Dureza: extend Bangsamoro transition period to 2019

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 September) — A former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and government peace panel chair in the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is asking Congress to extend until 2019 the transition period for the future Bangsamoro, as he also proposed the “convergence of the agreements” of the government with the MILF and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to allow for “one roadmap for the Bangsamoro.”

Former peace adviser Jesus Dureza, government peace panel chair from 2001 to May 2003, told MindaNews Congress should look into the remaining issues in the Tripartite Review of the 1996 FPA so these can be incorporated into the BBL.

He said an extended transition with the “convergence” of the peace agreements “is the only way that can make this really succeed.”

Dureza explained that a transition period of less than a year will not augur well for the MILF and the entire peace process because “How can the MILF prove its worth to win the goodwill of other doubters?”

The MILF in February 2011 proposed a seven-year transition period, inclusive of a one-year pre-interim. But after the August 2011 meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan, where they agreed to fast-track the peace process, the MILF agreed to a shorter transition period of at least one year. Given the delays in the submission of the draft BBL to Congress and the very limited time before yearend, it is likely that the transition will be less than a year.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews on September 8 that the MILF leadership will have to decide on a transition of less than one year but “if you are asking my personal point of view, mukhang mahirap kasi failure ang resulta. Why would you accept something na you know the result is a failure?”

Dureza, a lawyer and former Congressman representing the first district of Davao City, said Congress can extend the transition period and specifically state that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will govern the parliamentary form of government in the interim, will be composed of the following. Duna na (There is already an) allocation.”

2019 instead of 2016

The draft BBL provides that the first regular election for the Bangsamoro Government is “on the first Monday of May 2016” and “shall be governed by the Bangsamoro Electoral Code.”

He said the extended transition can run up to 2019 and the first regular elections held that year instead of 2016.

Asked how he would propose the “allocation” of the BTA membership, Dureza said, “I have no specifics. But bottomline is: Congress must lay down all specifics in the law to make it inclusive. e.g. number of BTA members, majority of course MILF then a mix of MNLF, politicians, civil society, even representatives of the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group)?, whatever; extend transition period; and reset elections maybe to 2019.”

The transition period begins upon the ratification of the BBL and ends upon the dissolution of the BTA.

The government (GPH) and MILF peace panels had agreed in 2012 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 then 22-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Upon the ratification of the BBL, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the BTA takes over, using a ministerial form of governance.

The BTA is deemed dissolved “immediately upon the qualification of the elected Chief Minister under the first Bangsamoro Parliament.”

Bangsamoro Transition Authority

The draft BBL provides that during the transition period, the interim government will be the 50-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) “all of whom shall be appointed by the President.”

As the principal party to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the draft law states that the MILF “shall lead the BTA, in its leadership and membership.”

It also provides that “non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler-communities and other sectors shall have representation in the BTA” and that nominations “may be submitted to the Office of the President for the purpose.”

MILF peace panel chair Iqbal, concurrent chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the BBL, said it is up to the President if he appoints MNLF members into the BTA.

“Discretion nya yan” (That’s his discretion), he told MindaNews.

Not keen

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer did not reply directly to Dureza’s proposed extended transition and the “convergence” of the MILF and MNLF agreements.

She said: “Let’s focus first on the substantive aspects that would define the structure, powers and resources of the Bangsamoro. We’ll need to build understanding and consensus on these most essential provisions that would distinguish the Bsngsamoro entity from the ARMM and enable good governance and meaningful autonomy.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who will chair the House of Representatives’ 75-member Special Ad hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, does not seem keen on extending the transition period.

He told MindaNews in a telephone interview that the Moro people “have waited for this for centuries” and the transition period “should be faster” so that the Bangsamoro government can be set up soonest.

But Rodriguez assured that the special committee will ensure “inclusivity” in the law as well as in the proceedings.

Misuari, Kato

He reiterated the Committee would call on MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari and Ustadz Amiril Umra) Kato, a former commander of the MILF who set up the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during the public hearings, to give them the chance to air their views on the draft BBL.

Both Misuari and Kato are fugitives. They have warrants of arrest for several criminal charges.

Dureza said Misuari “cannot give inputs while still a fugitive so he has to submit to jurisdiction of the court.”

Rodriguez said arrangements are being made for their appearance in the hearings (see other story).

The BTA, as agreed upon by the peace panels, will have the MILF on the driver’s seat of the BTA. Dureza said he hopes the MILF membership in the BTA “be mixed with members from the MNLF and other groups to make it inclusive.”

President Aquino has repeatedly stressed “inclusivity” in the peace negotiations and in the draft BBl. In his speech at the submission of the draft BBL to Congress in Malacanang on September 10, the President said the draft went through a “long and thorough process” and assured Congress that the proposed law was “crafted to be fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)