Bangsamoro draft law complete but needs polishing – Iqbal

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission races against time to finish drafting the law that will provide the legal framework for the new political entity

DIFFERENT HAT. With the peace pact signed, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal goes full blast in leading the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – With the historic final peace agreement now signed, all eyes are now focused on the next step in the roadmap: the crafting of the proposed law for the Bangsamoro political entity. 

The 1st draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is complete but still needs polishing, said Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chairman Mohagher Iqbal, who also served as the chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“We have the first draft. And then it would undergo several processes especially in relation to hard issues,” Iqbal said in a press conference at the Manila Hotel Friday, March 28 – a day after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. (INFOGRAPHIC: Bangsamoro peace deal)

The hard issues have to do with “internal processes” within the 15-member commission, according to Iqbal. 

“Some members of the commission are legalistic. Some are very rigid and some are viewing the process as a political document. Of course, the signed documents are political documents and we will translate that into a legal document. There lies the difficulty,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the possibility that the BTC could beat its self-imposed deadline to submit the Basic Law by March 31 is “very remote.” Iqbal earlier said the BTC wants to finish the draft law by the end of March or early April. 

In crafting the proposed law, the 15-member Transition Commission divided themselves into 5 committees –  basic rights, culture, social justice, and indigenous peoples’ matters; transitory provisions, constitutional amendments, revisions and miscellaneous matters; political autonomy; fiscal autonomy; and justice and security matters.

Each team is in charge of coming up with a draft for their specific areas but the consolidated version of the draft will be approved and decided by the commission as a whole. 

The Transition Commission will submit to Malacañang the final draft of the basic law once completed. Malacañang will then transmit the draft law to Congress. President Benigno Aquino III has committed to certify the measure as urgent. 

Congress is currently on recess. Lawmakers will report back for work on May 5. 

In his speech during the signing of the final peace pact between the government and the MILF Thursday, March 27, Aquino said his administration will go “all out” in forging a “principled consensus” for lasting peace. 

I expect the deliberations in Congress to be characterized by a sincere desire to improve on the Bangsamoro Basic Law—and not by self-interest that only aims to perpetuate an untenable status quo. I will not let peace be snatched from my people again. Not now, when we have already undertaken the most difficult and most significant steps to achieve it,” he said. 

Pass law before election fever sets in

Lawmakers said they will make sure to scrutinize the Bangsamoro Basic Law when it reaches the halls of Congress. 

Earlier, leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives vowed to pass the measure before end-2014  – a timeline that Iqbal said is most ideal. 

“This [year] is the best time to pass the Basic Law because next year, iba na ang ihip ng hangin (the sentiment in the air will change). Election fever will set in. By first quarter of next year, something should have already been accomplished,” Iqbal said. 

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) gives rise to a new region with greater political powers and fiscal autonomy than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which it is expected to replace.  

Once Congress approves the measure, people will ratify and vote for their inclusion in the Bangsamoro in a plebiscite that will be held in areas identified in the CAB.

An interim government to be led by the MILF will take over to aid the transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro until the election of new officials in the 2016 elections.

Once the transition is complete, the MILF and the government will sign an exit agreement signifying that the final peace pact has been fully implemented. –

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