Bangsamoro law: Mission possible?

Susan V. Ople
Susan V. Ople

Susan V. Ople

By: Susan V. Ople

The much-awaited draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law may finally see the light of day after the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submits its second version to the Office of the President this week.

Missed deadlines and a flurry of bill-drafting workshops have made the draft measure the object of public curiosity, given its critical importance to the Mindanao peace process and holding of a plebiscite next year.

What would the Bangsamoro Basic Law contain? It is expected to stamp the congressional seal of approval on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed last March between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the most organized secessionist movement in Mindanao.

The CAB has four annexes and one addendum that delineates wealth and power-sharing provisions, geographical territories envisioned to fall under the regional government of the Bangsamoro, transition modalities, details governing the Bangsamoro waters, and a normalization agreement that will result in the decommissioning of arms. All that information must now be put forward to members of Congress for deliberations through a series of public hearings involving various stakeholders.

Laudable is the patience, if not downright tolerance and understanding, exhibited by both parties in reaching an agreement for this landmark legislative proposal. The comprehensive peace agreement was a product of lengthy negotiations, and at times the give-and-take nature of such talks is not conducive to neat, cohesive linguistic narratives that are easily translatable to legislation.

That same patience and understanding will be tested over and over as the legislative discussions begin, and verbal skirmishes over territory, definitions, and turfs play out before the public.

The MILF as the other party to this historic agreement will be scrutinized as well, especially by the non-Mindanao’s, who have the ear of most legislators particularly the senators. President Benigno Aquino has his work cut out for him. As the chief peacemaker, he will have to lead the campaign for the Bangsamoro basic law, mobilizing political allies for its approval.

For observers, it is important to always look at this draft law from history’s perspective, and with an eye toward the long-term development of Mindanao. Peace is worth the struggle of going the extra mile in the other side’s shoes, and not let the usual political grandstanding hijack a peace agreement that took 17 years of negotiations to finally complete.

Based on the agreed upon timeline, the draft Bangsamoro basic law must be passed toward the end of the year of at the very least, by early next year, to pave the way for a plebiscite to determine the areas under the Bangsamoro political entity. A Bangsamoro Transition Authority will then be installed until the first regional Bangsamoro elections will be held simultaneously with the national elections in 2016.

Legislators are expected to do their homework in studying the draft law once certified by President Aquino as urgent. They must be mindful of the ticking clock, the rising hopes, and history’s watchful eyes. The delays have put them on notice — the success of the peace process will soon be in the hands of Congress. Let the debates begin!




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