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A critical look at the BBL and the BANGSAMORO

Posted on 27 January 2015 by Farj

Guiamel Alim
Chair, Council of Leaders (CoL)
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)

The BANGSAMORO is the envisioned new political autonomy that will replace the ARMM. The proposed new political entity builds on the FPA of 1996 signed by the Philippine government and the MNLF. After a three year transition that ended up in a plebiscite in 1999, the said agreement found its legal expression in RA 9054 known as the expanded autonomy in Muslim Mindanao. RA 9054 is heavily criticized for its failure to improve the lives of the Bangsamoro, thus a “failed experiment”. The reasons for its failure was not however clear. Was it due to management and leadership? Was it due to lack of power and resources? Or is it the combination of the two and other factors?
The rationale of the GPH and the MILF peace process which commenced even less than a year after the signing of the FPA in 1996 is found in the recommendation of a study conducted by the NUC in 1995. In that study one of the 6 paths to peace recommended is to negotiate with all other revolutionary groups in the country that includes the NDF-CPP and its split groups, RAM and the MILF.
The GPH and the MILF peace negotiations dragged for 14 years from the presidency of Fidel Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo. It however succeeded to sign a final accord with the Aquino administration after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in April 2013. The latter was the basis of the draft BBL submitted to the congress last October 2014.
What does the proposed BBL offer?
The draft BBL, after much delayed, has already been submitted by the office of the president to the congress as an urgent bill. It took 4 months for the OP to study and a month of joint review and revision with the MILF before a final version was agreed.
It can be safe to presume that the final version is a good legal framework, the fact that the MILF accepted it. The congress will further scrutinize the BBL and make the final draft. They (congress) will hold consultations and public hearings to “listen” to the people.
According to a senator, the BBL will undergo screening tests from the congress (both the senate and the house) and the Supreme Court and finally from the people. The senate is curious on the question of constitutionality while the lower house will look at the contentious provisions. The people will decide to approve or disapprove the Basic Law in a plebiscite. While the senator is optimistic that the BBL will be ultimately passed, he is not sure how many percent of the original draft submitted by the president will hold.
What are in the BBL that are not in RA 9054?
Are the differences or gaps substantial that they can make a difference in the lives of the Bangsamoro? In the power-sharing scheme, it is said that the draft BBL has broader powers than what is available in RA 9054. In terms of wealth-sharing, the BM would have more shares in the mineral resources and additional sources of revenues. It has a block grant similar to the IRA of local government units that is regularly and automatically appropriated to the BM government.
Moreover, it would be provided with additional funding support that would hasten socio-economic development in this region that has been left behind due to intermittent conflicts and malgovernance in most of the last five decades. With more powers and resources come more responsibilities. “This is the advantage as well as the duty of those who will be leading the Bangsamoro in the years to come..
It has a government structure that is perceived to be culturally appropriate to the Bangsamoro and which can generate more inclusive and broader representation in governance. There is a substantial increase in the number of assembly people from that of the RLA. The creation of the council of leaders is a new structure.

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