VIEW: Trade-offs in the Bangsamoro pact

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) swamped the Philippine government negotiation panel in the talks over the scope of the autonomy of the Bangsamoro substate, with comprehensive demands on power-sharing, as though the MILF was dictating the terms of the political settlement of peace in Mindanao.

A close reading of the paper presented by Profesoor Miriam Coronel Ferrer on the talks left me wondering whether the MILF was negotiating from a position of strength or deemed itself the victor in the Moro secessionist wars for nearly 40 years.

The Moro wars in the Philippines have been a protracted guerrilla war stalemate that produced no decisive victory for either side. The outcome of the negotiations between the government and the MILF-the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro-was determined more by the costs of the conflict on the people of Mindanao, the economic costs to the nation, and the dislocation wrought on political stability than by the toll on the lives of combatants. From this context, we are able to make sense of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro when examining the concessions made by either side in the negotiations.

According to the paper under review, by the 31st exploratory talks in September 2012 only a few items remained unresolved. Among the major issues were those involving internal security or policing and territory.

"The MILF had wanted their list of core areas for the NPE (new political entity) 'delivered'-that is, without need for a plebiscite seeking concurrence for the affected constituents," the paper said. "They wanted to have jurisdiction over internal security or the police force. Both demands were rejected by the government panel as blatantly unconstitutional: The 1987 Constitution required a plebiscite to define the areas for inclusion in an autonomous region and stipulated a single civilian police force."

The government panel was confounded by "a novel feature" of the MILF proposal for a ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro entity under which the chief minister would be elected by the Assembly. The paper said that, currently, the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), vice governor and members of the Regional Legislative Assembly are directly elected based on plurality.

This innovation appeared to be a new political beast to the government panel, whose members are long used to the forms of the unitary presidential system. The MILF pitched a model cut out of the European parliamentary system, under which elected parliamentary deputies elect the prime minister. This was too much of a departure from the norms of the presidential system, and the panel had to refer it to President Benigno Aquino.

According to the paper, the president "was open to the idea but wanted to ensure its constitutionality." The president asked the Department of Justice for an opinion. The Department of Justice "at first questioned but later upheld the viability of the proposal."

The panel also consulted constitutional experts, including former Supreme Court justices. They scrutinised the constitutional provision stating that "there shall be an elected executive and legislative for the autonomous government".

The paper said: "Noting that the executive is likewise elected in a ministerial form, albeit indirectly, the government was convinced it stood on constitutional grounds and agreed to this MILF proposal."

This departure from the existing electoral practices in electing officials from top to bottom, except during the Marcos dictatorship, is unexplored territory full of land mines that can explode in the face of Aquino's experiment on a political settlement to buy peace with the MILF.

This arrangement opened the way for possible challenges to its constitutionality before the Supreme Court, the jealous guardian of the nation's sovereignty. Let us not forget that the high court struck down in 2008 as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), that President Gloria Arroyo's administration was set to sign with the MILF. The high court emphatically declared that the MOA-AD was a flagrant act of "dismembering" the republic.

Not content with this concession, the MILF, however, pressed the demand that it be given jurisdiction over the electoral exercise in the Bangsamoro. According to the Ferrer paper, the MILF argued that "this should be part of their autonomous rights and that since terms are not fixed, the Commission on Elections might not be supportive of irregular electoral calendars".

The government panel countered that "while the Bangsamoro assembly will legislate the specifics of their electoral rules including scheduling electrons as needed, the administration of the electoral process cannot but be under the independent constitutional body that is the Comelec".

Another contentious concern was the relationship between the local government units and the Bangsamoro entity under which the former would be placed. For the most part, the MILF "focused on the nature of the autonomous relationship with the central government".

According to the paper, the MILF argued that the current ARMM has no effective control of local government units. It pointed out that LGUs in fact enjoy more funds from their Internal Revenue Allotment, which is their guaranteed income source. On the other hand, the regional government has to haggle for its annual appropriations, the bulk of which goes to personnel.

The government panel "insisted that rights already devolved to the LGUs under the 1991 Local Government Code should not be diminished." It warned that a "radical overhaul of this system will cause insecurities in the ranks of the LGU power-holders and create opposition to the peace agreement."

(To be concluded)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Osmeña wants electricity exempted from VAT
    Osmeña wants electricity exempted from VAT

    Sen. Sergio Osmeña III wants electricity to be exempted from value added tax under a proposed measure that will amend the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 and the Reformed VAT Law. He said the move aims to ease the burden of the public in paying high electricity rates in the country. “VAT on electricity is another burden on the already over-taxed shoulders of our people, especially those whose incomes are barely enough to cover their basic needs. Osmeña, chairman of the Senate …

  • No lotto draws starting tomorrow until Easter Sunday
    No lotto draws starting tomorrow until Easter Sunday

    No lotto tickets will be sold and no lotto draws made starting tomorrow, Maundy Thursday, up to Easter Sunday in observance of Holy Week. In a statement, Jose Ferdinand Rojas II, acting Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman and general manager, said the selling of lotto tickets and lotto draws will resume on April 6,  Monday. “We thank all Lotto players for your trust and confidence in the PCSO games, and we count on your continued support of our efforts to raise funds for …

  • Quake rocks C. Visayas
    Quake rocks C. Visayas

    A magnitude-3.2 earthquake rocked parts of Central Visayas yesterday. State seismologists said the quake was an aftershock of a powerful tremor that hit the region in 2013. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the quake occurred at 7:54 a.m. Its epicenter was located 10 kilometers  southeast of Buenavista, Bohol. Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said the quake was an aftershock of the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol on Oct. 15, 2013. …

  • Super howler nears Phl
    Super howler nears Phl

    A typhoon that has devastated islands in the Pacific is forecast to become a category 5 monster howler as it barrels toward the Philippines this week. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Maysak will be named Chedeng when it enters the Philippine area of responsibility tonight or tomorrow morning. In an interview, PAGASA weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the forecast track of Maysak may still change depending on the movement of …

  • Philips Gold finally shines

    Philips Gold made 11 service aces on its way to beating Mane ‘N Tail, 25-19, 27-25, 25-16, for its first victory in the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) All-Filipino Coinference Monday night at The Arena in San Juan.Former College of St. Benilde standout Rossan Fajardo had six aces as part of her 10-point output as the Lady Slammers finally barged into the win column after losing their first two matches.Ex-National University star Myla Pablo led Philips Gold with 14 points highlighted by 12 kills, …

  • Turkish Airlines starts direct Manila-Istanbul flights 3 times a week

    Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier, launched on March 30 its thrice weekly direct, non-stop flights between Istanbul and Manila at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 and plans to operate a daily service between the two cities, eventually, announced Chief Marketing Officer Ahmet Olmustur. Last November 2014, the Philippines and Turkey signed an expanded air services agreement granting Turkish carriers three frequencies per week to Manila and Clark. In accordance with …

  • Azkals bow to Bahrain

    The Philippine Azkals fell short in their bid to salvage a draw and fell 2-1 to Bahrain Monday night in an international friendly match at the Bahrain National Stadium in Manama. Faouzi Mubarak struck the opening goal for the home side in the 29th minute before Abdulla Yaser doubled the lead two minutes later with a booming shot from 25 yards out. Fil-German midfielder Manny Ott gave the Azkals a ray of hope when he scored from just outside the box in the 61st. National team Coach Thomas …

  • Alcalas dominate rivals

    In a brilliant show of power and speed, Mark Alcala downed fierce rival and Philippine team member Ross Leonard Pedroza, 21-16, 23-21, to win the men’s singles open title. Alcala lost her No. 1 ranking after focusing on her studies at the University of the Philippines, but she’s willing to sacrifice once again in order to represent the country in future international tournaments. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options