Duterte set to sign EO on new Bangsamoro Transition Council

Carmela Fonbuena
Representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are expected to join the body that will draft a revised law creating the new Bangsamoro region

FIRST PRESIDENT FROM MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte wears a conical hat during the launch of the Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other Conflict-Affected Areas in Regions 9, 10, and 12 at Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on October 29, 2016. Photo by Simeon Celi Jr/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to sign “anytime this week” the draft executive order creating the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC) that will resume formal work revising the proposed law that will create the new Bangsamoro region.

“It could be anytime this week. It is with the President now,” said Patmei Bello Ruivivar, communications director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. 

A Cabinet meeting is scheduled on Thursday, November 3. 

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will dominate the BTC, but representatives of rival group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are also expected to join the body. 

“GPH nominees will include MNLF leaders. I don’t know who are they,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told Rappler.

The creation of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is an implementation of a peace agreement signed in March 2014 between the MILF and the previous Aquino administration. 

The ARMM, created after a 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the government and the MNLF, was declared “a failed experiment.” Followers of MNLF leader Nur Misuari protested the peace process with its breakaway group, the MILF. Misuari then launched the 2013 Zamboanga siege

But it was the public outrage – sparked by the bloody encounter between government forces and the MILF and private armed groups in MILF territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 2015 – that derailed the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Constitutional issues were raised in Congress, which failed to put the bill to plenary vote. 

Duterte supports the creation of a new Bangsamoro region, but said a proposed law should be revised to address concerns regarding the constitutionality of provisions that grant wider powers to the Bangsamoro region. 

Duterte said it should also be “inclusive”, taking into consideration inputs from all interest groups.  

The previous BTC had 15 members – 8 coming from the MILF and 7 chosen by the government. Based on agreements during the August 2016 meeting, the new BTC is expected to have 21 members to accommodate 11 MILF members and 10 government nominees. 

Expectations are high from the first president from Mindanao, but delays in the signing of the EO creating the BTC – despite the August 2016 meeting – prompted concerns that the Duterte administration will relegate to the sidelines the creation of the Bangsamoro region to prioritize efforts to shift the country’s form of government from a unitary to a federal system. 

A federal form of government is believed to address the constitutionality issues raised against the bill.

But the MILF maintained that there are no unconstitutional provisions in the derailed BBL. The rebel group also argued that the Bangsamoro region should be created first before the Duterte administration moves to change the form of government. (READ: Federalism? Bangsamoro law first, MILF tells Duterte) – Rappler.com