Building consensus on the Bangsamoro Basic Law
By: Susan V. Ople
How do you draft a law based on a much-awaited historic political settlement brought about by formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front? The latter is the biggest Muslim secessionist movement in the Philippines, known for its well-entrenched organization including a highly motivated armed group. The former is a democratic government. That is the challenge that confronts not only the Office of the President that promised to submit the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law when Congress resumes its sessions on June 28, but also the MILF itself, as co-authors of the original draft law offered by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission led by no less than MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. The public, including legal luminaries, have yet to see either draft, thus contributing to the heightened suspense on how such a historic measure would be worded.
The question foremost in everyone’s mind is on the ability of both parties to compromise and agree on a draft law that would firmly stay within constitutional boundaries. Given the public uproar over the Supreme Court decision declaring some parts of the President’s budgetary initiatives called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional, it is but natural for the administration to be more cautious in submitting a crudely written law. President Benigno Aquino has staked his leadership and a great deal of political capital on the creation of a Bangsamoro regional autonomous government by 2016 through a plebiscite to be held next year. However, no plebiscite can take place until Congress approves an organic law creating the Bangsamoro.
Even among writers, no one really ends up with the original draft as the one meant for final publication. So it goes for draft legislation — it takes several hearings and consultations for its substance to be refined, polished, and approved for actual enactment. The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is expected to be as complex as the history that led to its drafting and as hefty as the reforms it seek to create.
Let us accompany this difficult phase in Mindanao’s peace journey with prayers and affirmations. To reach this far and give up cannot and should not be an option. Peace work, particularly for the southern Philippines where conflict has existed for the past 17 years, is truly not for the faint of heart.