Peace process appears on track

All signs are leading to the resumption of the GPH-MILF peace process. This was secured after Secretary Jesus Dureza and the MILF Central Committee led by Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last July 21. Other points decided during the meeting were: Government will reconstitute its peace panel, now dubbed as GPH implementation panel (The MILF panel will still be the same, as has been constituted), and they will meet in early August in Kuala Lumpur; the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be ahead of the effort to change the form of government from unitary presidential to federal parliamentary; and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will be reconstituted to come up with a new proposed basic law. However, the issue of whether to enlarge the BTC’s membership from 15 to 17, 19 or 21 is lodged with the two panels to decide once they meet in Kuala Lumpur.

In addition, government has disclosed that it would nominate to the BTC one each from the MNLF (Misuari), MNLF (Moslemin Sema), indigenous people, sultanates, migrants, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The seventh nominee is still unclear, as of this date. One source disclosed that it would probably come from the MNLF under Abulkhayr Alonto.

This early, however, at least two major points emerged as stumbling blocks for the smooth passage of the proposed basic law: 1) the issue of unconstitutionality of some provisions of the BBL; and 2) policing in the Bangsamoro.

The first appeared most controversial. But if we go by the rule of law or practice that only the Supreme Court has the power to interpret the law and rule on its constitutionality, then we can save ourselves from further torment. No one, not even the best legal mind has the authority to rule on this issue. Jokingly, the best legal mind and the lousiest of men and women are at par in this case. Seriously, the BBL had passed through various levels of intense debates to sanitize it from constitutional infirmities, from the level of the peace panels when they discussed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on which basis the BBL was crafted, in the BTC, between the two peace panels when the BBL was sent back to them to settle the issues as result of the heavy revisions made by the Office of the President (OP), and finally between the OP led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and BTC-MILF led by Mohagher Iqbal. On both sides, they were backed up by their respective legal teams.

That is why the BBL that came out of these multi-layer decision engagements is referred to as “Agreed Version” of the BBL. Moreover, the engagement did not stop here: All the remaining undecided points were elevated to the two Parties’ Principals for resolution. On policing, it is not so controversial, contrary to views by other people. It is mainly an issue concerning public order and safety, which is already granted by law to the ARMM. The provision of the BBL on policing, dubbed as Bangsamoro Police, is just a little improvement of policing provided for by the R.A. 9054. Article XIII, Section 2 of this Law provided that: “There is hereby created a Philippine National Police Regional Command for the autonomous region, hereafter called the Special Security Force (SRSF) or Regional Police Force, in short.” 

Assuredly, the provision of the BBL on policing did not break the chain of command of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Bangsamoro Police is part of the PNP. Moreover, if this country succeeds to federalize itself, then necessarily policing, which is maintaining public order and safety, has to be lodged on the various federal states, otherwise the very essence of sharing of powers or authority inherent in a federal setup deemed meaningless; after all, national defence and security is the sole domain of the central or federal government. Also, the organization and operationalization of the Bangsamoro Police is tied up to the second phase of the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants.

The prospect of passing the basic law under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte is greater than any time in the past. Time element is on the side of the new President, he is extremely popular, and he is not anti-Moro. He is the only President that openly admitted that this country had committed a historical injustice against the Muslims, nay Moros, in Mindanao.