GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 Oct) – The Bangsamoro Basic Law, by its title, is tri-functional. By these three functions, numbered in parentheses inserted in the title quoted below, it creates, abolishes and repeals. Such have historic implications.
The BBL is: “An Act providing for  the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro and  abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,  repealing for the purpose [a] Republic Act No. 9054, entitled ‘An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ and [b] Republic Act no. 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ and for other purposes.”
As a consequence of creating the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro Basic Law abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. With this exits 1976 Tripoli Agreement-based Muslim Autonomy and enters the Ancestral Domain-based Bangsamoro Autonomy. Will the exit be quiet or will there be loud, contentious repercussions?
The Tripoli Agreement (TA), the baby of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference, now “Cooperation”), was nurtured by the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) led by Chair Nur Misuari. The Bangsamoro, envisioned by MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Chair Salamat Hashim, was fleshed out through 17 years of negotiation by MILF and non-MILF Moro nationalists. Will Misuari and the OIC yield sitting down?
The OIC had numerous exploratory talks with President Ferdinand E. Marcos before the OIC and the MNLF inked the Tripoli Agreement to establish “the autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines”. It took 20 years more before the GRP-MNLF 1996 Peace Agreement was signed as “the full implementation of the Tripoli Agreement”. But RA 9054 is under review – since 2007 – for not fully implementing the FPA, according to Misuari and the MNLF. Will OIC-GRP-MNLF Tripartite Review just be scuttled?
Repeals, Not Abrogates
When passed, the BBL will repeal RA 9054 and RA 6734. But it will not abrogate the GRP-MNLF 1996 FPA which the Congress implemented by enacting it into RA 9054 to amend RA 6734. Neither will it repeal the 1976 Tripoli Agreement “fully implemented” by the 1996 FPA and presumed to have been implemented by the Marcos’ PD 1618 that created Regional Autonomous Governments IX and XII and by RA 6734. The Congress can repeal the laws it has enacted but cannot abrogate agreements it is not a party to.
It must be noted. RA 6734 makes no direct reference to the TA; neither does Article X of the 1987 Constitution that mandates the creation of the “Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao”. However, several provisions of Articles I and II of the RA and elements in Sections 15 and 18 of Article X of the Constitution had been adopted from the TA showing how the first Aquino government had clad with constitutionality the Muslim Autonomy born in the TA.
It must be noted further. The passage of the BBL will abolish the ARMM – revoking the implementation of the TA and the FPA, both international agreements. But the ARMM was constitutionally established. Although first rejected by the OIC and MNLF, they recognized it upon the signing of the FPA and the amendment of RA 6734 with RA 9054.
The 1976 TA and the 1996 FPA are still live international agreements between the OIC and MNLF on the one hand and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) on the other for the establishment of autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines. The OIC and the MNLF can call for their implementation.
How can the GRP (now: GPH) do it after revoking the earlier implementation with the repeal of RA 9054 and RA 6734 and the abolition of the ARMM?
In the FPA, MNLF and OIC obviously recognized the ARMM as the implementation of the TA and agreed just to strengthen and expand it by having the FPA amend RA 6734. Tacitly, they and the Ramos GRP agreed that there was only one “southern Philippines for the autonomy of the Muslims” – the ARMM. Yet, President Fidel V. Ramos, even before signing the FPA, had sent to MILF his proposal for peace negotiation.
Did he intend to create another autonomous region for MILF when the ARMM had already been conceded to MNLF? Will the Congress invite him to the BBL committee hearings to reveal his plan?
The ARMM while constitutionally and legally established was deemed a “failed autonomy” by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. Instead of having it abolished outright, he had it reformed to set a model government for the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority to take over upon the abolition of the ARMM (philstar.com, July 30, 2014: Hataman: ARMM to set standards for new Bangsamoro region).
If the ARMM is now a “model government”, according to Gov. Mujiv Hataman, why abolish it?
Can the ARMM’s abolition by the BBL not be questioned in the Supreme Court? But who will? Hataman and the other elected ARMM officials – the parties in interest – in support of the abolition have promised to step down upon the ratification of the BBL.
The BBL compared to FPA and RA 9054 is the better planned, the more relevant and comprehensive answer to the question of “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem.” But Government and MILF have to anticipate contentious issues that can land the BBL in the Supreme Court.
How the OIC will respond is an interesting diplomatic question. Will it just let the TA and the FPA lapse into oblivion? Will it unilaterally terminate the tripartite review of the full implementation of the FPA or will it pursue it to embarrass the Aquino Government? Will it stop entertaining complaints from Misuari and the MNLF?
(“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)