Duterte’s rebuttal to Poe on the Bangsamoro shows she needs to study more

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 February) — He spoke of righting a historical wrong, of offering the Bangsamoro Basic Law “with the same configuration” as well as federalism for all; she talked about going back to the negotiating table, forgetting there is a signed peace agreement between government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The rebuttal to Senator Grace Poe’s argument on the Bangsamoro peace process by the lone Mindanawon Presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in Sunday’s Presidential Debate showed the audience how much Duterte understands the situation and how the senator needs to study more the issue.

The question posed by inquirer.net editor in chief John Nery to Senator Poe was: “Hindi naipasa ang Bangsamoro Basic Law dahil na rin siguro sa nangyari sa Mamasapano. Kapag kayo po ang nahalal, isusulong ba ninyo uli ang BBL o meron kayong ibang programa? Yung paglinaw po sa nangyari sa pagpatay kay Marwan kasama po ba yan sa solusyon?” (The Bangsamoro Basic Law was not passed maybe because of what happened in Mamasapano. If you were elected, are you going to push for the BBL or you have another program? Is looking into the killing of Marwan part of the solution?)

Poe did not say anything about the BBL but talked of a “transparent, inclusive at sustainable na pag-uusap at kasunduan” (negotiations and agreement),” giving the audience the impression that she would go for another peace negotiations, even as there is already an existing agreement – the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the government and MILF signed on March 27 , 2014 and is already on the implementation phase, which includes the passage of the BBL.

Congress, however, adjourned on February 3 without passing the BBL.

The Philippine government also has a peace agreement with the MNLF, signed in 1996 but whose implementation remains in question to this day and although the Tripartite Review with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last month was reported to be the last review, implementation will still be carried into the next administration.

“Ang nais ko po magkaroon ng isang transparent, inclusive at sustainable na pag-uusap at saka kasunduan. Kailangan talaga sa pagbuo ng bagong kasunduan o pagtulak nito, kailangan isama natin lahat ng mga grupo – MILF, MNLF, lahat ng mga grupo hindi lamang Maguindanao kundi Tausug Maranao, Badjao, kung ano pa, pati IPs, pati mga Kirsitiyano dito sa Mindanao” [What I want is a transparent, inclusive and sustainable negotiations and agreement. What is needed in the crafting of a new agreement or pushing it is to include all groups – MILF, MNLF, all groups not just the Maguindanaon but Tausug and Maranao, Badjao, also IPs (Indigenous Peoples) and Christians here in Mindanao], Poe said.

The government and MILF peace negotiations took all of 17 years before the CAB was signed. Under the Aquino administration, efforts were undertaken to ensure inclusivity, through consultations with various sectors and representation of sectors in the peace process mechanisms.

While negotiations are going on, Poe said, these should be accompanied by projects, including the Mindanao Railway project, job generation, power generation, rehabilitation of Agus (she referred to it as Angus) and Pulangui dams, roads, tourism.

Duterte brought Poe back to Ground Zero with his rebuttal: “Let me focus on Mindanao and what is happening today with the failure of (Congress to pass the) BBL, there is a great, great hurt there,” the seven-term Davao City mayor said.

“Unless I said we can come up with another card which is federalism, nothing, nothing at all can appease Mindanao. Yan ang nangyayari dyan and that is why it is very important na kung ako ang mapupunta dyan, I will not only offer the BBL with the same configuration but I will offer federalism to all pati kay Nur Misuari on the western side,” he said.

“That would maybe appease everybody because every Moro politico would really like to see federalism kasi pumalpak nga ang BBL. And we have to do this because nothing, nothing short will appease and bring peace to Mindanao. Yan ang importante sa lahat dyan. You have to right the historical wrong committed against the Moro people,” Duterte said.

On August 3 last year, in M’lang, North Cotabato, Duterte said that more than just talking peace, the next President “should understand the root causes of the conflicts and honor the peace agreements.”

In her counter-rebuttal, Poe said she respects Duterte’s bid for federalism and acknowledged the need to discuss if this would really be good for the country as she referred to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as “pinakamalapit sa federalism” (closest to federalism).

But it is not the ARMM that is closest to federalism; it is actually the proposed Bangsamoro which will replace the ARMM when the BBL is ratified, that is nearest to federalism as its system of government, as agreed upon with the Philippine government, will be parliamentary and there is power and wealth-sharing between the central government and regional government.

The ARMM is autonomous in name only but in reality is an administrative body with no fiscal autonomy. “Malayo sa federal” (far from federal form), says former ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo.

“Mas powerful pa sa ARMM ang barangay kay may fiscal autonomy at di kailangang mag beg sa Congress for its budget” (The barangay is more powerful than the ARMM because it has fiscal autonomy and does not need to beg Congress for its budget).

The barangay gets an automatic share from the internal revenue allotment while the ARMM has to “beg” Congress for its budget.

Poe said the discussions on federalism would be done at the start of the term of the new President “pero sa tingin ko ang kailangan ng ating mga kababayan ay devolution of powers kung saan ang local government ay may prerogative sa pag gasta ng kanilang pondo. Sa ngayon po, dapat ay 40% pero less than 30% or mga 30% lang ang nabibigay sa local government. Mali po yun. Kailangan ay taasan natin ito” (but I think what our countrymen need is devolution of powers where the local government has the prerogative to spend their funds. Now, the local government should have 40% share but receive less than 30% or around 30% only. That is wrong. We have to increase that.”

The Bangsamoro issue was the last question asked in the 135-minute debate (48 minutes of that in advertisements). To the dismay of Mindanawons, it was the only Mindanao-specific question out of supposedly five under the label “Mindanao Issues” in Round 3 of the debate’s Mindanao leg held in Cagayan de Oro City.

The issues of the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) in Mindanao were ignored not only in the debate itself but also in the video clips shown by the TV network. Most of the images featured onscreen focused only on the Moro when Mindanao is multi-cultural. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)