DAVAO CITY—The Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 laid down the tenets for the establishment of an autonomous political entity for the Bangsamoro.
Once Congress passes the proposed law, it will abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which President Benigno Aquino, III branded as a “failed experiment.”
A plebiscite will be conducted in various areas deemed as Bangsamoro political territories.
The Bangsamoro political entity is granted vast powers to rule on its own government such as the powers necessary for taxation, availment of funds and the creation of wealth, and sharing of revenues from the utilization, development and exploitation of natural resources within its territory, among others.
Early this year, on March 27, the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” a document which, according to MILF, was a product of 17 years of negotiation seen to usher in a lasting peace in Southern Mindanao after Moro guerrillas waged war against the Philippine government since the early 1970s.
Prior to the signing of CAB, on October 15, 2012, the Aquino government signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), a preliminary agreement between the government and the MILF, which lays down the tenets for the establishment of an autonomous political entity for the Bangsamoro.
But all Muslims do not share the belief—that Moro rebellion will end because of the Bangsamoro Basic Law — as various groups oppose it for being divisive, deceptive and a mockery to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.
In a Senate-led public hearing in Davao City held last November, Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has contentious and constitutional issues that lawmakers need to examine and look into.
“The hardest part that the BBL would go through is when this will be brought to the SC (Supreme Court) (to resolve its) constitutional issues. If we will not be careful right now, BBL will suffer the same fate with the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement-Ancestral Domain),” Guingona said.
It can be recalled that during the Philippine Development Plan on Bangsamoro held on November in Davao City, President Aquino said “economic impacts have already (been) felt in ARMM, hitting a yearly all-time high of P3.37 billion in investments.”
For the militant Moro group Suara Bangsamoro, “these investments in ARMM Aquino talked about is the mining in Tawi-Tawi and the planned banana and oil palm plantations in Maguindanao owned by local elites and foreign companies.”
“They are fooling the Bangsamoro (people) that such reforms are effective as ARMM remains to be the second poorest region in the country,” Jerome Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro said.
Suara Bangsamoro President Amirah Lidasan said BBL lacks vision to utilize the Moro land’s natural resources for the benefit of its people.
These concerns were also raised by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, saying “natural resources in Moro areas are already being eyed by the national government for business investments, way ahead of the signing of the law.”
Zarate said “at this early stage, the Aquino administration is already peddling these resources by signing into economic agreements that would tie the future of Bangsamoro government to foreign interests, like Malaysia.”
“While a new organic law is yet to be passed by Congress, this early we have to be on the look out over attempts to place the future of the Bangsamoro in the hands of people who will profit greedily from the further liberalization of our economy and privatization of our basic services,” Zarate explained.
Suara Bangsamoro’s Aba, said the proposed Bangsamoro law submitted to Congress compromises the rights of Moro people and restricts the rights and powers of proposed Bangsamoro government.
According to Aba, the provisions on Bangsamoro Identity (Article II), Territory (Article III), General Principles (Article IV), Intergovernmental relations (Article VI), and Economy and Patrimony (Article XIII) were some of the compromised provisions.
“In essence, it [the revised Bangsamoro draft law] veered away from the CAB. It’s not just a simple language engineering,” Aba said, adding that the revisions were done to conform to the Philippine Constitution.
The MILF’s rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), also criticized the proposed Bangsamoro draft law.
Jimmy Labawan, the MNLF Vice Chairman and Central Committee Officer-in-charge, said that the Bangsamoro law would only create more problems among the Bangsamoro people as it is a “divide-and rule tactic of the Aquino administration.”
Romeo Sema, executive director of MNLF Council of 15, said “the [BBL] should be harmonized and connected with the 1996 Final peace agreement which is not fully implemented. Without these agreements harmonized, this would further make divides among the Bangsamoro people,” said Sema.
He said the draft law would practically abrogate the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.
Secession still on
Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF), said that BBL rejected the concept of having an independent Islamic state for Mindanao.
“We don’t support the BBL because it does not adhere to our end goal of having an Islamic state for Mindanao. The MILF has its own way of negotiating with the government. For BIFF, we won’t settle for anything less,” said Mama.
BIFF, which broke away with MILF on 2008, rejected the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a preliminary peace agreement signed between the government.
Since its formation, it has claimed to lead several tactical offensives against the Aquino government in a bid to continue with its seccesionist Moro struggle.
For Mama, the only way to resolve the decade-long Moro rebellion in Mindanao is to give what is due for the Bangsamoro people—their homeland Mindanao.
“Mindanao is for the Moro people. It is a fact based in history. We are only fighting for what we believe that is ours,” said Mama.
Sharing the pie with IPs
On October this year, the 75-man Adhoc Committee on the BBL conducted 34 series of public consultation in some key Mindanao cities and towns.
Among the issues raised in the consultations was the demand of indigenous peoples (IP) leaders to secure representation in the new Bangsamoro government.
Tribal leaders in Mindanao wanted more seats for IPs in the new Bangsamoro government to have equal representation of the various tribes.
“We want to have more reserved seats in the Bangsamoro government because we want to ensure that IPs are equally represented,” said Leonor Mokodef, vice-chair of Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Association.
Replacements, displacements, inclusion
Meanwhile, during the consultations, ARMM employees demanded for job security, fearing that they would be displaced once the new Bangsamoro entity’s parliamentary form of government replaces the current ARMM bureaucracy.
Datu Roonie Sinsuat, ARMM’s regional assembly speaker said that BBL suffers “constitutional issues” specifically on matters concerning labor rights and welfare of employees.
“There is no specific provision in the proposed BBL that recognizes the promotion of the welfare and protection of security of tenure of regular employees,” said Sinsuat.
Other provisions under the BBL, which are deemed “unconstitutional”, are the provisions creating a separate Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the proposed Bangsamoro region.
The provision that removes the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman over officials of the Bangsamoro region and the provision that allows 10 percent of the population of contiguous areas to seek inclusion in the Bangsamoro region are all deemed unconstitutional, according to groups.
The Senate Tax Study and Research Office also claimed that tax provisions under the proposed Bangsamoro law might not be compliant with the Philippine Constitution.
Open to further accommodation
MILF said it is open to changes in the BBL provisions.
“We explain our position that the case of the BBL is not an ordinary legislation. Its substance does not only reflect the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Four Annexes and the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, but the Parties ensured that the BBL has all the essential elements of these agreements in the proposed law,” the MILF said.
“The answer to this question cannot be a straight and blunt, because it entails a lot of sensitivity and reality. Our answer has been very consistent that the MILF trusts the collective wisdom of Congress to pass a good legislation. Congress, like any entities of government, wants the Moro question or problem to be solved,” the MILF added.
Its leaders said they are confident that the BBL “can address domestic peace and security concerns through the Bangsamoro government.”
Mohaquer Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said the Bangsamoro government would need the support of all sectors in its core territory to succeed.
“It will become a diplomatic, socio-economic and political arm of the Bangsamoro people that would continue to struggle for peace and development and the full realization of their aspiration for self-governance in the context of the right-to-self determination doctrine,” Iqbal said.
In preparation for 2016 elections, the MILF held last December 23 to 25, a symbolic launching of its newly formed United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) which Iqbal claimed as “quest to govern Mindanao’s Muslim groups and contemporary non-Muslim and indigenous hinterland folks through the Bangsamoro government.”
The event was held at the MILF’s main base, Camp Darapanan, located in Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of Maguindanao.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, said the proposed law would be passed before the 2016 elections.
“We aim to finalize the committee report (of the BBL) by February and present it to the plenary for deliberations, and approve it in plenary early March so that the President can sign it by March 30,” Rodriguez reportedly said.
He added that the Senate and the House plan to hold the bicameral conference committee meetings to reconcile possible conflicting provisions by March. (davaotoday.com)