Bangsamoro Basic Law by 2014? Realistic but…

Angela Casauay
Will the peace process targets be met? It now depends on Congress.

CRUNCH TIME. The Transition Commission needs to finish drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of 2013 to make its 2014 passage in Congress possible. Photo by EPA/Rolex dela Pena

MANILA, Philippines – With the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) already in their final stages, solons say the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress before 2014 is realistic. 

But for Congress to be able to meet the deadline, the Transition Commission must finish drafting the Basic Law, which will serve as the legal basis for the new Bangsamoro political entity, before the end of 2013. 

Sulu 1st district Rep Tupay Loong said it would be “ideal” if the Transition Commission submits the Basic Law to Congress before the year ends. 

“Hopefully before 2013 will end this will already be submitted to Congress so we can utilize the first quarter of 2014 for scrutiny and plenary debate. After that the plenary will approve the law,” Loong said. 

The Transition Commission can only start drafting the Basic Law after the comprehensive peace agreement is signed and completed. On July 13, the government and the MILF finished the annex on wealth sharing, which contains one of the most difficult issues in the talks. Earlier, both sides signed the transition annex, which outlines the steps to be undertaken towards the creation of the Bangsamoro. 

The parties still have to finish two more annexes – on power sharing and normalization. The normalization annex tackles decommissioning of firearms and the creation of a police force. 

Once the Basic Law is drafted, it will be submitted to Congress. After the law is signed, it will be subjected to a plebiscite in areas covered by the proposed entity.

Congress needs to pass the Basic Law before 2014 so the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority can already be in place by 2015. This will ensure a smooth transition from the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao towards the new Bangsamoro political entity by 2016.

In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III asked Congress to pass the Basic Law by 2014. 

We’ll work on that’

But how much time would the Transition Commission need to finish drafting the law?

Transition Commission chairman and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal would rather not give an exact timeframe. 

In a text message, Iqbal said the Transition Commission will work to achieve the 2014 deadline. 

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012, the President will sign the draft law as urgent once it is submitted to Congress, paving the way for lawmakers to act on it fast. 

For Deputy Speaker and Lanao del Sur Rep Pangalian Balindong, the 2014 timeline should not only be regarded as realistic but also a must. “Actually, we have no alternative. The government cannot afford to drop the peace process. It would be too expensive on the part of our people,” Balindong said. 

Leaders of both chambers of Congress have affirmed their support for the Bangsamoro peace process. 

A day after the SONA, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr himself made a commitment for the swift passage of the Basic Law in Congress. 

In the Senate, Senate President Franklin Drilon also vowed to support the approval of the law. –

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