MIND Da NEWS: Annexes Shrinking the Time Frame

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 April) —  Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels adjourned their 37th Exploratory Talks April 9 to 11 without final agreements on the three remaining Annexes. They agreed to continue their negotiation after the May 13 election with firm “commitment to finally settle these issues soon so that all three Annexes may be signed without undue delay”.

In “without undue delay”, “after” is more appropriate than “without” . Either the Panels did not foresee or they took for granted the tough issues in the four Annexes when immediately after signing the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro they said they would finish negotiating by end of December.  Even if the Annexes could be signed in May that would be five months overdue.

Let us not doubt the Panels in jointly stating that they have “continued to find ways to resolve remaining issues on the Annexes on wealth sharing, power sharing and normalization”. Let us understand the difficulties, and even embarrassment, they are going through. More than any other persons or groups, they honestly want to end the Mindanao Problem; yet, they risk being misunderstood as hiding the “real score” behind “motherhood statements” – to borrow from Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, O.M.I.

They, too, know that no lofty rhetoric to explain the failure to finally agree on the Annexes and to give assurance that all will be fine in the end can undo the setback in the FAB implementation and further set it back should there be more delays.  Situated within the fixed term of President Aquino, the time frame of the different stages in the FAB roadmap should have been fixed and followed strictly, not open-ended and flexible.

Even if all the Annexes are signed in May, what guarantee is there that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission can start drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in June? The Annexes and the FAB are still to be consolidated into a Comprehensive Agreement. Can this be done in one formal meeting of the Panels?

There is supposed to be two years from January 2013 for the Transcom to draft the BBL; for the Congress to enact the BBL draft into an organic law; and for the BBL, the organic law, to be ratified in a plebiscite and promulgated.  Roughly, January to June 30, 2013 should have been for the drafting of BBL; July 2013 to June 2014, the First Session of the 16th Congress, for the enactment of the BBL; and July to December 2014, the ratification and promulgation of BBL. This is the preliminary part of the transition period.

But the drafting has already been set back by six months, granting that the Comprehensive Agreement can be signed by June 2013 – if not, deeper trouble. Now, the critical questions: Can the Tanscom draft the BBL in six months, July to December 2013?  Can the Congress enact the BBL into law in six months, January to June 2014? If not, delays will chain-react to more delays.

What will happen is not difficult to foresee. If it will take Transcom more than six months to draft the BBL, that will push back for so long the submission of the draft to the 16th Congress. If it will take the Congress longer than the second half of its First Session and the first half of its Second Session to enact the BBL, that will push back farther the ratification and promulgation; ultimately the transition proper for the establishment of Bangsamoro will be drastically shortened.

GPH Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was quoted in the OPAPP report, “GPH aims for peace agreement based on solid foundation”, as saying:

First, “… the Aquino administration wants an agreement based on a ‘solid foundation that will withstand the scrutiny of the skeptics, the misgivings of the unconvinced, the cynicism of the critical’.”

Second, “[O]ur President, this government panel, our government, are not the type who will promise the moon, the sun, and the stars, only to leave you later in the dark or to your own resources when the going gets even tougher.”

In brief, Bangsamoro will be established on a solid foundation.

But with the failure to agree on the Annexes already shrinking the time frame of the roadmap by six months and the grim possibility of more delays to ultimately shrink the transition proper to one year or less, how solid will the foundation of Bangsamoro be? The structure, mechanics and modalities of the Bangsamoro government will be provided in the BBL. However, unless these are established properly, they will not provide a solid foundation for Bangsamoro. Can this be done within a shrunken transition period? Time is essential to proper establishment.

Transition is very critical. For that reason, MILF originally proposed a one-year pre-transition and a six-year transition proper.

The critical task of the Panels now is to have the Annexes finally agreed in May; consolidate the FAB and the Annexes to be signed as the Comprehensive Agreement in June; then do its best to prevent more delays in the accomplishment of the remaining stages of the FAB roadmap. (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)