hataman, confirmed her husband’s intention. Hataman himself told MindaNews he would resign once the BTA is set up.

The inclusion of the RLA members into the BTA was reportedly due to a lobby by governors in the ARMM provinces and the ARMM’s RLA members.

Rep. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato proposed to add that “at least two members shall come from non-Moro Indigenous Peoples” while Representatives Turabin-Hataman and Mendoza proposed to add “women will be adequately represented in all decision-making mechanisms.”

Both proposals were carried.

Transition Period

The draft BBL proposed that the transition or interim period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro “shall commence upon ratification of this Basic Law.”

The Committee amended the sentence by adding “Autonomous Region” after Bangsamoro. The AHCBBL had aproposed to rename the new political entity from “Bangsamoro” to “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

The consolidated Committee draft shows there were proposals for the transition period to end in 2019, but these were not carried into the Chairman’s or the Chairmans’ and Vice Chairpersons’ Working Draft.

For the record, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano proposed, according to the Committee draft, a transition for the establishment of the Bangsamoro “of three years starting from 2016 to 2019.”

Representatives Loong, Sema, Hattaman-Salaliman, Piamonte, Sacdalan, Almonte, Amatong, Dimaporo , Pichay Mendoza, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon and Catamco proposed that the transition for the establishment of the Bangsamoro shall commence upon ratification of this Basic Law “up to 2019.”

The Alejano and the group’s proposals were not carried into Rodriguez’ 107-page Chairman’s Working Draft and the 109-page Chairman’s and Vice Chairpersons’ Working Draft (CVCD). By a vote of 37-16, the AHCBBL approved to make the 109-page draft the basis for the voting.

As this section on transition is in the latter part of the draft BBL, it was taken up in the late hours of the 13-hour session on May 19. Neither Alejano nor the group proponents pushed for the amendment they earlier introduced.

Chaotic transition

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal does not see the new composition of the BTA as a problem.

“Basta MILF ang mag-lead at mas marami kami,” (For as long as the MILF will lead and we’re majority), Iqbal told MindaNews Sunday.

The intent of the legislators to add MNLF representatives and RLA members in the BTA may appear laudable but fears have been expressed that the BTA “will not be able to bring a common agenda at the most crucial period of transition” if the membership is unwieldy.

“This is a chaotic transition or a transition to chaos,” a MindaNews source privy to the current discussions in the GPH-MILF peace process, said.

Omar Sema, legal counsel of the MNLF faction under his father, Muslimin Sema, told MindaNews that including the MNLF in the BTA “while laudable, means nothing as there is no assurance it will not be a deleted in the plenary, considering particularizing the MILF and MNLF amounts to a class legislation which put the entire provision in danger of deletion because of its apparent unconstitutionality.”

The MNLF under Nur Misuari signed a peace agreement with the government in 1976 and a Final Peace Agreement in 1996. Misuari’s vice chair, Salamat Hashim, broke away from the MNLF after the collapse of the 1976 peace agreement and set up the MILF.

BTA’s tasks

During the transition, the BTA exercises legislative and executive powers, with the executive authority exercised by the interim Chief Minister, who shall be appointed by the President, while the BTA shall exercise legislative authority.

Within the transition, the BTA is tasked, among others, to enact priority legislations such as the Bangsamoro Administrative Code and the Bangsamoro Revenue Code.

The enactment of a Bangsamoro Electoral Code and a Bangsamoro Civil Service Code was scrapped from the original provision since the AHCBBL amended the draft and made the elections and civil service offices mere regional offices.

The BTA is also tasked to organize the bureaucracy of the Bangsamoro Government including the approval and implementation of a transition plan, and the institution of a placement process for hiring of personnel during transition, the setting up of offices and other institutions necessary for the continued functioning of government and delivery of social services in the region, “as well as those necessary for the smooth operations of the first elected Bangsamoro Government in 2016.”

“Fast-track”

The MILF had earlier demanded for a seven year transition period, one year of that as pre-transition. It later agreed to a three-year transition after President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met on August 4, 2011 in Tokyo, Japan.

Aquino and Murad agreed to fast-track the peace process by signing a peace agreement within the first half of the Aquino administration (2010 to 2013) so that the second half (2013 to 2016) , as suggested by Aquino, would be for the implementation of the peace agreement.

The peace negotiations, however, suffered delays even as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was signed on October 15, 2012, within the first half of Aquino’s term.

It took over a year to finish the four Annexes to the FAB that was supposed to have been finished by December 31, 2012. The last annex was signed on January 25, 2014 and the Comprehensive Agreement (CAB) was signed on March 27, 2014.

The election of officials nationwide is on May 9, 2016.

Council of Elders

Also to be organized during the transition is the Bangsamoro Council of Leaders, which, according to the BTC-drafted BBL is composed of the Chief Minister, provincial governors, mayors of chartered cities, and representatives from the non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler communities, and other sectors.

The role of the Council is to advise the Chief Minister on matters of governance in the Bangsamoro The representation of the non-Moro indigenous communities is “pursuant to their customary laws and indigenous processes.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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