What happens after MILF peace agreement is signed

Posted at 03/26/2014 9:03 PM

MANILA - Butch Panegel Malang is a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He is in Manila now, not for an armed offensive, but as a witness for peace.

From the jungles of Mindanao, he arrived Wednesday in the metropolis, a day head of the signing of an agreement that is envisaged to finish the war he fought for so long.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that will be signed Thursday has 5 component documents. They are the framework agreement signed in 2012 and separate annexes on revenue generation and wealth sharing, normalization, power sharing, and transitional arrangement.

Once signed, the comprehensive agreement will pave the way for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to finalize a draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The BBL will implement the provisions of the agreement.

The BTC's draft BBL will be reviewed by the Palace prior to submission to Congress by June.

The administration hopes to enact the BBL by yearend and submit it to voters in a plebiscite by early 2015.

Once ratified in a plebiscite, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will replace the current ARMM.

This will be a holdover until officials of a new Bangsamoro government are elected in the 2016 elections.

The new Bangsamoro government will be led by a chief minister, who is elected from the members of the Bangsamoro assembly.

The assemblymen will be the ones elected by the public during the election.

Aside from prescribing the form of government and powers of the new Bangsamoro entity, the agreement also details the powers of the Bangsamoro government vis-à-vis the national government.

This early, the Aquino administration said the road won't be easy.

For one, politics attendant to the 2016 elections may find its way into the issue.

NOW FOR THE HARD PART

Signing the peace agreement with the MILF on Thursday is neither the end nor the easiest part of the peace process.

Both Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said what happens after the peace agreement is the tough part.

Once the peace agreement is signed, the next step is getting Congress to enact a BBL that will reorganize the existing ARMM to reflect the provisions of the peace pact.

Deles has been meeting lawmakers to shepherd the bill, which is still being drafted by the BTC, for submission to Malacanang this month.

"Hindi ito magiging madali, pagpapatupad ng commitments sa agreement," she said.

Deles said in the government's time table, the next milestone is the submission of the draft Bangsamoro law.

She said this early, there are concerns on the ground about the implementation of the peace agreement, particularly how it will be affected by the election of officials to the Bangsamoro that will coincide with the 2016 presidential elections.

"Elections are political alliances," she said.

Gonzales also expressed the same apprehension. "I think politics, being the national past time... although sana huwag mangyari it will influence so many things."

POSSIBLE HURDLES

The concerns don't end there. Gonzales, who is expected to shepherd the bill in Congress, sees some possible hurdles.

They include quorum, for instance, and there may not always be enough warm bodies to attend the sessions.

"Any bill for that matter, quorum. I do believe members of Congress are responsible enough," he said.

Gonzales also expects lengthy debates and questions on the bill, especially from the 50-member Mindanao bloc of lawmakers.

"Kailangan may enough briefing and reaching out sa members ng Mindanao solons," he said.

In the past, Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat expressed concerns on the constitutionality of the peace agreement.

He also doesn't think that the abolition of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which in the past was used as carrot and stick to ensure legislative support for administration measures, will be a factor.

Deles also thinks similarly.

"We maintain that the law should be passed on its own merit," she said. "Everyone understands this is important not just for Bangsamoro... but for entire country. "

SHORT CUT

This early, Deles and Gonzales are seeing a solution to expedite things and work around the legislative calendar, which allows many breaks in the congressional sessions.

Gonzales said once the bill is filed, with possibly Speaker Sonny Belmonte as the author, a special ad hoc committee will be formed to tackle it and dispense with the need for other committees to tackle the bill separately.

He also laid out a timetable: if the bill is filed in June when Congress goes on sine die adjournment, Congress can tackle it at the committee level after the President delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address in July.

It can be tackled before the 2015 budget bill hits plenary because under the rules, the budget bill takes precedence over any other measure.

He is also looking at reducing congressional breaks. He expects the budget deliberations to span all of September.

Deles is also optimistic that a similar arrangement may happen at the Senate. "Everyone understands this is very important. We have a narrow window."

Deles also counts on presidential powers of persuasion to get the job done, even without PDAF. "Were also looking at this piece of legislation as being historical. We can count on leadership to want to be part of that."

SENATE PRIORITY

Senate President Franklin Drilon in a statement Monday, said the proposed law will be given utmost priority in the upper Chamber.

"The Senate is more than ready to work on the new Bangsamoro basic law - one that would be universally fair, practical and Constitutionally-consistent. The public can expect our commitment to the Bangsamoro not only for the sake of national progress, but also for the welfare and future of the entire Southeast Asian region," he said.

In the next few days, Malang will return home to Mindanao, armed with cautious optimism that this agreement will not be made of promises that that will be broken.