COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/02 May) – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is still awaiting the release of its budget but managed to meet this week and will meet again two weeks from now, courtesy of a sponsor.
“It’s a problem until this time and in fairness to the government, perhaps the delay is bureaucratic problem. And the other reason maybe is because everybody’s busy with elections,” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Transition Commission (TransCom) and concurrent chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, said.
Iqbal told a press conference at the end of the two-day session Wednesday afternoon that “while we are banking on the logistical support from government, we see to it that we also help ourselves by sourcing somewhere as long as it is not violative of the Framework Agreement. We see to it that we will source somewhere.”
The two-day session this week was sponsored by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), an international non-governmental organization that assists in conflict mediation and a member of the GPH-MILF peace process’ International Contact Group (ICG).
“This is the reason that the CHD has sponsored this two-day session and it will again sponsor another session while (we are) waiting for the release from government. I hope the government will, after the elections, facilitate or release the budget,” said Iqbal.
He said they have identified the building in Cotabato City where they will hold office “but we have yet to occupy that pending the solution of other problems especially logistical support.”
The 15 commissioners come from Basilan, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Metro Manila.
The TransCom was created by Executive Order 120 issued by President Aquino on December 17, 2012, in accordance with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15 that same year.
The TransCom is a 15-member body — eight nominated by the MILF, seven by the government — tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in preparation for the setting up of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
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, the EO said, would be incorporated in budget proposal under the Office of the President.
Mike Pasigan, TransCom Executive Director told MindaNews on Monday that he had been following up on the release of the budget but as of May 1, the budget has not been released.
MindaNews asked Budget Secretary Butch Abad that same day why the budget has not been released. He replied: “Wala pa silang request” (They haven’t filed a request).
“They need to submit a formal funding request that details where they intend to apply the P100-M,” Abad said.
He said the TransCom through the chair “will need to meet with us so we can assist them in putting together the request,” adding that they “cannot just release funds without any request and documentation.”
Iqbal on Wednesday told reporters that immediately after his March 15 appointment to the TransCom, “I officially wrote a letter to President requesting for the immediate release of the P100 million.”
UPDATE: Abad told MindaNews on Thursday afternoon that he had just spoken with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and the latter “will be endorsing to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) the request for funding within the week.”
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. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)