BTC meets April 3 to 5 to set up committees, begin work on draft BBL

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 April) — The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will convene in Cotabato City on April 3-5 to adopt its internal rules and set up the committees so they can begin crafting the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The 21-member Commission will also decide during this session what working draft they will adopt although several commissioners MindaNews spoke with said they prefer the draft  submitted to Congress by the previous BTC on September 10, 2014 — the “agreed version” adopted by the Office of the President and the  Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — to be the working draft.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) held its first plenary session on March 6 and 7 at the Em Manor Hotel in Cotabato City, to come up with interim rules, budget and work plan. MIndaNews photo by GG Bueno

Government has proposed a May 18 target to submit the draft to President Rodrigo Duterte for him to study it before it its submission to Congress in time for Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel and a member of the BTC, told a press conference here last week that May 18 is “too ambitious” but the former BTC chair said they will exert “best efforts”

There are only 45 days between April 3 and May 18 and 112 days to July 24.

On March 11, Duterte surprised those keenly monitoring the Bangsamoro peace process, when, addressing the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the inauguration of the People’s Television (PTV) Cordillera Hub in Baguio City, he said, “you’re about to complete the Bangsamoro Transition draft. I will study it before we submit it to Congress and pray that it would sail on still waters.”

The BTC, however, has yet to start working on the draft.

In fact, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has yet to release the BTC’s budget.

BTC Executive Director Mike Pasigan told MindaNews that he was informed the Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration had endorsed the documents to the DBM. “We are now waiting for DBM to assign funds,” he said.

BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s 1st Vice Chair, had earlier said that if the government side agrees to adopt as working draft, the draft bill that the BTC submitted in 2014 — or what became HB 4994 and SB 2408 —  “hindi na kami masyadong mahirapan.”

Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Ghadzali Jaafar reiterates that a political problem requires a political solution as he pushed for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) whose signing on March 27, 2014, was commemorated by the government and MILF panels on March 29, 2017 in Davao City. MINDANEWS PHOTO

“The BBL produced by the previous BTC is a better BBL. Maganda  na yan eh, maganda na, so maybe we can reach out an agreement with the government that this previous BBL would become (the) working paper for the BTC. Now … if that will be the case, hindi naman kami masyadong mahirapan,” Jaafar told MindaNews on February 18.

He said they can focus work on the provisions in the working draft that were objected to by the previous Congress.  “Yung provisions na walang objection, hindi na kailangang pagtuunan yun ng pansin” (The provisions without objects, we do not need to focus on that), Jaafar added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)