THE 15-MAN Bangsamoro transition committee (BTC) will be racing against time and practically against federalism to draft a replacement to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was shelved by the previous Congress following a deadly clash that left 44 police commandos dead last year.
Members of the government peace panel left early Friday for Kuala Lumpur to activate the implementation phase of previously signed agreements with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said that the implementing stage of the Bangsamoro peace accords will be formally launched on Saturday, during which the composition of the BTC will be finalized to embark on two tasks: the crafting of an enabling law for the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB), and the drafting of proposed constitutional amendments.
Replacement of BBL
“The (Bangsamoro Peace and Development) Roadmap is for us to come together, get all the Bangsamoro groups to come together and then craft the replacement of the BBL that did not pass and recommend this to Congress for enactment and hopefully we can entrench and install the Bangsamoro government units as quickly as possible while our national government is working toward federalism as the end-game,” Dureza said.
Dureza said the government was hoping that an enabling law to expand a Muslim autonomous region would be signed soon.
“We hope for an early passage of an enabling law (for the CAB) that is inclusive and will converge all the signed agreements with the Bangsamoro,” he said at a news conference before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.
Dureza said that pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, could also be included to address concerns on indigenous peoples specifically in Mindanao.
He said they would work to come up with a draft “as soon as possible,” warning that it may be overtaken by moves in Congress to change the present system of government to federalism.
Dureza said it was urgent for all the stakeholders “to come together, work their differences, if any, and come up with a proposed inclusive enabling law that will already install the Bangsamoro government unit.”
“It is very important for us to enact the enabling law because the federalism track is going fast. What we hope to do, as a best case scenario, is to entrench the Bangsamoro government units while federalism is being pursued so that our enabling law on the Bangsamoro may become a pilot federal state,” he said.
Congress failed to enact the BBL last year after 44 Special Action Force commandos were slain in a clash with MILF forces in the southern town of Mamasapano following an operation to get a wanted foreign militant, who was also killed.
The commandos had strayed into an MILF territory, triggering a firefight. The MILF had defended its men, saying they were attacked and were left unaware of the police operation despite earlier agreements to inform each other of troop movements to avoid misencounters.
Debates had focused on the bill’s alleged infirmities, and some legislators said this may have helped lead to the deadly encounter. Congress went into recess without passing law.
The 12,000-strong MILF signed a peace deal in 2014, after 17 years of on and off negotiations.
Irene Santiago, who heads the implementing panel for the Bangsamoro peace accords, for her part expressed optimism about the future, noting that they do not necessarily have to wait for peace dividends to kick in despite the absence of an enabling law.
Santiago told the Inquirer she hoped the upcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur could result in the implementation of the recommendations of the transitional justice and reconciliation committee through the creation of a national commission that would address historical injustice, land dispossession and the grievances of the Bangsamoro.
“We have an agreement. Let’s now find ways to implement and to work together that we solve the problem,” she said.
Other delegates to talks include Interior Secretary Mike Sueno and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III had also committed to join the delegation for Monday’s courtesy call on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.