DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 November) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday signed the Executive Order expanding the membership and functions of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but instead of urging Congress to fast-track the passage of the BBL, Duterte pushed for the swift shift to a federal form of government, noting that “the best structure that would be acceptable to all would be a federal setup.”
The BBL is supposed to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed upon in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (ARMM).
The passage of the BBL is crucial in moving forward the decommissioning of combatants and weapons and the other aspects of the CAB.
Duterte signed the document increasing the number of BTC members from 15 to 21 at the Rizal Room of Malacanan Palace, flanked by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and Irene Santiago and Mohagher Iqbal, chairs of the government (GPH) and MILF peace implementing panels.
It was also in the same venue where the GPH and MILF peace panels signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012. The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 in the gardens of Malacanang to allow for a bigger crowd to attend the historic signing.
According to the Peace and Development Roadmap of the Duterte administration, the BTC is targeting July 2017 to submit its draft BBL, leaving only eight months from the signing of the EO.
The BTC can begin work only when the President shall have appointed the 21 members, 10 nominated by the government, 11 nominated by the MILF.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews earlier this week that the appointments will be announced after the President’s November 9-10 visit to Malaysia.
The increase in membership was supposed to have been intended to be “more inclusive,” by getting all the factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) into the BTC so the BBL that will be drafted will incorporate the provisions of the 2014 CAB and the unimplemented portions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the GPH and the MNLF.
The MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema, will have three seats in the BTC but the MNLF faction under founding chair Nur Misuari will have a separate five-member panel, Dureza said.
Duterte said he ran for President “on the platform that there will be a structure that must be acceptable to the people of the Republic of the Philippines” and one that “must be adopted willing(ly) by the Moro people of Mindanao.”
“The best structure that would be acceptable to all would be a federal setup,” he said.
He reiterated previous statements that he would resign if the shift to federalism is done on the third or fourth year of his six-year term, and a new Constitution is ratified.
“But if you can just finish it, in three to four years, I am out. That I commit to you,” he said, adding “we can have special autonomous within the federal government for the Muslim Mindanao.”
He again vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people but was silent on the passage of the BBL ahead of the federalism project.
Duterte during his campaign had promised to push for the passage of the BBL and make it a template for federalism for others to follow. In early July, he said at the Hariraya celebration in Davao City that he would go for federalism first but will push for the passage of the BBL if the people reject the federalism proposal in the plebiscite. Less than two weeks later, in Buluan, Maguindano, he said he
wants the BBL passed and implemented “bukas kaagad” (literally: immediately, tomorrow), but minus the provisions where constitutionality issues are being raised.
In his speech, Murad said he hopes the signing of the EO “will pave the way for the immediate passage of the enabling law that will translate the provisions of the CAB into a law.”
He said the CAB “is the embodiment of the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and govern themselves within a larger Philippine republic. It is an important step to addressing what the President has often said as the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people. It is not just our right. It is the right thing to do.”
Santiago said “silencing of the guns of war brings only Negative Peace. We have to do Positive Peace to make peace, and make peace last.”
The Philippines, she said, is currently 139th out of 163 states and territories in the Global Peace Index. But if all sectors “work as system” to construct the eight pillars of Positive Peace, “perhaps, Mr. President, the Philippines will be in the top 10 of the most peaceful countries in the world by 2022!”
The eight pillars of peace are a well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with our neighbors, sound business environment, high levels of human capital, equitable distribution of resources, and free flow of information.
Duterte, the country’s 16th President, the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, and the first President with Moro blood (his grandmother was a Maranao), has repeatedly said he wants to correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro.
He recalled that when he showed the photographs of the 1906 Bud Dajo Massacre before leaders of other countries at the ASEAN Summit on September 8, he was criticized for saying that massacre was over a hundred years ago.
“And I told them, you know, this picture is a portrayal of the problem until now. It is not 100 years old. It is today. Unless, you’re able to do something about this photograph, this photo. And mind you, it was not taken by the Filipinos at that time, because nobody had that gadget called camera, sa kanila ‘yun eh.”
“For as long as we do not have a mechanism to ensure that justice has been served, we will never find peace in Mindanao,” he declared.
He said he is “very much interested in the education of the Moro people.” As Davao City mayor for 22 years, Duterte recalled that when he became mayor, there was only one Madrasah (Islamic school) but “today, it has expanded to almost 169 because I wanted the Moro people educated so that they would know what to do with their country in the coming years.”
“If I could get a peace agreement with the communists and hammer out something for the MNLF, MILF and to all the Moro groupings and even the Abu Sayyaf, if I could just extend my hand to them in friendship and just tell them that it is time to just really have a country which is normal and peaceful and for our children to grow in peace, then I would have succeeded,” Duterte said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)