MIND DA NEWS: Count Again and See

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/20 July) – “End State”, Alex Magno’s comment on the Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing Annex (The Philippine Star, July18, 2013: First Person) is a realistic view of the recently signed Annex and the Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace deal. He tells what the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro really is, wonders how the FAB and the RGWSA can hurdle constitutional and other barriers, and discusses the three lines of resistance to the peace deal.

He concludes asserting that besides the three lines of resistance, “[t]here are a score of other considerations that, at this moment, make this agreement with the MILF pretty much of a pipe dream”. If being realistic is pessimism, call Magno a pessimist.   

And if viewing realistically a realistic statement of the government’s peace panel chair is pessimism, we would not mind being branded pessimist.

During her press conference in Malacanang last July 15, GPH Panel Chair Miriam Ferrer-Coronel said, as reported by Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin on July 16, that “[i]t’s fair to assume the two annexes” on power-sharing and normalization – the last two needed for the forging of the Comprehensive Agreement (CA)– though “just as intense” as the RGWSA “would be signed within the year”.

Even if Ferrer daresays, “It will happen sooner than pessimists expect,” this is still an admission that the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be set back beyond the eight months that it would already be delayed. This is premised on the fact that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (Transcom) can start drafting the BBL only based on the CA which is the consolidation of the FAB and the four Annexes.

The delay in the drafting of the BBL will push back by as long the other stages in the FAB roadmap — the enacting of the BBL by the Congress; the ratification and promulgation of the BBL and the start of the Bangsamoro transition proper under the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). The last stage is the most crucial in the setting up of the Bangsamoro as envisioned by the MILF.

By the original FAB roadmap, the best estimate was for the Transcom to submit to the Congress the BBL draft in July 2013; by June 2014, the Congress will have enacted the BBL draft into law to be ratified and promulgated within the next three months, letting the BTA start the transition proper in October 2014. Hence, the transition proper will be for 21 months – three in 2014, the entire 2015 and six in 2016.

What will it be now? Let’s count again and see.

Even if, to the disappointment of pessimists, the two remaining annexes are signed in August, the CA will be done in September at the earliest. The delay of nine months will shorten the transition proper to 12 months. But should it not be possible to disappoint the pessimists and the CA is signed in December that will shorten the transition proper to nine months.

Will twelve months – much less reassuring if nine – be long enough for the BTA to have the Bangsamoro transition properly from the concept to the reality?

The main task of the BTA is to harness the right people to set up the basic mechanisms provided in the BBL to launch the Bangsamoro political and economic autonomy. As we discussed in a much earlier series of articles, “Transition that Will Work Imperiled?”, this will need expertise, funds and time. Can the right people be properly harnessed with the necessary expertise within twelve months or less even if given sufficient funds?

Until the Bangsamoro concept transitions to the reality of the Bangsamoro political and economic autonomy under the ministerial system of government, the Moros – much less the spoilers and skeptics — will not see the “real animal”. Only the real model will set off the chain of value, attitudinal, motivational and conceptual reorientation among the Moro leaders and people. Can this reorientation take place in twelve or nine months? Any such reorientation is a gradual not an abrupt process.

This reorientation must have been foremost in the minds of the MILF leaders when they proposed a six-year transition proper and later, when pressed to reconsider, shortened it to the minimum of three years. Either they were mistaken or taken for granted to mean that the three years included the pre-transition period.

What will happen is this: BTA will just be able to set up a semblance of transition in time for the 2016 election. Whether the election will be according to the Bangsamoro electoral system as provided in the BBL or the national electoral system is not known. Whichever may it be, the election will be among the traditional Moro politicians under the national political parties – as well as the MILF if they organize a political party. The traditional politicians will win the majority.

Without the proper political and economic reorientation of the Moro leaders and the people, the Bangsamoro will just be the new name of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a ministerial form of government under a new organic act.  Will this be the Bangsamoro envisioned by the MILF?

Wait a minute! This is ignoring the three lines of resistance to the peace deal Magno has presented in his column article. They are realities not to be ignored; they can abort the Bangsamoro. Magno posed: ”We are lulled into accepting the peace deal with the MILF as an inevitability even as the road to its realization is blocked by constitutional questions, complex issues regarding the limits of legislative power and open defiance of the principle of universal application attached to the rule of law.”

The first line refers to resistance as coming “from Moro groups such as the MNLF who stand to be disenfranchised by the prospective agreement. These groups will argue that the original ‘organic act’ creating the ARMM can only be displaced by way of constitutional amendment and not by ordinary legislation. The Supreme Court will be asked to rule on that. The opposition will have constitutional tradition on its side. An organic act cannot be so easily repealed once it is done.”

The second line refers to resistance “from Christian communities interspersed, leopard-spot fashion, with Muslim communities in the area demarcated as the ‘Moro homeland.’ They have expressed fear of disenfranchisement many times before and will surely do so on the evolving agreement with the MILF. Their concerns are quite fundamental: What happens to their property rights when a ‘Moro homeland’ is created? What happens to their political rights?”

The aggrieved leaders, like Nur Misuari and Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol, will wait for the signing of the CA to question it before the Supreme Court. Or, they can intervene in congressional proceedings and later, if unsatisfied, question the BBL before the Court. These courses of actions can delay indefinitely the drafting of the BBL and its crafting in the Congress. Any adverse decision of the Court will abort the Bangsamoro.

The third line refers to resistance “from other regional leaders who will demand that the generous terms on wealth sharing be equally applied to other regions. They will bargain for a full-scale, across-the-board constitutional revision shifting the form of government to federalism in one fell swoop.

“The peace agreement with the MILF will be the last political opportunity to force national government to yield to the demand of the federalists. They see no reason why the concessions granted to the ‘Moro homeland’ cannot be simultaneously applied to the Cebuano homeland or the Bicolano homeland or to the whole island of Mindanao for that matter.”

In this line of resistance, the regional leaders will put the national or central government in a quandary: Amend the Constitution to give the Moros their Bangsamoro and us our federal states; or else, we will question in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro.

By counting again based on the reality of the press statement of the government chief negotiator, we wish Government, MILF and the Moros to see the emerging reality of the Bangsamoro.  Is this the Bangsamoro the MILF has negotiated for 16 years?

In his “End State”, Magno is reminding Government, MILF, the Moros and the peace advocates to be realistic with the peace deal – not to ignore the resistance waiting to take the CA to Court, intervene in the Congress, and, if still unsatisfied, question the BBL also in Court. (Patricio P. Diaz/ MindaNews)