DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 December) – President Aquino on Monday signed Executive Order 120 creating the 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom) that would prepare the groundwork for the setting up of the new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016.
The TransCom’s main task is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The EO signing came two months and two days after the October 15 signing of the GPH-MILF (Government of the Republic of the Philippines — Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and two days after the peace panels ended their four-day negotiations in Kuala Lumpur with none of the four annexes that would form part of the comprehensive peace pact, finished.
The annexes on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, were supposed to be finished by yearend to complete the comprehensive peace agreement.
The four-day talks in KL ended at around 7:15 p.m. December 15 with no Joint Statement on what transpired during the talks and no date set for the next talks, even as both panel chairs said significant progress was made. .
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who took over the chairmanship from Marvic Leonen (now Supreme Court Justice), told MindaNews on December 15 that they “made considerable progress” while MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said they “moved forward with substantial gains. But as a whole, there is a technical impasse. No closing program, no joint statement, no date for next talks.”
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will appoint the 15 members of the TransCom, seven to be selected by the GPH and eight by the MILF, including the chair.
Ferrer told MindaNews in a text message Monday that the names of their proposed members are “being processed.” But Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles had repeatedly said earlier that among the seven, there would be representatives from women, Lumads (indigenous peoples) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Iqbal, who is still in Kuala Lumpur, told MindaNews in a text message Tuesday that they will submit the names of their eight members “very soon!” He said the MLF Central Committee “will formalize the decision.”
Earlier, Iqbal said the eight members will include representatives from women and the Lumads.
EO 120 provides an initial funding of P100 million for the TransCom from the contingent fund of the Office of the President. Budget for the succeeding years shall be incorporated in budget proposal under the Office of the President.
A roadmap to the creation of the Bangsamoro, prepared and published by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, lists 15 steps from the signing of the FAB on October 15.
The second step is supposed to be the adoption of the Annexes (the Roadmap cites only the adoption of the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities) followed by the issuance of the EO creating the TransCom, Congressional resolutions supporting the EO and the fifth step which is the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The FAB provides that the TransCom shall be created “through an Executive Order and supported by Congressional Resolutions.”
Congress takes a break for the holidays from December 22 to January 20.
But GPH peace panel chair Ferrer told MindaNews that congressional resolution is “not a prerequisite to forming TC (Transition Commission) after EO is signed.”
She said the Commission “will need to put up its office and staff, convene, come up with work plans and agree on procedures. Members will also have to be officially appointed first. The panels can continue to work on the remaining issues alongside the Commission’s preparations).
Iqbal said the TransCom “can now start even without annexes.” He said there are “preliminary steps” that the Commission can do. “
The EO provides the following tasks of the TransCom, in accordance with the FAB: “draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro; whenever necessary, to recommend to Congress or the people, proposed amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution; and whenever necessary, to assist in identifying and coordinating development programs in the proposed Bangsamoro in conjunction with the MILF Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the Bagnsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI)” and for this purpose, “may likewise coordinate with such other relevant government agencies and/or non-government organizations.”
It also adds these tasks: “coordinate and conduct dialogues and consultations with the National Government and various stakeholders in furtherance of its functions; and perform such other relevant functions as the President may hereinafter direct.”
The TransCom, according to the FAB, will be independent from the ARMM (which will hold its last elections in May 2013) and other government agencies” but all agencies of government are mandated to “support the Transition Commission in the performance of its tasks and responsibilities” until it ceases to exist “upon the enactment by Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
The EO provides that the TransCom “may directly coordinate with legislative bodies in order to accomplish its functions” and shall organize its Secretariat headed by an Executive Director as may be designated by the chair. It can also create technical committees and engage the assistance of experts and professional advisors.
MindaNews sources who requested not to be named said progress had, indeed, been made by the the technical working groups, that the Power-Sharing group had accomplished 97% of their task, that there was a “breakthrough” in the Wealth-Sharing Annex and significant progress in the Normalization Annex.
The same sources said the Annex on Transitions was “99% complete” but the parties were deadlocked on a major issue that the for the MILF is ‘non-negotiable:’ the leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that will take over the ARMM as soon as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified.
The same sources said the MILF, which will lead the 15-person Transition Commission, is not amenable to the GPH proposal for a Bangamoro-led BTA instead of an MILF-led BTA.
The GPH, according to sources, is pushing for a two-track convergence of the MILF and MNLF peace processes through the BTA. An MILF source told MindaNews: “parang kami ang nagsaing, iba ang kakain” (it’s like we did the cooking but not the eating).
“It’s not a formula for convergence but a formula for chaos,” the source said.
Iqbal on Tuesday said “so many points have already been agreed upon (in the Annexes).”
“The TA (Transition Authority) head must be resolved now,” he said (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)