COMMENT: Believe Them or Not? (2)

II. Ultimate Impact

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, June 21, 2014 – The assurance from the Peace Process Office and the Palace that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed on schedule and that its long review by the Office of the President legal team will not adversely affect the peace process is for “damage control”. The passage is already behind schedule. How much damage the delay in drafting and enacting the BBL has done and will do on the peace process? Can the damage be undone?

The delay and the final version of the BBL are crucial to the formation of the real Bangsamoro that will be entrenched by June 2016. They should not be taken for granted. Their ultimate impact will prove right or wrong the assurance.

To digress to the amusing question: Is the peace process delayed on schedule?

Before we get waylaid into a serious debate, here’s the comic relief. To avoid failing, if the test questions are difficult, change the questions, says a popular wit. Who was the President – was it Ramon Magsaysay — who blurted out: “Change that law!” when told that the “law of supply and demand” was causing the fluctuation of prices?

Back to the question: If the delay in the peace process is according to the roadmap, change that roadmap. That exactly what has been done, said a report from the Peace Process Office echoed by MindaNews on June 8, 2014 (Congress will get a “more refined and strengthened” draft Bangsamoro Law).

Ayos! (Problem solved).” Really!

Revised Roadmap

In the original implementation roadmap of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Step 1 (signing of the FAB) was done on October 15, 2012; Step 2 (adopting the Annexes), expected to end by the year end (December 2012). With Steps 1 and 2 completed, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamamoro — composed of the FAB and the Annexes — would be signed as the basis in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. By the roadmap sequences, the CAB should have been signed in January 2013.

Step 3(issuance of the executive order creating the BTC) and Step 4 (passage of congressional resolutions supporting the EO) were done that December; however, the BTC was constituted in February 2013. Step 5 (drafting of the BBL)    could have started in March 2013 had Step 2 been done on schedule.

So,there’s the rub. The Annexes were signed February 13, 2013 (Transitional Arrangement and Modalities); July 13, 2013 (Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing); December 8, 2013 (Power Sharing); and, January 25, 2014 (Normalization and Addendum to Power Sharing). The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014. That was how behind schedule the peace process had become – by the signing of the CAB, one year and three months!

Without waiting for the CAB, the BTC had to make do with the FAB and the ATAM but it could not go full steam until after the signing of the Annex on Power Sharing. Still, BBL missed its March 31, 2014 self-imposed deadline to finish the draft and could not submit the complete draft to the President for certification to the Congress until April 22, 2014; still being reviewed by the Office of the President legal team, it would be submitted to the Congress on July 28.

Had Step 2 been accomplished on schedule, Step 5 (drafting of BBL) could have been finished by June 2013; Steps 6 to 10 (Enactment of the BBL to its signing by the President into law), December 2013; and Steps 11 and 12 (the plebiscite and promulgation of the BBL), finished by March 2014. But Step 5 went beyond March 31, 2014. That’s eight steps behind schedule!

In the revised roadmap that came out in MindaNews last June 8, the signing of the FAB and the negotiation of the Annexes were not included – the process starting with the installation of the BTC members in February 2013 (Step 1). This and the drafting of the BBL (Step 2) have been completed – indicating that the roadmap was revised after April 22. Since the revised roadmap, like the original, is open-ended, Step 2 is presumed to be on schedule – the same will be the presumption for Steps 3 to 11.

Where is the delay? What damage is there to the peace process to be undone?

The following must be noted for whatever implications they will have:

1. In the original roadmap, the plebiscite (Step 11) follows the signing of BBL (Step 10) into law. This is reversed in the revised roadmap – the plebiscite (Step 6), while following the passage of the BBL, precedes its enactment or signing by the President into law (Step 7). Normally, the enacted bill is first signed by the President – or allowed to lapse – into law before submitting it to the plebiscite. Can legality and validity be questions?

  1. The original roadmap ends with the election of the regular Bangsamoro officials, the abolition of the BTA and the inauguration of the Bangsamoro (Step 15). This is Step 10 in the revised roadmap that specifically refers only to the “election of officials of Bangsamoro Government by 2016”. The revised roadmap ends with Step 11, the signing of the Exit Document.  

What is Exit Document?As provided in Section I.H of the Annex on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities,“An Exit Document officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.” This will be done only after the GHP and MILF panels, the Malaysian facilitator and the Third Party Monitoring Team have convened “a meeting to review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition. (Emphasis supplied)

The significance of Step 11 of the revised roadmap must be noted well. What is its implication on the final entrenchment of the Bangsamoro? If the Parties do not sign the Exit Document, will the inauguration of the Bangsamoro be put on hold? If so, the Exit Document should be a prerequisite for the holding of the election – Step 10 instead of 11.

These are putting the horses before the carts. Just by oversight or signs of failing sight?

How Much Time?

Whether under the original or the revised roadmap, time is essential to the proper transition of the Bangsamoro. That the Aquino III government has limited the entrenchment process to the six year term of the President makes time most critical. The revised roadmap cannot recover the time lost due to delays since Day One of the Aquino III era.

As of last June 10, there were only 751days left of the Aquino administrations including Sundays and holidays. By July 28, when the BBL draft is expected to be submitted to the Congress, time will have shrunk to 703 days only. How much time will there be for the propernot MERE –transition of the Bangsamoro? To paraphrase the poet Robert Browning, “Let’s count the days.”

The periods are expectations – only “IFs” – or logical assumptions.

[I] IF the Congress can pass the BBL from July 28 to December 31, 2014, that will be 156 days. [II] IF the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite from January 1 to March 31, 2015, that will be 90 days. Those are Steps 3 to 7 in the revised roadmap – the two phases covering a period of 246 days.

That leaves 457 days –or 15 months (nine in 2015, April through December; six in 2016, January through June). Will all these be for the transition proper [III] (Step 8, the ARMM is abolished; Step 9, the BTA officials are appointed and – even if not specifically stated – the installation of the transitional government)? Yes, IF there were no Step 10 [IV], the election of the Bangsamoro officials. Step 11 will be done concurrently with the other steps.

The election will consume all four months, January through April and two weeks of May 2016; the rest of May and June will be spent to prepare for the inauguration of the Bangsamoro. The essential transition function of the BTA will end in December 2015 — a period of nine months or 275 days.

Will 275 days be enough to properly prepare the Bangsamoro for its daunting mission to fulfill the hope and aspiration of the Moro people – change of the unacceptable status quo?

But let’s brace ourselves for the unexpected. Should either the passage of the BBL or its ratification go beyond the expected time to accomplish them ([I] and [II] above), the 275-day period will further diminish.

Proper Transition Process

Proper transition has four essential components: [1] what must be done; [2] the means to do what must be done; [3] the right people to do what must be done; and [4] enough time to do what must be done. They are inter-dependent. A serious flaw in one will mean the failure of all. Remember the motto: “One for all, all for one.”

The [1] consists of the objectives of self-rule which must include the re-orientation of the moral, political, social and economic values of the Moro people and their leaders. These objectives are the mission of the Bangsamoro; the transition is for the proper take-off.

The [2] consists of the BBL and the necessary funding support. The BBL will define the concepts, principles and objectives of the Bangsamoro and provide the basic features and functions of government. We only know that the Bangsamoro is ministerial in form of government and asymmetrical in its relation with the Central Government; for details we have to wait for the BBL.

The [3] consists of the BTA. In all probability, its mandate, membership and tenure are defined in the BBL draft; the President will base on the final provisions in the BBL the Executive Order to create the BTA and appoint its members. But this is the imperative: The BTA members must be best prepared.

The [4] is the time essential – not just available – for the BTA to accomplish its mandate to the optimum. In general, this mandate must be to set up the ministerial government mechanism and instrumentalities according to [1] and [2] with which the Bangsamoro can properly take-off. Can the BTA accomplish this in 275 days or nine months? Or, it can be shorter!

We are not talking of the ideal but of the imperative – what must be. If the time available falls short of the essential, it is next to the impossible to expect the first three components to factor most satisfactorily in the take-off of the Bangsamoro.

To Recapitulate

There are more to proper transition. We will discuss this in a separate essay.

To put to rest the questions: How much damage the delay in drafting and enacting the BBL has done and will do on the peace process? Can the damage be undone?

Based on the original FAB roadmap, there is delay. This cannot be undone by the revision of the roadmap. Had the drafting and the enacting of the BBL been on schedule, there would have been two years, not just 275 days for the transition proper. The time lost is the damage”.

To deny its adverse effect on the peace process is to say that the 275-day transition proper will make no difference from the three-year (1,095 days) that MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim must have meant and expected when he agreed to shorten the transition period from six to three years. The ultimate impact on the Bangsamoro can only be gauged after its entrenchment if this is done as scheduled in June 2016.  

To speculate now is to pitch optimism against pessimism, to see the glass as either half-full or half-empty.


ERRATUM: In Paragraph 9 of Subhead “In Truth” of our June 17 COMMENT, the italicized clause in the following sentence: “…GRP … proposed to enhance the autonomy of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanaoas the political settlement of the Moro Problem rejected it … “should read “… Problem. MILF rejected it …” – ppd


(Next: More to 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].]