COMMENT: BBL: Transition Makes or Breaks

GENERALSANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 October) — While seemingly miscalculated, the Transition Period of Bangsamoro is what will make or unmake Bangsamoro –.to make the Moros happy, contented and progressive in their ancestral domain or break their hearts and last thread of trust and hope in their leaders. Proper transition will fulfill the Bangsamoro vision; otherwise, the vision will be aborted.

As seen in the Draft BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) now in the Congress as House Bill No. 4994 and Senate Bill 2408, there is much to be done during the Period in so short a time to lay down the strong foundation of Bangsamoro. This is ominous.

There is no clear definition in the Draft BBL as to what Transition Period is really for. This may only be discerned through what Bangsamoro Transtion Authority is mandated to accomplish as provided in “Article XVI: Bangsamoro Transition Authority.” The definition should include the fixed time commensurate to the accomplishment of the fixed mandate of the BTA.

Start to Finish

“Section ” on “Transition Period” only states when the “Period” starts: [1] “The transition or interim period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro shall commence upon ratification of this Basic Law.”

Paragraph [3] states when the “Period” ends: “Transition period shall end upon the dissolution of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, as provided in this Basic Law.”

Paragraph [4] is unclear and must be clarified. “The period of transition herein defined shall be without prejudice to the initiation or continuation of other measures that may be required by post-conflict transition and normalization even beyond the term of the BTA.”

Paragraph [2] which explains when the BBL “shall be deemed ratified” properly belongs to Article XV on Plebiscite.

What “definition” of “transition period” is Paragraph [4] talking about? Stating in general the beginning and end of the period is not even a definition of time – of a specific period. Article XVI enumerates the mandate of the BTA. What is the mandate for? That is the most essential element of the definition of the transition period. That will determine whether the mandate has been properly accomplished.

The BTA

“Section ” creates “a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which shall be the interim government or the governing body in the Bangsamoro during the transition period”. It explains that the “Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) … shall lead the BTA, in its leadership and membership” because it is “the principal party to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro”. This defines BTA, not the “Period”.

The 50-member BTA will be appointed by the President. The advisory body Council of Leaders “shall also be organized during the transition period”.

“Section ” on “Powers and Authorities” states: [1] “Legislative and executive powers in the Bangsamoro during transition shall be vested in the BTA.” [2] “All devolved authorities shall be vested in the BTA during the transition period.” [3] It is the mechanism “for intergovernmental relations with the Central Government and local governments units in the Bangsamoro … for the duration of the transition period.”

Regardless of “[1]” above, “During the transition period, executive authority shall be exercised by the interim Chief Minister, who shall be appointed by the President as such, while legislative authority shall be exercised by the BTA.” Under the regular government (Article VIII, Section 1), the Chief Minister is appointed by the Parliament. There must be a reason for this; however, that does not make the Chief Minister not under the BTA as the interim government.

The Mandates

The BTA is mandated to:

“Section 4” on “Functions and Priorities” mandates: “The BTA shall ensure the accomplishment of the following priorities during the transition period:

“a. Enactment of priority legislations such as the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, the Bangsamoro Revenue Code and the Bangsamoro Electoral Code, consistent with powers and prerogatives vested in the Bangsamoro Government by this Basic Law …

“The BTA may also enact a Bangsamoro Civil Service Code, as provided in this Basic Law …

“b. Organization of the bureaucracy of the Bangsamoro Government during transition, including the approval and implementation of a transition plan, and the institution of a placement process for hiring of personnel during transition. This shall also include the setting up of offices and other institutions necessary for the continued functioning of government and delivery of social services in the region, as well as those necessary for the smooth operations of the first elected Bangsamoro Government in 2016;

“c. Transfer of powers and properties of the ARMM Regional Government to the Bangsamoro Government, and the disposition of personnel, as provided in this Basic Law; and

“d. Other matters that may be necessary for the transition from the ARMM Regional Government to the Bangsamoro Government, as provided in this Basic Law.”

The Chief Minister is mandated to:

[1] “Within the first sixty (60) days of the transition period, the interim Chief Minister shall submit to the BTA a transition plan that shall contain the proposed organizational plan, as well as the schedule therefor. …(Section 5).”

[2] “The interim Chief Minister shall organize the interim Cabinet and shall appoint an interim Deputy Chief Minister, who shall also be a member of the BTA. The interim Chief Minister shall also appoint such other ministers as may be necessary to perform the functions of government during transition, a majority of whom shall be from among members of the BTA (Section 6).”

[3] “The Interim Cabinet shall be composed of ten (10) primary offices with sub-offices … and priority ministries, namely: a. Governance; b. Social Services; c. Development; d. Education; e. Public Order and Safety; f. Indigenous Peoples Affairs; g. Health; h. Public Works; i. Local Government; and j. Finance.

“The BTA may empower the interim Chief Minister to create other ministries and primary offices, upon a determination of the majority of its members that the same is necessary for achieving the twin goals of continuity of social services and transitioning to the regular Bangsamoro Government (Section 7).”

What For

The foregoing show what “Transition Period of Bangsamoro” is and the tremendous tasks the BTA and its executive arm, the Interim Minister and his Interim Cabinet, have to do according to the Draft BBL. On these will depend the success of Bangsamoro.

What is Transition Period of Bangsamoro for? It is the time for the BTA, first, to establish mechanisms and modalities for Bangsamoro as its foundation suitable to its parliamentary form of government and to its asymmetric relation with the Central Government; and, second, to phase out the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The “Period” must be long enough for the BTA to properly accomplish these.

How Much Time

How much time is there for the Transition Period? It will start upon the appointment of the BTA after the ratification of the BBL. While it will end when the BTA is dissolved after the elected members of the regular Parliament have been proclaimed and qualified, the transition work will be interrupted by the election period. The effective period should be from appointment of the BTA until end of December 2015.

According to legislative time tables, the House will pass its version of the BBL by this coming December; the Senate, by the first quarter of 2015. The plebiscite needing at least three months maybe held in the second quarter of 2015. Granting that the BTA can be constituted in the third quarter of 2015, the Transition Period will have an effective time of only six months. This appears to be the best case scenario.

Is there a guarantee that the BBL, once signed by the President, will not be questioned in the Supreme Court? Should such happen, even if the Court rules in favor of the BBL, the plebiscite can be delayed for another three months. This is the worst case scenario.

Whether on the best or on the worst case scenario, can the Transition Period be properly accomplished?

We suggest the Congress consider this reasonably. (“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])

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