THERE are still “complications” and “unresolved issues” that may hamper the submission of the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress, both Malacanang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) admitted on Friday.
A highly placed MILF source who is privy to the drafting of the measure said the draft that was submitted to President Benigno Aquino 3rd last Wednesday was still replete with disagreements, which still were passed on to the President for his final comment and judgment.
“It’s still complicated. There is still a continuing exchange of notes on few unresolved issues,” the MILF source told The Manila Times on condition that he would not be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter.
He was the same person who earlier disclosed that power sharing and autonomy were the key issues that stand in the way of a final draft. The source, a lawyer, is a member of the review panel.
In a Palace briefing on Friday, Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, confirmed that the draft was far from being fully accomplished when submitted to the President. According to Lacierda, it was only “70 to 80 percent” done.
“There was an understanding from panel chairman [Miriam Coronel] Ferrer that they were able to come up with at least a big percentage of the draft. If there are parts that should be further studied, they gave them already. They defer to the President to take a look, one final review of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law and we’ll see,” the spokesman said.
“I think [the draft]is 70 to 80 percent finished,” he noted.
Lacierda said while majority of the issues have been wrapped up, there are some that need to be further “observed” by President Aquino.
“The bulk of it has already been agreed upon by both panels . . . so we are looking at a few provisions that would still need the President’s observation. Certainly, the President knows the importance of this agreement and we are all waiting for it to be submitted to Congress,” he added.
Lacierda would not say what issues have been resolved and what remain problematic.
“I have no idea. I have not seen the documents,” he said.
Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles backed Lacierda’s statements, saying the President “will decide best on how to move forward” with the bill since he will be the one certifying it as urgent once the measure is submitted to the House of Representatives.
“[There is] no more need to send back [the draft]to BTC [Bangsamoro Transition Commission] but [the President]has prerogative to still meet with BTC or anyone else before submitting [the draft]to Congress. He will decide how best to move forward after he finishes review,” Deles texted The Times.
She denied there is still an ongoing exchange of notes, explaining that it was clear with the MILF that the President will have the final say on the BBL.
“I don’t understand what their comment is referring to. There is no more exchange of notes at this point. The MILF’s final draft is now with the President for his review. It was clear from the start that the draft to be submitted to Congress would have to pass final approval by the President,” Deles said.
Lacierda said they remain hopeful that the bill could be submitted to Congress “within the month of August.”
“So the President has seen the submitted draft. So he is going through it. As to specific timelines between now and [the submission], it depends on the President’s review,” he added.
Lacierda said there is still “close collaboration” between Ferrer and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
“Hopefully, we will be able to see how the President would react, if he still would require more action. Between now and then, we are hoping that we will be able to submit the draft Bangsomoro Basic Law within the agreed timeline,” he added.
According to Lacierda, even the MILF is “optimistic” about the outcome of the presidential review.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law seeks to create a new political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It will embody the comprehensive peace agreement signed last March by the MILF and the government that aims to end the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao.
Once it is passed into law, a plebiscite will be held in the areas that will constitute the Bangsamoro territory.
The government expects to put in place a Bangsamoro Transition Authority next year, ahead of the 2016 elections.
Under the wealth-sharing annex, the Bangsamoro will also enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and utilization of metallic minerals within the region.
Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium will be shared equally between the Bangsamoro and the central government.
Under the annex on power-sharing, the Bangsamoro assembly shall have at least 50 members representing district, party-list, sectoral and reserved seats.
The assembly will be headed by a Chief Minister, who will be elected by a majority vote from among the members of the assembly.
The national government retains authority over defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, postal service, citizenship and naturalization, immigration, customs and tariff, common market and global trade and intellectual property rights.