Commissioners exit, BTC stays

There has been various new views or proposals on how to translate into law called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is provided for in a political agreement known as Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).  This agreement, which contained the political solution to the Bangsamoro Question or Problem, had been signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the presence of international personalities, including two heads of state, on March 27, 2014.

As of now, the original BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is being archived. The 16th Congress did not pass it. For what reasons, we are aware of many of them but they are already in the dustbin of history. Only the hard lessons-learned therefrom are of use to us, the peace-makers.

With the advent of the new administration under President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, renewed interests as well as new ideas are growing up toward either refiling the original BBL immediately or a new version, not the BLBAR, of course, will be crafted. One such idea to do it is to hold an all-Bangsamoro convention. While such idea can help in a way, but if it seeks to replace or replicate what has been agreed by the Parties in negotiations contained in the CAB, then certainly it is not acceptable. But if it endorses or suggests ways to enhance or improve what has been agreed by the Parties, then it is in the right direction. 

The body that rightly has this responsibility should be the BTC. Its term of office, as provided for in both the CAB and the two Executive Orders especially the second, Executive Order No. 187, s. 2015 amending Executive Order No. 120, s. 2012, shall cease upon the enactment of the BBL and its ratification by the people called for the purpose. The BBL was not passed, much more ratified by the people; hence the BTC, as a body, still exists. However, as of June 30, this year, all the BTC Commissioners are considered resigned. It is up to the next administration to reconstitute this body. The truth is that it is only through this body that the MILF, which is still a revolutionary organization, can engage all agencies of government especially Congress. 

By the way, to refresh ourselves, the BBL presented to Congress during a ceremony in Malacañang Palace on September 10, 2014 is rightly called the “agreed version”, because it had passed through four levels of engagements. The original version crafted and signed by all BTC Commissioners were heavily revised by the Office of the President (OP). Overwhelmed by the revisions, the BTC elevated the issue to the two peace panels for clarification, discussion, and resolution. Virtually touching only the surface, the OP and BTC-MILF peace panel took over the discussion, and they succeeded to settle all outstanding issues except seven which required the intervention of the two Parties’ principals. 

The MILF is not unmindful of the tedious legislative process, its intricacies and dynamisms nor of the plenary power of Congress over legislation. This is the reason that in 2015 Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had written letters to both Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte apprising them that while the MILF is batting for the passage of the original BBL but it is open to enhancing or improving the proposed law. This is a way to show high respect to the two national leaders but at the same time to stress the need to uphold the sanctity of obligations contained in signed agreements.

The BBL is not an ordinary piece of legislation. It was and still is in the nature of a legislated agreement. Thus, it should conform to the letter and spirit of the CAB, which is an obligation of the Parties especially the government. When the GPH Peace Panel signed the CAB, it is signing in behalf of the Government of the Philippines (GPH); and therefore, it is government responsibility to deliver its share of the responsibility to enact a CAB-compliant BBL.  Only this kind of law will put the Bangsamoro Question or Problem to rest.