Bangsamoro Basic Law done; submitted to Congress by Sept. 10

MANDALUYONG CITY (MindaNews/07 September) — The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is finally done.

14 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, signed at 4:40 p.m. Sunday the transmittal letter for submission of the final draft to President Aquino, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the BTC and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel said.

Iqbal told MindaNews at the end of the BTC session that President Aquino, who will certify the bill as urgent, will hand over the final draft to Congress during ceremonies in Malacanang on Wednesday, September 10, that will be attended by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, and members of the BTC.

“The refinement (of the draft) reflects the agreed inputs of both the Governemnt of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels to harmonize the various contentious issues, incliuding the valuable contributions of the Office of the President and their legal teams. In so doing, they went to the process of tackling the unresolved issues, taking into consideration the vision of His Excellency to bring peace to Mindanao,” the five-paragraph transmittal letter said.

The letter also said that in the process of finalizing the draft, the BTC “considered, at times, that the Basic Law conforms to the firm mandate of the Constitution as well as the aspirations of our people to bring peace and harmony to our region.” 

Mohagher Iqbal (L), chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF peace panel, and BTC Deputy Chair Akmad Sakkam, and 12 other commissioners sign  Sunday afternoon  the transmittal letter  that wuld be attached to the final draft Bangsamoro Basic Law for submission to President Aquino.  Photo courtesy of BTC
Mohagher Iqbal (L), chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF peace panel, and BTC Deputy Chair Akmad Sakkam (R), and 12 other commissioners sign Sunday afternoon the transmittal letter that would be attached to the final draft Bangsamoro Basic Law for submission to President Aquino. Photo courtesy of BTC

The “refined” draft BBL is culled from the 97-page draft submitted by the BTC on April 22, Malacanang’s reviewed draft and proposed revisions, the outputs of the 21-day “workshops” of the peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Davao between July 8 and since noon of August 10, the product of the meetings between the team of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa who took over the negotiations on behalf of the government, and Iqbal’s team.

Final text

Iqbal said the most recent draft was presented and explained to the Commissioners during the session held behind closed doors at the Mt. Mayon function room of the BSA Twin Towers in Ortigas, on Sunday afternoon.

Commissioner Raissa Jajurie, a member of the MILF peace panel’s legal team, made the presentation.

Iqbal told MindaNews that the Commissioners were also informed that the final text or the language of the provisions on the block grant, special development fund and the normalization fund will still be done Monday by the OP-BTC team but the formula and the amounts are “already settled.”

He declined to say the amounts “for now,” adding that copies of the final draft will be made available as soon as it is submitted to Congress.

Iqbal said the transmittal letter will be attached to the final draft and will be submitted to the President “most likely on Tuesday.” The President will then hand over the draft with the certification of urgency on Wednesday to Drilon and Belmonte in Malacanang.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews that “the final steps are definitely underway for the transmittal of the draft BBL to Congress this coming week.”

“We look forward to a constructive engagement with the members of Congress on the merits of the upcoming bill int eh coming months,” she said.

Hopes and reservations

BTC deputy vice chair Akmad Sakkam of Indanan, Sulu, a former Ambassador, told MindaNews he is “happy with the refined draft because it is a product of concerted efforts of the stakeholders, including those appointed to draft the Basic law. That draft will certainly bring not only the hope of obtaining peace in Mindanao but the reality of peace.”

Antoher government-nominated BTC member, former Congressman Asani Tammang of Panamao, Sulu, said, “I sincerely belive that the draft reflects the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people and will serve as a uniting force between the Bangsamoro and the rest of the nation.

Commissioner Fatmawati Salapuddin, also of Sulu, told MindaNews she still has an “issue with freedom of choice. Freedom of choice should also be enjoyed by Muslim tribes like us, Tausugs. It is a basic right.” Salapuddin said in the final draft, “Freedom of choice is only for the IPs (indigenous peoples).”

“Sige lang” (it’s alright), she said, adding the draft will still be deliberated upon by Congress.

Commissioner Froilyn Mendoza, one of two representatives of the Indigenous Peoples in the 15-member BTC said on her Facebook wall that “until now I make a very strong stand on the most asked question by the Indigenous Peoples regarding IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) which has been drop(ped) in the latest review and the State conceded.”

“In my view and understanding, my strong interpretation is that IPRA must be upheld in the BBL and the right of IP over their ancestral domain in the Bangsamoro shall be recognize(d) as vested right of the Indigenous Peoples and that is inherent to us based on our native title or fusaka inged.”

“This is a continuing struggle to (have our rights) finally recognized,” she said.

Salapuddin and Mendoza were nominated to the BTC by government.

The other IP representative to the BTC, Timuay Melano Ulama, a nominee of the MILF, expressed no reservations on the final draft.

“Not the end of the struggle”

Robert Marohombsar Alonto, BTC Deputy chair and a member of the MILF peace panel, said “there were some changes (to the original draft that) we are not happy about.”

“We have compromised enough,” Alonto told MindaNews.

But he added, “this is not the end of the struggle. It’s up for the people on the ground to judge.”

“This is not the end of the struggle. Struggle tayo sa Parliament. Let’s see what’s going to happen,” said Alonto, who chaired the BTC’s Committee on Political Autonomy.

The BTC is a 15-member commission composed of eight members nominated by the MILF and seven by the government.

The 15th member of the BTC,  another government nominee — lawyer Johaira Wahab, the chief of the government’s legal panel from 2010 to early 2013, ,resigned after the submission of the BTC draft in April, to report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, where she is a Foreign Service Officer. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/ MindaNews)