BTC submits “partial” draft of Bangsamoro Basic Law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 April) — The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has not finished drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but was expected to submit a “partial” draft to the Office of the President in Malacanang late afternoon or early evening Monday.

“My understanding is they may submit even incomplete so that OP (Office of the President) can begin to study the parts that are completed – maybe even help out with the unfinished parts,” Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process told MindaNews in a text message Monday morning.

Created by President Aquino’s Executive Order 120 on December 17, 2012, the BTC is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as agreed upon by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on October 15, 2012.

Its 15 members – eight nominated by the MILF and seven by the GPH – were appointed by the President on February 25, 2013 – and first convened in April 2013 in Pasig City.

“What draft are you submitting? An incomplete draft? Why submit at all?” MindaNews asked BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace  panel. He replied he would get back to MindaNews later.

During the plenary session on Sunday evening, the  Commissioners managed to deliberate only on the reports of the Committee on Basic Rights, Culture, Social Justice and IP and the Committee on Political Autonomy, MindaNews sources in the BTC said.

Only the draft on Basic Rights will be submitted to Malacanang because only the report of the Basic Rights committee was adopted by the plenary in its entirety while some contentious provisions in the report of the Political Autonomy committee have yet to be resolved, the same sources said.

According to the BTC’s internal rules, the Committee on Basic Rights, Culture, Social Justice and IP matters takes care of “all matters directly relating and principally relating to human rights and liberties of citizens residing in the Bangsamoro” while the Committee on Political Autonomy handles “all matters directly relating and principally relating to ancestral domain, powers, form and structure of governance, electoral system, among others.”

The plenary has yet to deliberate on the reports of the four other standing committees: Fiscal Autonomy; Justice and Security Matters; Transitory Provisions, Amendments, Revisions and Miscellaneous Matters; and Constitutional Amendments, although these reports have been subjected to deliberations during the Coordinating Committee meetings and all-member caucuses.

The Coordinating Committee is composed of the presiding chairs of the standing committees.

Under BTC rules, the plenary deliberates and adopts the draft Basic Law based on the report of the committees.

Iqbal announced in September that they would submit the draft Basic Law in April 2014 but after a courtesy call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in Malacanang on January 30,  Iqbal said they accepted the challenge to submit the draft earlier and committed to submit the same by March 31.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro states that the President will certify the bill as urgent once it is submitted to Congress. Congress will resume sessions on May 5.

No draft was submitted on March 31.

On Saturday, April 12, reports about the BTC submitting the draft BBL came out even as the BTC had not met in plenary.

The announcement of a submission by Monday, April 14 when the Commission had yet to meet in plenary, raised possibilities that the draft law would not be signed by all 15 members of the Commission as some commissioners, MindaNews learned, were  complaining that the process was being “railroaded” by the MILF-dominated Commission, especially since several controversial provisions had yet to be resolved.

Iqbal denied the allegations of “railroading.”

“Hindi naman (No). Do you think the commissioners will agree to a railroad?”  he told MindaNews in a text message late Saturday afternoon.

After the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacanang on March 27, the Commission worked until April 4 in a luxury hotel in Pasay where they were initially billeted for the signing, and in the BTC’s office in Cotabato City thereafter.

But rumblings and grumblings about alleged disregard for internal rules of the Commission as well as non-resolution of controversial issues have been hounding the BTC, even as Iqbal denies it.

“Everything is smooth,” he told MindaNews in a text message on Friday night.

Iqbal kept mum on the date for submission but the Mindanao CSOs Platform for Peace (MCSOPP), earlier tapped by the BTC to help conduct consultations on the Basic Law announced in a press release afternoon of April 12, that the BTC would submit the draft law on April 14.

MindaNews  texted Iqbal several times on Sunday, inquiring about the plenary.  Caucuses were held since morning. Based on his replies, the BTC met in plenary at 8 p.m. Sunday and ended their session shortly before 10 p.m.

As of 5:45 p.m. Monday, the BTC Commissioners who flew in from Mindanao, were still on their way to Malacanang from the airport.

Deles said the BTC did not ask for appointment with President Aquino for the submission. She said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa is “on leave for Holy Week as I am” but added they “already arranged that it will be deputy executive secretary who will meet them.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)