COMMENT: Complicating Implications (1): On “spoilers,” MNLF, political issues

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 Feb) — The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is now on its own information campaign trail. It was booed in Zamboanga City last February 12 for asking the Zamboangueños to support the Bangsamoro. From there, it was to proceed to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. (Inquirer Mindanao, Thursday, February 13, 2014: Bangsamoro transition panel members booed at Zamboanga forum)

Unlike Zamboanga City, the three provinces as components of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) are territories of the proposed Bangsamoro. Yet, Inquirer Mindanao cited BTC Chair Mohagner Iqbal as expecting “more of these reactions in their three-day tour in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.”

Iqbal, saying this “feedback” – referring to the “boos” and “jeers” — would be included in their documentation, elaborated: “Engaging the people is very important. We don’t have the monopoly of knowledge. We want to refine the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We want to factor in everything that is really coming from the feedback from the people”.

Also in media offensive are the President and Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Eight member-CSOs of the MCSOPP (Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace) submitted to Iqbal their initial reports. MCSOPP, composed of 128 CSOs, signed a memorandum of agreement with the BTC last October 18 to undertake at least 128 consultations “to generate public support” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. (MindaNews, February 12, 2014: Iqbal to CSOs: fast-track consultations on Bangamoro Basic Law)

As reported in the national and Mindanao media and the OPAPP and MILF websites, with the accelerated public consultations since the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012, the Bangsamoro now has popular support. However, Government and MILF want this to be “massive” to drown the “spoilers”.

Yet, it should be asked: Have they seriously considered the implications of the signing of the BBL that can complicate “well laid out plans” of the Bangsamoro entrenchment and, most critical of all, undermine its potentials to “solve the Bangsamoro Problem” as envisioned?

On “Spoilers”

Government and MILF dread “spoilers” – hence, zeroing on them in their information drive and consultations. What is “spoiler”? Generically, it is an agent of spoilage, one that turns “good” into “bad;” it can be a person, thing or circumstance. By “spoilers”, Government and MILF mean persons or groups opposing the peace process and the establishment of the Bangsamoro, thus, spoiling what is good for the Moros and other people in the proposed Bangsamoro area.

“Spoilers” belong to enlightened, influential, or interest groups. They may be Moros, IPs (Indigenous People) or any other classes of Filipinos. They oppose the Government-MILF peace negotiation and the establishment of the Bangsamoro for various reasons – to Moros and IPs, to protect their personal, factional or tribal interests; to other classes of Filipinos, because of their lack of proper understanding of the Moro Problem, their anti-Moro biases and prejudices, and their belief that the MILF demand for an autonomous region is a prelude to independence.

To the “spoilers”, the enactment of the BBL as the Bangsamoro charter or fundamental law will be a signal of defeat; they will do everything within their ingenuity to foil the Government-MILF victory. They will, most probably, question the BBL in the Supreme Court the BBL soon after its signing. Even if they lose their case, they can set back the plebiscite for a month or more. That will spoil the plan. As of now, the enactment of the BBL is more than one year behind time.


In enacting the BBL, the Congress will repeal the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or Republic Act No. 6734 as amended by Republic Act No. 9054. As provided in the FAB and related agreements, the ARMM will be abolished; the Congress can provide this in the repealing clause of the BBL. To note, there are complicating implications.

[1] — R.A. No. 9054 contains the substantive provisions of the Government-MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) 1996 Final Peace Agreement, also called Jakarta Accord. Will the repeal of R.A. No. 9054 abrogate the GRP-MNLF 1996 FPA? The Congress can repeal the Organic Act, its own creation; but it cannot abrogate the FPA to which it is not a party. This must mean that FPA remains as an agreement.

[2] – By R.A. No. 9054, the FPA has been implemented in the ARMM. With the abolition of the ARMM, the FPA implementation is terminated. This implementation has been under review by the Government, the MNLF and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) – the parties to the Agreement – since 2007. This must mean that the BBL will terminate the tripartite review.

[3] – Over the vehement rejection by the MNLF of the Government-MILF peace negotiation and agreements toward the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the OIC has recognized the FAB and has urged the Philippines and MILF to harmonize the FAB and the FPA – the latest, stated in its ICFM Resolution No. 240 MM last December. Can the OIC overrule the MNLF?

[4] – In the Annex on Power-Sharing (Part Four.4), it is provided that the BTC “consider the proposed recommendations from the review process of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement … for possible incorporation into the Bangsamoro Basic Law. It shall also take into account the proposed amendments of the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly to R.A. No. 9054.” Does this satisfy the OIC request? Will this mollify and satisfy the MNLF — not a party to the provision?

To sum up, the 1996 FPA is not abrogated; Government has so affirmed. The law implementing it will be repealed and its implementation terminated with the abolition of the ARMM, the area for its implementation. The BBL will also terminate the FPA tripartite review. The MNLF has condemned the FAB and the Annexes to be consolidated into the Comprehensive Compact on Bangsamoro illegal and a big insult to it and the OIC. Do Government and MILF see in MNLF an enigma – desperate, holding an empty bag with nothing more to lose?

The MNLF options cannot just be played down. The least it can do is challenge in the Supreme Court the marginalization of the 1996 FPA and the legality of the FAB, the Annexes, the CAB and the BBL. Should the Court entertain the challenge, the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro can be delayed. Should it take its case to the OIC, there can be some diplomatic repercussions.

On Political Issues

Some opposition members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have questioned the constitutionality of the asymmetrical relation of Bangsamoro and the Central Government, of the ministerial form of government of the Bangsamoro and the Bangsamoro waters. These are the same subjects of criticism from some opinion columnists and readers of some Manila media. Add to these the special Bangsamoro police force questioned by a majority member of the House. These are political questions that will not go away until satisfactory resolved.

What does this mean?

The BBL draft will be thoroughly examined in both Houses of the Congress. Not only the opposition but also the majority has called for it. The administration has the majority in both Houses of the Congress. If they pass the BBL without fully resolving the constitutional issues to the dissatisfaction of the opposition, the BBL will most probably be challenged at the Supreme Court.

Much of the burden is on the MILF. Since the BTC cannot revise the provisions of the Annexes, the MILF should not object to the revision of the BBL draft by the Office of the President and the Congress. They should consider this, too: If the Constitution is amended, the amendments have to be ratified according to the same Constitution – in the national plebiscite. This will delay the ratification of the BBL or even kill it.

Pause and See

At this point, we see three significant complicating implications – what the “spoilers” and the MNLF will ultimately do; and how impending constitutional questions will be resolved. As time runs out, these can adversely affect the proper transition of the Bangsamoro or even abort it.

How significant, really are these implications? Obviously, proper transition is not the primary priority of the President and his peace team; and, MILF seemed to have relaxed their alarm for diminishing time – as MILF Chairman Murad Ibahim once revealed to media.

It will be interesting to see how MILF can compromise time for proper transition and still have the Bangsamoro that will “solve the Bangsamoro Problem” (To Be Continued: On Proper Transition)
[“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]]