COMMENT: BBL* Ahead of Federalization (4)

Last of four parts
IV. Do Something

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/31 March) — The President, the GPH and MILF implementing panels (IPs) and the Congress – they with authority and power to remove the obstructions and hindrances — must do something to insure the safe passage of the BBL by December 2017 and the installation of the regular Bangsamoro government after the May 2019 election. The New BTC’s double time can turn to waste without the expected help.

This responsibility is primarily that of the GPH and MILF IPs set in the “Guiding Principles and Mandate” of their Term of Reference signed in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, 2017.

Their Guiding Principles: They resolved “…to build on the gains of the peace process in the implementation of the signed agreements including all existing mechanisms of the peace process. The implementing stage shall be primarily an internal process to the Parties, with due consideration to the agreed international participation, and when necessary, with third party facilitation and/or special advice as provided for in this Terms of Reference.”

Their Mandate: They agreed, generally, “… to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and other agreements” that they may sign later.

Specifically, to “… jointly and cooperatively endeavor to accomplish the following:”

(a) The GPH IP “shall work for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress;” the MILF IP “shall monitor the progress of the legislative process.”

(b) “If necessary, to review the mechanisms of the peace process on the ground to align them in accordance with the implementation phase of the GPH-MILF peace process, provided that any amendment shall be agreed upon by the parties in the presence of the Third Party Facilitator.”

(c) “Carry out the phasing and sequencing of the programs for implementation under the normalization process, including decommissioning which shall be parallel and commensurate to the movement of the legislative track, specifically, the BBL as provided for in the Annex on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities.”

(d) “Perform such other functions as mutually agreed by the Parties to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of all agreements.”

By their general mandate, as well as specific mandate (d), the GPH and MILF IPs have the primary responsibility to make clear to President Duterte through OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza the “hindrances” and “obstructions” the BTC cannot “navigate” without his help – among these, the separate GPH-MNLF(Misuari) peace deal and the “no constitutional issue in the draft proposal” caveat in the BPDR.

But the GPH and MILF IPs mandates are limited to assisting the New BTC when necessary and lobbying the Congress for the passage of the BBL. Beyond that they can only raise problems the solutions to which are out of their control.

Let’s take a quick look:
[1] Senate President Pimentel advised to submit only one proposed bill to the Congress. This calls for the convergence of the GPH-MILF and GPH-MNLF(Misuari) peace tracks which only President Duterte can do – probably with the help of the OIC which only he can ask.

[2] President Duterte will certify the BBL proposal not only as an urgent bill but, foremost, as constitutional. Only he can invoke the inter-branch courtesy for the Congress to pass the BBL as proposed and let the Supreme Court decide the constitutionality of any provision of the Law if questioned – any legislator in his or her personal capacity having the right to question. Only he possesses the political will to rally the Congress for the passage of the BBL.

[3] Luwaran , in its editorial (3/8/17: ‘Convergence’ Has Two Sides’) said the New BTC has for “the main term of reference” in drafting the BBL “the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Four Annexes and Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)” and, “to be more inclusive and acceptable to all…, the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement …”.

This will ensure CAB-compliance of the BBL and give the New BTC a fighting chance to beat the July 2017 timeline. But this is bound to be snagged by the “no constitutional issue in the draft proposal caveat in the BPDR” and the GPH-MNLF (Misuari) track which only the President can undo.

Burden on the President

Nothing new and clear has been heard about the GPH-MNLF(Misuari) deal. At the Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay, Bukidnon last Saturday, March 25, President Duterte revealed his meeting with Misuari to seek his recommendations on setting up a federal form of government (The Philippine Star 3/26/17: Duterte: Talks with Misuari, MNLF on track). We are in the dark about the proposal to amend R.A. No. 9054 that is “supposed to be submitted to the Congress in July 2017”.

At the inauguration of the People’s Television (PTV) Cordillera Hub in Baguio City on Saturday afternoon (March 11) President Duterete mentioned the Bangsamoro peace process and his expectation that the BBL proposal will meet a “more or less vigorous opposition” at the Senate. He gave the assurance he will study the draft BBL when the BTC submits it to him and he will “pray that it would sail on still waters” once it reaches Congress. (MindaNews 3/13/17: Duterte on BBL: “I pray…” ) (Bold supplied)

Was President Duterte sincere in his election promise — reiterated in his inaugural address, in his first State of the Nation Address and in other occasions — that he would redress the historic injustice suffered by the Moros? He promised to do this through the meaningful implementation of the CAB as embodied in aborted Draft BBL – enhancing the plan later through convergence with all other signed agreements and relevant laws.

If he was and still is, he must do more than just challenging the New BTC “to navigate the hindrances and obstructions” and promising to “pray for the BBL to sail on still waters in Congress”. The hindrances and obstacles are daunting. Time is running out and only he can clear them away.

The CAB-compliant BBL must first be passed to establish the Bangsamoro. Then, the Moros will have a platform from which to participate meaningfully in the federalism discourse – to adapt the Bangsamoro to federalism without losing its CAB-uniqueness and other gains of the peace process.