Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GRP-MILF Framework, a step towards the right path

The whole of Mindanao rejoiced after President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Al Haj Murad of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formally met and signed the peace agreement which will lead to the creation of a state known as Bangsamoro.

Government has allocated 8.59 billion pesos on top of the already 12.93 billion already allocated from the 2.006 trillion budget of 2013. These monies will support the Transition Investment Support Plan.

As what had been clarified through numerous statements, the one signed in Malacanang yesterday was just a "framework". What are the contents of this framework?

First, it recognizes that the ruling or prevailing governmental setup right now in Mindanao is unacceptable; therefore, this should be replaced by a ministerial form of government called "Bangsamoro". This form shall be created through the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Basic Law will be crafted by the Bangsamoro government and "correlated" with national laws.

What are the powers reserved to the Bangsamoro government?

First, the Bangsamoro exercises the power of taxation (no. 2 of IV. Revenue Sharing and Wealth sharing, of the GRP-MILF Peace Agreement). It has also the power to enter into loan agreements and accept financial grants (no. 3). However, when a loan requires sovereign guarantees, it has to go thru the Central Government.

Second, the Bangsamoro shall have the power to exploit its own resources (no. 4), subject to a sharing agreement which was not expressed in the document itself. 

Third, the Bangsamoro shall have its own auditing body subject the rules of the Commission on Audit.

Fourth, the Bangsamoro shall be given political and civil rights. Fifth, the Bangsamoro is given the power to police its ranks, but external defense shall be provided for by the Central Government.

There is a provision in the agreement which says, thus:

The functions of the Transition Commission are as follows:
a. To work on the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law with provisions consistent with all agreements entered and that may be entered into by the Parties;
b. To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and  entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements;

Even in this agreement, there is a recognition that the Philippine Constitution will be "amended" for the "purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the parties...without derogating from any prior peace agreements."

ARMM, the body now ruling the Bangsamoro territory, was created shortly after the GRP and then, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) entered into numerous political commitments to end the war in Mindanao. 

The inclusion of the ARMM governmental setup is a political commitment by the GRP with the old MNLF. This explains why there is a concrete provision in the Constitution allowing for the establishment of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and was thereafter, named ARMM through an organic law crafted and passed by Congress. 

Now, how would the Bangsamoro unilaterally replace the ARMM without "derogating from any prior peace agreement", when the very concept of autonomy granted by the Central Government to the Bangsamoro is being abolished thru another agreement entered by government with another entity, not the MNLF?

The GRP cannot satisfy its commitment with the MILF without first, entering into an agreement with the MNLF, abolishing the previous political commitment of granting them an autonomous region. Why? This political commitment was entered into by the Philippine State with that of the MNLF, which, by that time, enjoyed a belligerency status as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). 

Fact is, because of the OIC status of the MNLF, this political commitment towards autonomy was included in the basic law of the Republic. Therefore, this issue with the MNLF must be addressed first by the GRP even before it moves towards pressuring Congress to establish a Transition Authority.

Of course, I do agree on the abolition of the ARMM since this entity was really a frustration among Bangsamoros. But, we need to do this correctly.

I hate to say this but the GRP and the MILF cannot bilaterally agree to abolish the ARMM without first, abolishing the ARMM Basic Code. One, the changes envisioned in this GRP-MILF Peace agreement is not merely a change of name, but a substantial change in the character of the government being proposed to be established there. This is not just an autonomous region being created but a "sub-state"---or correctly termed as a minority nationalist state.

In the transition phase, yes, the concept of autonomy is still there, however, beyond the transition phase lies a more daunting task---that of establishing a ministerial form which deviates from the initial form of an autonomous region as envisioned in the Constitution. This is a substantial revision of the first political commitment, and deserves nothing short of a revision or amendment of the current provisions in the Constitution. 

The view currently proposed by the OPAPP is more of appeasing oppositive views rather than legal. Our peace negotiators said it will just take the customary powers of Congress to effect the change proposed in this draft. 

I agree that, yes, the ARMM Code can be abolished anytime by Congress. Since the source of the Code was Congress, it is within the powers of Congress to pass another Code. 

However, when the basic governmental structure is now being discussed, parties cannot then avoid discussing the amendment of the current Constitution. Why? Because Congress does not have the power to insert a ministerial form of government in an "autonomous region" clause of the Philippine Constitution. The "autonomous region" clause in Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution mimicks that of a presidential, Republican form of government which is dissimilar with that being proposed by the GRP-MILF. The form is still very much similar with that of the Central government but enjoys "extra" autonomy in several areas. 

Of course, I agree that the present form envisaged by the MILF in the agreement is more consistent with that envisioned by all Bangsamoros. However, for this to materialize, the Constitution must be revised.