Transition Commission holds 1st session in Bangsamoro heartland


MANILA, Philippines – A month after their first ceremonial meeting in Metro Manila, the Transition Commission held a two-day session at the heartland of the Bangsamoro in Cotabato City on April 30 and May 1.

Led by its chairman Mohagher Iqbal, the 15-member team agreed on the process to be followed in establishing the inner workings of the commission, including its organizational chart and internal rules and regulations.

“The Commission recognizes the need to ensure that our structures and processes will facilitate the Commission’s agenda,” Iqbal said in a statement.

“Thus, we have adopted a process including the creation of working committees to facilitate extensive discussions among the Commissioners as well as consultations with experts in order to evolve a professional and efficient structures and processes,” it added.

Iqbal, who also serves as the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the ongoing peace talks with the government, described the meetings as “engaging, cordial and productive.”

To provide inputs to the tasks that lie ahead, key resource persons on the fields of constitution-making and public advocacy conducted a seminar for the commissioners on the first day of the meeting.

The speakers included two experts from Kenya -- constitutional lawyer Professor Yash Ghai and public participation and advocacy expert Dr Jill Cottrell – and Atty Nasser Marohamsalic, who discussed lessons from the Regional Consultative Commission of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

Dean Benedicto Bacani of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance served as the facilitator.

The commission will meet again later in May. 

Also scheduled to meet later this month are the respective peace panels of the government and the MILF. They are set to meet in Kuala Lumpur after the May 13 elections to agree on the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization that will complement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012. 

In the last round of the talks, the government and the MILF failed to sign the wealth-sharing annex after the Aquino government asked for more time to review the details of the annexes.

The commission needs the signed comprehensive agreement before they can start drafting the Basic Law that will serve as the legal basis for the Bangsamoro political identity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

‘Joint project’ 

To open the first session of the commission in Cotabato on Tuesday, Iqbal once again highlighted the Transition Commission’s role as the first “partnership in action” between the MILF and the government.

“For this partnership to work, we shall exert every effort  to reach a consensus on major decisions,” Iqbal said. “We will demonstrate to the world that the Bangsamoro is united and one behind the formula for peace that will be crafted as our Basic Law. We must promote an environment of cooperation not confrontation in this august body."

Iqbal made a commitment to “evolve a Commission that is consultative, inclusive, transparent, professional and accountable in order to get the public’s trust and support.”

“The eyes of the nation and the world are upon us and in people’s minds, the question lingers whether we can rise above the general perception that the Moro people are  incapable of leading and acting in a responsible, democratic and accountable way,” he said.

As the commission works on adopting its internal rules and regulations, Iqbal said that he will “take the lead” as chairman in ensuring that the commission’s structures, work plans and internal rules “will promote not inhibit our collective goals towards professionalism, democratic governance and public participation.”