Duterte signs EO creating new Bangsamoro Transition Commission

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, November 7, signed an executive order expanding the panel that will draft an "improved version" of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that failed to pass Congress in the previous Aquino administration. 

The creation of a Bangsamoro region to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will implement the peace deal between the government and Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The EO expands the current Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from 15 to 21 members to make the process "inclusive" of other interest groups. The MILF will have 11 members while the government will nominate 10 other members. 

"I am committed to the peace process. Maski 'yan lang magawa ko sa bayan ko, okay na (If that is the only thing I can do for my motherland, that's okay)," said Duterte after the signing ceremony at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang. 

Duterte reiterated the need to shift the system of government to federal to address the concerns of rebel groups. The MILF supports the shift to federalism, but maintains that the Bangsamoro region should be created before the shift to federalism. 

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the signing of the EO shows the sincerity of the Duterte administration to the peace process.

"I'm here to witness the rebirth of hope that we may finally achieve the fulfillment of the peace agreement," he said in a speech in Malacañang. 

MNLF faction to join BTC

The signing ceremony gathered members of the MILF Central Committee and a faction of rival group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, which agreed to work with the MILF.

The faction of MNLF founder Nur Misuari is not joining the BTC, however. 

Dureza said they are creating a separate panel to engage with Misuari and his group regarding their proposed amendments to the territory and powers of the ARMM. It will be up to Congress to consolidate two draft bills on the new Bangsamoro region. (READ: 2 separate panels for MILF, MNLF-Nur). 

The creation of the panel begins formal work on the draft bill that the MILF hopes Congress will enact in time for the 2019 polls, when leaders of the new region could be elected.

Both the government and the MILF will now finalize the list of people they will nominate to the BTC.

Aside from giving 3 slots to the MNLF-Sema faction, Dureza said they will also nominate representatives of ARMM and indigenous peoples (IPs).

Draft by 2017

Government panel chair Irene Santiago said the BTC is expected to submit a draft law to Congress "middle of next year." 

The original draft, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), failed to pass Congress during the Aquino administration following public outrage over the deaths of elite cops inside MILF territory.  

Duterte vowed to push for the passage of the law, but said it has to be revised to address concerns raised against it. He said the process should be "inclusive."

Santiago stressed that the peace process needs public support in order to succeed. – Rappler.com