MANILA, Philippines – How exactly will the Bangsamoro peace deal work?
Government panel chair Marvic Leonen on Monday, October 8, addressed reporters' questions on the Framework Agreement reached by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Framework Agreement, which was announced Sunday, October 7, will form a new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Based on Leonen's press conference, Rappler pieced together questions and answers on the Bangsamoro. Feel free to ask questions, too, and contribute to this conversation.
ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BANGSAMORO
Is the Bangsamoro an amended ARMM?
During negotiations, the MILF said they want to replace the entire ARMM, according to Leonen. "It is important for us to understand that it is, well, a replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao."
“Of course, realistically we should understand that there are already institutions within the ARMM. There are local governments there and, if you notice, the local government structure is not touched," Leonen said.
He said to “replace” it, however, is part of the MILF's language, and needs to be accommodated. “If you want to strike a bargain between the two so that both are in the same roadmap towards a more peaceful accommodation of their interest and decades of war then, therefore, we will have to accommodate the language of each other in order to reach that kind of a framework agreement,” Leonen said.
Who is considered Bangsamoro by identity?
Under the Framework Agreement, “those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.”
Leonen explained that the words “ascription” and “self-ascription” come from international legal instruments.
“Ibig sabihin po no'n, 'pag binansagan kang Bangsamoro, may option ka na sabihing, 'Hindi ako Bangsamoro.' Kapag hindi ka Bangsamoro pero tingin mo Bangsamoro ka, puwede mong tawagin ang sarili mong Bangsamoro,” he said.
(That means if you are called Bangsamoro, you have the option to say, “I am not Bangsamoro.” If you are not Bangsamoro but you think you are, you can call yourself Bangsamoro.)
“There is Bangsamoro, the place; there is Bangsamoro, the identity.”
The Bangsamoro region shall take a ministerial form. What does this mean?
“Ministerial means that genuine political parties will dominate, and try to capture seats that are allocated, maybe, to various geographical areas or probably the presenting certain sectors. And then these political parties will select who will execute, who will be the chief minister for now maybe, who will act with the powers of the government,” Leonen said.
He noted the Constitution does not prohibit a ministerial form of government. “The discussions in the Constitutional Commission point to the idea that there should be accommodated certain kinds of government within the area within a natural structure. And therefore, I beg to disagree. There is nothing in the Constitution which prevents that area from having a ministerial form of government.”
ON THE BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW
What is the timetable for crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law?
The MILF wants the Bangsamoro Basic Law to come out within the term of President Benigno Aquino III, according to Leonen.
“The timetable... is that there should be an exercise to ratify the Bangsamoro Basic Law prior to 2016, which is the time when this administration will have to hand over the reins of government to a new set of public officials. So therefore, the timetable is before 2016, working it backwards,” he said.
What will happen to the ARMM judicial system under the Bangsamoro set-up?
The Bangsamoro Basic Law shall shape the judicial system, “but definitely the civil courts will be maintained.” “Definitely sharia courts will be there, and sharia, of course, will apply only to Muslims and not to non-Muslims, obviously, and there will also be a process for indigenous rights,” Leonen said.
The Bangsamoro judicial system will not be independent of the Supreme Court, Leonen added, as the Constitution mandates. “There is always one Supreme Court,” he said.
ON REVENUE GENERATION AND WEALTH SHARING
What formula will be used in wealth-sharing?
There is no specific formula yet. “The provisions are quite broad now... The framework agreement contains principles.”
How will the agreement address historical violence in the area?
Leonen said violence is partly caused by the lack of fiscal autonomy. The latter, in turn, is partly two-pronged: poor collections on one hand, a small tax base on another.
“The tax base is very small because there are no businesses wanting to invest there. But fix the peace and order problem in that area, that area can have a lot of businesses that would come in,” he said.
What barangays will be included in the Bangsamoro?
Leonen said to be included are the barangays that voted “yes” in the 2011 plebiscite to approve Republic Act 9054, or the Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the ARMM.
Considering this context, the two parties have committed to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and a new plebiscite on the core areas to be included. “Even those that are currently under the ARMM will be asked again: 'Do you want to be part of the Bangsamoro?' I don't think that you can be more democratic than that."
What if people reject the Bangsamoro entity in the plebiscite?
“If it is not agreed upon by the people themselves, there is no mandate, then therefore that's it. It will mean that there will be no Bangsamoro, and that is the consequence,” Leonen said.
But he said the public shouldn't be negative-minded about the peace deal. “Why don't we give this a try?"
How can those from other regions help in forming the Bangsamoro?
“The Constitution is very clear. The Constitution says that when an autonomous region is created, the plebiscite shall only be in the areas affected by the autonomous region. So I would say that perhaps, you can participate by reading (the Framework Agreement), giving your own comments. Then (we'll) be responding to those comments."
ON BASIC RIGHTS
How will the deal make up for lands taken unjustly?
The Framework Agreement mandates reparation for lands taken away through “unjust dispossession.” The “fundamental bedrock” of this provision, according to Leonen, is this statement: “Vested property rights shall be recognized and respected.”
“Of course, those who will claim that the title issued to another person is not legal can always go to a court of law. But if that person does not succeed and, in a process to be agreed upon by the party, it can be fully shown that some of the titles were not taken in a just manner, then, on the basis of the evidence that will be perhaps presented by the parties, then they will decide (whether) that right can be repaired or compensated,” he explained.
Section VI states: "The central government shall ensure the protection of the rights of the Bangsamoro people residing outside the territory of the Bangsamoro." What does this mean?
“That phrase means that if you were an Ilocano living outside the Ilocos, the state will also take care of you. If you were a Bangsamoro resident in Greenhills, the state will also take care of your rights.”
The provision was included “because they requested,” said Leonen, referring to the MILF.
ON TRANSITION AND IMPLEMENTATION
Who will comprise the Transition Commission?
Leonen said there is no specific set-up for the Transition Commission yet. “We just agreed that all the members of the Transition Commission shall be Bangsamoro, which means coming from the area, which means having some relation to the area."
Leonen said this responds to sentiments that Muslims are underrepresented in Congress. “Bakit palagi ang paggawa ng batas ay nanggagaling sa Kongreso, hindi galing sa amin?” he said, relaying the MILF's concerns. (Why is it that crafting laws always begins with Congress, not with us?)
“And this is the answer: a Transition Commission that is all-Bangsamoro, collating information and ideas from the area, crafting a Bangsamoro Basic Law, submitting it to Congress, and therefore following the constitutional process of actually coming out with an organic act,” Leonen said.
Is the government open to constitutional amendments to implement the peace deal?
The Framework Agreement allows the Transition Commission to work on proposals to amend the Constitution. This will allow the Constitution to accommodate and entrench the parties' agreements “whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements.”
“But there is no commitment there that such proposals are going to be acted upon by Congress,” Leonen said, emphasizing that Charter change isn't necessarily the transition's consequence.
He said, however, that the government sees it unnecessary for now to amend the Constitution. “We think that the commitments made there by the government are indeed within the parameters of the Constitution or, should I say, within the flexibilities of the existing Constitution."
What are the assurances that both parties will honor the peace deal?
“Peace agreements are political commitments made by one party to the other. Although we can put numbers, we can put dates in the agreement, in the ultimate analysis, it is the good faith of both sides. It is in the good faith of both sides that the agreement is implemented,” Leonen said.
How will the so-called normalization phase take place?
The Framework Agreement stated the principles of normalization, a framework that ensures “human security” to allow communities to “return to conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life.” The agreement said both parties will negotiate the timetables for the normalization and the decommissioning of forces.
Leonen said it is the first time that the MILF made a commitment on paper that they will decommission their forces. “Therefore, there will be a gradual decommissioning of MILF forces until they are put beyond use.”
While the normalization takes place, the Philippine National Police will transfer some law enforcement functions to a reform police.
How will the Framework Agreement address the problem of private armies or privately owned firearms?
Under the Framework Agreement, both parties will work toward reducing and controlling firearms in the area.
“Importante po 'yon kasi mahirap hong mag-decommission ng isang grupo na 'yung ibang armed groups ay hindi nagde-decommission,” Leonen said, describing this part of the Framework Agreement as a “breakthrough.” (This is important because it's difficult to have one group decommission without having other armed groups decommission their firearms.)
But he said decommissioning of firearms will not happen quickly. It is, after all, a “centuries-old problem.”
“Hindi po madali na i-surrender 'yung firearms immediately upon the signing of just a document. Kailangan po may makita na delivery ng political promises on the side of the government,” Leonen explained. (It's not easy to surrender firearms immediately upon the signing of just a document. There has to be a delivery of political promises on the side of the government.)
Will the Bangsamoro police force be part of the Philippine National Police?
“The Bangsamoro is part of the Republic of the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines is governed by one Constitution. The police force, if it is created, now will be part of the national police system,” Leonen said.
How different is the Framework Agreement from the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008?
The MOA-AD dealt with ancestral domain or natural resource rights, according to Leonen. The Framework Agreement deals with the “final political settlement” that specifically defines the government, which “is now a ministerial or would be or could be a ministerial form of government.”
Another key difference in the Framework Agreement, Leonen said, is the plebiscite requirement. “In this agreement, it is very clear that democratic mandate is necessary,” he said, noting that with the MOA-AD, the government “committed to deliver already without a plebiscite.”
He said the new Framework Agreement will go through an “inclusive” process.
What other questions do you have about the Framework Agreement? Tell us more! – Rappler.com
Read the full text of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
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Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.