DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 Sept) – The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is finally in Congress.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chair Mohagher Iqbal, handed over a copy each to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., in the presence of President Aquino in ceremonies in Malacanang at 10 am.
In his 10-minute speech after the handover, President Aquino assured that the draft BBL was crafted to be “makatwiran, makatarungan, at katanggap-tanggap sa lahat, Moro man, Lumad, o Kristiyano” (fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians).
The 119-page draft law has 18 articles and an additional three-page appendix on a proposed ordinance providing for the “parliamentary districts composing the provinces, cities, municipalities and geographic areas of the Bangsamoro.”
He urged Congress to examine the draft bill, which he certified as “urgent” and asked that it be passed “sa lalong madaling panahon” (as soon as possible).”
According to the legislative calendar, Congress will go on recess on September 27, will resume sessions on October 20, take a break again on November 1, resume sessions on November 17 and go on break on December 20 and resume sessions on January 19, 2015.
The draft BBL was submitted by the BTC, the 15-member GPH-MILF body tasked to draft the Basic Law, on April 22, 2014. It took nearly five months for the final draft to be submitted to Congress and exactly a month since Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa took over the negotiations on the final draft, on behalf of government.
The submission to Congress also came a few days after the September 4 meeting between the President and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Malacanang “to clarify and resolve issues” in the draft law.
Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office told Malacanang reporters on September 9 that the meeting between the two leaders “resulted in the clarification and resolution of issues pertaining to the peace agreement that are embodied in the raft law.”
Aquino said in in Filipino that he fully believes that the proposed law is “in accordance with our Constitution and with the principles of our Framework Agreement, and that it reflects our shared efforts towards growth that leaves no one behind.”
The MILF received a copy of the Malacanang-reviewed draft with its proposed provisions on June 21. Murad and Iqbal, also the MILF peace panel chair, told the President in Hiroshima their “concerns” about the Malacanang-proposed revisions to the draft on June 24 with Iqbal announcing in Turkey two days later that the proposed revisions would render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM under RA 9054.
The BTC on July 3 elevated its concerns over the Malacanang-proposed revisions to the peace panels, who held a total of 21 days “workshops” in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Davao, to finalize the text of the draft BBL.
Ochoa took over the negotiations for the final drafting by noon of August 10.
The BTC Commissioners signed the transmittal letter that would be attached to the final draft, on Sunday, September 7, at the Mt. Mayon function room of BSA Twin Towers in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City.
Several commissioners had expressed reservations over the final draft compared with the 97-page draft that the BTC submitted to Malacanang on April 22.
“We have compromised enough,” BTC Deputy Chair Robert Maulana Alonto, also a member of the MILF peace panel, said.
But Alonto added, “this is not the end of the struggle. It’s up for the people on the ground to judge.”
“I can live with it”
MindaNews learned from various sources within the MILF not only about reservations but also disappointments that the final draft allegedly fails to address many of the structural challenges of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it would replace, “let alone resolve the Bangsamoro Question.”
MindaNews asked Iqbal on September 8 if he was happy with the final draft, if he could live with and what makes him sad about it.
“I am happy. Why? Sabi ko ginawa ko na lahat ang makaya ko. Lahat ng oras ko ginugol ko na rito. Not just me but the team. Pangalawa, I know my position and I have to understand the position of the other side and then in a negotiation you can only agree. Pag maiintindihan mo yung kalagayan nila, yung where they are coming from, so dahil doon, ginawa na namin ang lahat, and then we understand the position of the other side as well as they also understand our position, ito ang nangyari. I am happy. Kasi ginawa ko na lahat, ano pa ang gagawin ko? In the absence of what is excellent, what is available is always the best. Alam natin na compromise yan eh.”
Asked what makes him sad about the final draft, Iqbal replied: “I am not sad… because essentially in a negotiation, you cannot get all that you want. Neither the other side can get all that they want.”
“I can live with it (the final draft),” he said.
The government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) stating that the status quo is “unacceptable” and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the ARMM.
“BTC-crafted, OP-edited, MILF-agreed draft”
In a statement, Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), said the submission of the draft BBL to Congress is “another milestone in the GPH-MILF peace process.”
“The fact that the MILF agreed to the latest version of the draft , we can only assume that it is (the draft) a good legal framework that will govern the Bangsamoro autonomy,” Alim said.
He said they are elated to know that while the timeline is tight, passage of the bill is still “doable” within the year and that ratification is possible within the first quarter of next year.
“But more ‘exhaustive debates’ are expected and this may lead to re-crafting or re-editing of the draft. At the end of the line, it is the Congress’ version that will prevail,” Alim said.
“We, in the CBCS, celebrate with reservations the submission of the draft BBL even as we embrace optimism that its contents satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-governance and development. Now, the work in Congress begins as well as engaging the communities in public information. We can only hope that there will be no more further delays in the roadmap,” the statement read.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, who served as OIC ARM Governor from December 22, 2011 to June 30, 2013, was present during the handover ceremonies. Hataman ran for ARMM Governor in 2013 along with other candidates knowing that that their three-year terms of office would be cut short because the ARMM would be abolished once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) takes over, using the parliamentray form of governance.
In a statement, Hataman, a former party-list representative, addressed the legislators that “the future of a people who for centuries have fought for self-determination now lies in your hands.”
“This law is for the children who wish to run across school grounds instead of running for their lives. This law is for families who want to put life into the earth through crops and produce, no longer to dig graves for their fathers and sons who have fallen in war. This law is what will help them realize their wishes and dreams,” Hataman said.
All five governors in the ARMM member-provinces – Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-tawi – were also present.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, other congressmen, senators and members of the Cabinet, as well as military and police officials also attended the handover ceremonies.
Deles described Wednesday as “a turning point in our national quest for peace in Mindanao.”
“This political roadmap is firmly on track, and we hold our congressional leaders to their promise to prioritize the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
She said she looks forward to a “vigorous public debate arising from a thorough and sober review of every provision contained in this draft document.”
“Every word, line, and provision shall be subjected to the sunshine of democratic debate, where all voices will be heard, with our Constitution as the guiding light,” she added.
GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the Bangsamoro’s proposed form of governance, a parliamentary system, “would allow for a broader base of political representation and participation in governance” and “would compel the formation of competitive and sustainable political parties in the region.”
Ferrer commended the MILF’s efforts to form a political party and urged “other groups and sectors “to consider forming their political parties that would equally enable them to participate fairly and peacefully in the Bangsamoro elections in 2016 and thereafter.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)