COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (1)

1st of 9 parts

[Author’s Note: Parts I, II and III of “Bangsamoro: Fulfillment or Denial Anew” were written before the issuance by President Duterte of Executive Order No. 08 on November 7, 2016 mandating the BTC “to draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law …” or BBL. EO No. 08 only amended EO No. 120, s. 2012 as amended by EO No. 187, s. 2015 of President Aquino III and did not change “BBL” to “BEL” (Bangsamoro Enabling Law). Peace Secretary Dureza in his media interviews, as well the President in his public statements, had said that “BBL” would be “junked” and replaced with a new enabling law according to Duterte’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR). In digressing from BPDR, EO No. 08 has ironically abetted instead of clearing the roadblocks. – PPD]

*** *** ***

At their first meeting in Kuala Lumpur last August 13-14, the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels agreed that negotiations had been completed with the agreements embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB); what remained to be done was the implementation of the CAB. This is what the Duterte Peace Roadmap which Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza handed to the MILF panel is all about.

MILF accepted the Roadmap drawn unilaterally by Secretary Dureza and approved by President Rodrigo Duterte – unlike the Roadmap for the implementation of the FAB in 2012 which was agreed by the GPH and MILF peace negotiation panels. No official copy of the Roadmap has been published in the media. We can only figure it out from Secretary Dureza’s media interviews, the statements of the GPH and MILF panel chairs and the President, that BPDR anonymously sent to us and MILF Chairman Murad’s position given to media.

From these we can discern how BEL will be crafted through convergence according to the BPDR to establish the CAB-compliant Bangsamoro. However, BEL’s path will not be strewn with roses. There are difficulties that we have already discussed. More road blocks ahead can derail, detour, delay or even abort the implementation.

Let us restate the steps in the published implementation process: 1st: convergence; 2nd: crafting the BEL; 3rd: enacting the BEL; 4th: ratification of the BEL; 5th: Bangsamoro transition; 6th: Bangsamoro entrenched upon the election of its regular officials in 2019. Each step has a timeline, the preceding a prerequisite of the succeeding. Each step has to be done on time in order to inaugurate the Bangsamoro after the 2019 election.

Convergence and Crafting

Ideally, convergence must be done first to make the crafting of BEL without unnecessary complication. But this will take time. It may be imperative to do the first and the second simultaneously with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) steering the process. This scenario presumes the FPA, etc. will be converged to the CAB and the BTC will only enhance Draft BBL into BEL through convergence – article by article following Draft BBL.

This scenario will be the fastest and most suitable to the July 2017 must-timeline for the submission of the BEL to the Congress – six months starting January 2017. Yet, this is far from snag-free. The members of new BTC created on November 7, 2016 are still to be appointed. Can the BTC start the drafting in December?

Convergence will mostly involve the CAB, FPA and R.A. No. 9054. MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal said this about the FPA (Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front) and the CAB in his opening statement at the 40th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, September 10-15, 2012: “The best of what is in the GRP-MNLF FPA are already subsumed or entrenched even in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Many more will be captured or fleshed out once the MILF and GPH sign the Comprehensive Agreement …”

That the FPA and R.A. No. 9054 are already virtually converged to the CAB can be easily verified in the Draft BBL. As we have discussed earlier, the 1976 Tripoli Agreement had been fleshed out more comprehensively in the CAB than in the FPA. Will Misuari and the other MNLF leaders agree?

If all parties will defer to the CAB and to the BTC to steer the convergence process using Draft BBL as the mold – crafting while converging – the BEL can most probably be in the Congress by July 2017 IF the process can start at the latest in January. Will MNLF, the IPs, the Sultanates, Moro traditional and LGU leaders agree?

The Rest of the Way

With the BEL in the Congress by July 2017, the burden of meeting the 2019 timeline to entrench the Bangsamoro will shift to the leadership in the Senate and the House and to President Duterte. If they can treat BEL as a special legislation, subject to inter-branch courtesy – being a Government-MILF agreed political settlement of the Moro Problem or Question – the organic law can be signed by the President and ratified by July 2018. That will allow the BTA one year to prepare the Bangsamoro for entrenchment in 2019.

The Bangsamoro could have been inaugurated last June 30 or earlier. But the leaders of the Congress and President Aquino III lacked the political will to back up their repeated assurances to pass the BBL.

Unless the reports of Luwaran, the website of the MILF Central Committee, are mere propaganda, the BLMI (Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute) has been training Moro leaders in political, economic and social aspects of leadership with moral, funding and technical assistance from foreign governments and agencies, the United Nations and international banks. In short, MILF is prepared to staff the BTA.

Will the Bangsamoro be finally realized on the Duterte peace roadmap? Why not? The way is there. But, ironically, some good proposals and good intentions can pose problems and block the way.

Tomorrow: Murad’s Suggestion

(“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