COMMENT: Bridging the Historic Chasm (2): Looking into the FAB

2nd of a series
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 Oct) — Glowing tributes to the architects of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and their patrons; seeing in the FAB a new beginning and bright future for lasting peace; outpouring of joy and hope in Moro communities; silence and pensiveness among the graying members of the MILF Central Committee on their way to Malacanang; the President’s vision of “genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao” – all these highlighted the signing of the historic FAB.

 

What in the FAB gives its signing historic significance? Without that the signing, witnessed and hailed by foreign dignitaries, would repeat in history the signing of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement on September 2, 1996 as an empty ceremony all euphoria, glowing tributes and grand visions “signifying nothing”.

 

As They Say

 

The President [In announcing on October 7 that the agreement had been forged]: This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro. … [It] paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao.” (Bold-faced text ours)

The Government and MILF [In their Joint Communique]: “The Framework Agreement serves as the overarching architecture for the Mindanao peace process and provides the foundation for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao. It defines the powers and structures of the new Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It sets the principles, processes and mechanisms that will shape the new relations between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro.

The Government Panel Chair [In his closing statement]: “This document embodies the framework of a comprehensive negotiated political settlement that has been the primary objective in these negotiations.… In this framework agreement, we elaborate on the nature of this new autonomous political entity and the road map for its creation and the foundational principles that inspires its creation.” (Bold-faced text ours)

Luwaran [MILF official website in its October 8-15 editorial]: The GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a template for real self-rule for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao. It is a solid document, short of the ideal option providing for an independent state. … [For the] negotiators of the MILF, the agreement is the best. There could never be another like it … and there would have been no time in the past and perhaps in the future that such Agreement will ever be possible. …”

In the absence of formal and official statements from the MILF Chairman and Chief Negotiator, the Luwaran editorial reflects their statements quoted in national media.

 

The MILF Chairman [In his speech during the signing as quoted by MindaNews, October 16, 2012]: The FAB is the “most important document in the chapter of our history, a landmark document that restores to our people their Bangsamoro identity and their homeland, their right to govern themselves and the power to forge their destiny and their future with their very own hands.”

 

Government Panel Chair Marvic Leonen has stated – with President Aquino III and the others elaborating — what FAB is: “[It] embodies the framework of a comprehensive negotiated political settlement that has been the primary objective in these negotiations.” Hence, a historic milestone!

 

The FAB in Fact

 

The FAB is a nine-part outline: Establishment of the Bangsamoro (I), Basic Law (II), Powers (III), Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing (IV), Territory (V), Basic Rights (VI), Transition and Implementation (VII), Normalization (VIII), and Miscellaneous (IX).

 

In part, the FAB is the expansion of the April 2012 “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principle”; in most part, it is culled from the August 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain – in its original or as reframed in the MILF Final Working Draft on Comprehensive Compact: February 2010 which was adopted in MILF Draft Agreement 2011. It must be noted, however, that the ten “decision points” of the April 2012 document are essentially contained in the original and reframed MOA-AD.

 

The FAB is the outline that the Transition Commission will follow in drafting the Basic Law of Bangsamoro. It is logical to foresee the Commission adopting in toto some of the FAB provisions and providing details for most as expressly provided in two provisions of Part II – that the Bangsamoro Basic Law “shall be consistent with all agreements of the Parties (2)” and “shall reflect the Bangsamoro system of life and meet internationally accepted standards of governance (3)”.

 

As an outline, the FAB is just a concept of the “autonomous political entity” to be called “Bangsamoro” and an architectural plan of a bridge to span the historic chasm between the Philippine government and the Moros. As an agreement, the FAB will create the Transition Commission to make the concept a reality and to build the bridge.

 

The euphoria and rejoicing on the occasion of the signing of the FAB last October 15 was over the resurrection of the hope and promise long denied the Moro people – not over the coming of the reality so much awaited. In a sense, the euphoria, the tributes and hope are the challenge and the rejoicing the faith that the FAB will bear the reality.

 

Sets 15 Stages

 

The FAB sets a 15-stage roadmap in the creation of Bangsamoro and the building of its bridge. Only the first stage has been accomplished – the signing of the Framework Agreement last October 15. The fourteen more stages line the road covering the entire transition period that ends with “the election and assumption of the members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the formation of the Bangsamoro government” that will replace the “Bangsamoro Transition Authority (15)”.

 

The FAB just signed is not complete. The Parties will still meet in November and December to negotiate annexes “to the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities in the FA (2)”. There are four such annexes indicated in the FAB. These involve contentious issues. Can they be resolved and adopted  in two months?

 

The Transition Commission will be formed soon through an Executive Order (3) and supporting resolutions of the Congress (4). “The Transition Commission drafts the Bangsamoro Basic Law Bill (5)”. This is not an easy task but the TC is expected to finish the draft for early submission to the incoming 16th Congress – within a six-month period if the TC is formed by December.

 

The Bill “is submitted to Congress (6)”“certified as urgent by the President (7)”. The enactment of the Bill into Law (8) and its approval by the President (9 and 10) are assured; and so is the Bill’s ratification in a plebiscite (11) and its promulgation (12). No definite dates are mentioned; however, they are to be done within the last three years of President Aquino III in office.

 

After the Bangsamoro Basic Law has been ratified and promulgated, the “Bangsamoro Transition Authority is created” as provided in BBL. “ARMM is deemed abolished (13)”.

The BTA with a “ministerial form and cabinet system of government (14)” will govern Bangsamoro until replaced in 2016 by Bangsamoro government formed by the elected “members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly (15 and FAB 10)”.

 

Crammed

 

As seen in the roadmap, the establishment of Bangsamoro is crammed within three years and a half – the remaining half of Aquino III government. Evidently, it is presumed every stage will be accomplished without hitch. Taking the ideal side is most comforting; but that does not fend off inevitable problems. The FAB is not flawless.

 

Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S. J., pointed out in his column “some potential issues reflected in the [FAB]” (“The RP-MILF framework agreement”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 16), then asked: “Will this administration succeed before Mr. Aquino steps down at the end of his presidency?” That’s a crucial question.

 

The glowing tributes and the outpouring of hope and joy at the signing of the FAB will not banish Father Bernas’ question. Potential issues that hound the FAB can derail it. (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected].)

[To Be Continued]

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