Federalism first; BBL if it fails

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 July) – Federalism first, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) if it fails.

This is the preview of the Bangsamoro peace roadmap that President Rodrigo Duterte announced before hundreds of Moro religious and political leaders attending the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr 2016 at the SMX Convention Center here on Friday night.

Duterte, the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, said he hopes to have his federalism framework in place by the end of the year, apparently with the proposal to incorporate the provisions of the proposed BBL into the new Constitution of a federal Philippines but vowed that if the Filipino nation rejects the shift to federalism during the plebiscite, “then I am ready to concede whatever is there in the (proposed) BBL.”

Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 has been filed in the 17th Congress calling for a Constitutional Convention whose members shall be elected by January 2017.

Presumptive House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had earlier said they are eyeing the midterm elections of 2019 as the plebiscite for the shift to federalism.

Duterte explained that he could only give a few Cabinet posts to the Moro because “if I succeed in convincing everybody in Mindanao, if I could convince my MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN (Moro National Liberation Front), there will be a reconfiguration of the territory and most of them will occupy the regional or state positions.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Ghazali Jaafar, 1st vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Atty. Randolph Parcasio, spokersperson of the MNLF under Nur Misuari, during the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr in Davao City on Friday. RENE B. LUMAWAG / Presidential Photographers Division
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Ghazali Jaafar, 1st vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Atty. Randolph Parcasio, spokersperson of the MNLF under Nur Misuari, during the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr in Davao City on Friday. RENE B. LUMAWAG / Presidential Photographers Division

“But if the Filipino nation in a plebiscite would not want it (federal form of government) then I am ready to concede whatever is there in the BBL,” Duterte said, adding, “we will see to it that it will pass.”

Later in his speech, he repeated his assurance that if federalism is rejected, kung ayaw talaga ng the rest of the country, well then… what you give to the MI, must be given to MN kasi pareho lang eh. I hope that we can have peace in the land.”

Immediately after saying he will see to it that the BBL is passed if federalism is rejected in the plebiscite, Duterte said, “in fairness to Nur (Misuari),” the founding chair of the MNLF and Duterte’s personal friend, “we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation.”

“Then, we will have new boundaries and these boundaries do not really intend to separate our brother Moro from the Christian” but is intended only to “delineate territories” and “not keep us apart from being Mindanawons,” Duterte said, adding that most of the Christians in Mindanao “are supporting the federalism and the BBL.”

“New boundaries”

The “new boundaries” Duterte is referring to is the new composition of what would replace the present-day Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government (GPH) and the MILF in March 2014 provides for the passage of the BBL that would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the ARMM which had earlier been criticized as a “failed experiment.”

Under the CAB, the ARMM is deemed abolished upon ratification of the BBL.

Invoking the grace of Allah, Duterte, the seventh President since Ferdinand Marcos who will attempt within his six-year term to finally resolve the “Bangsamoro Question.”

“It will not come overnight. Certainly, it will not come next year. Probably, it will be something about two to three years from now. But I assure you that something will change before I end my term,” he vowed.

“Let us build a nation that will be founded on peace and understanding,” said the first Mindanawon head of state, who introduced himself during his campaign sorties as having a grandmother who is Maranao and grandchildren who are Tausugs.

“A promise is a promise”

Addressing specifically the MILF last Friday, Duterte said: “Yung mga kapatid kong MI, a promise is a promise.. my word of honor is something which I value very much. Kaya ako pag nagbitaw ng salita ‘yun na ‘yun at hindi ko na pinapalitan” (When I give my word, that’s it).

Duterte visited the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao noon of February 27 and was received by MILF 1st Vice Chair Ghazali Jaafar, who attended the Hariraya, and the Central Committee. MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim was out of the country then.

He told the MILF then that he would work for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to change the system of government into federalism but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”

At the Cotabato City plaza that afternoon, Duterte stressed the need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed that under his administration, “we will try to go federalism. Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).

He said he will also tell Misuari “kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that in Mindanao and in the rest of the Philippines”).

Duterte declared in that Cotabato City rally that if he wins the Presidency, “yung isang paa ng Moro ay nasa Malacanang na” (one foot of the Moro is already in Malacanang).

BBL and Normalization

The passage of the BBL is tied up with the normalization process, including the decommissioning of weapons and combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing.

Then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the MILF’s Murad witnessed the ceremonial turnover of 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and the decommissioning of 145 BIAF members, in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The BIAF has an estimated 10,000-strong armed force.

The CAB provides under the Annex on Normalization that 30% of the forces and weapons would be decommissioned when the BBL is ratified, 35% more in the third phase and the last 35% in the fourth phase.

In his inaugural address on June 30, Duterte said his administration is “committed to implement all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms.”

“I am elated by the expression of unity among our Moro brothers and leaders, and the response of everyone else to my call for peace,” he said.

He said he looks forward to the participation of other stakeholders, “particularly our indigenous peoples, to ensure inclusivity in the peace process.”

Bangsamoro, Federalism and ARMM

Murad led a delegation of the MILF in a meeting with Duterte on June 17 in a Davao City hotel. He and Duterte had a one-on-one talk for around 20 minutes.

Asked what they talked about, Murad told MindaNews on June 25 that Duterte’s opening lines to him was “yung sinabi ko sa inyo, gagawin natin yan” (what I told you, we will do).

“Sabi niya ‘ang BBL ipa-pass natin yan… kasi gagawin natin yan na template para sa federalism’” (He said ‘we will pass the BBL… because we will make that the template for federalism), Murad said.

Murad said the draft BBL submitted to Congress in 2014 will be “improved” through a convergence of the 2014 CAB between the GPH and the MILF and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the GPH and the MNLF before it is presented to the 17th Congress.

He expects the “convergence” to be done through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) that the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initiated in 2010 and which OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani strengthened during his visit in Davao City in April last year.

With Friday’s announcement, a major question that needs to be addressed is how the Duterte administration will address the interlocking concerns on the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the shift to federalism and the abolition of ARMM in relation to May 2019.

The ARMM, which the BBL sought to replace with the Bangsamoro, proceeded with its election on May 9, 2016 because the BBL was not passed.

The next scheduled ARMM election, if no BBL is passed, is on May 13, 2019, which is also the proposed date of plebiscite for the ratification of the new Constitution on federalism. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)