AS the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resume talks aimed at rescuing deadlocked negotiations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Malacañang blamed the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) for the delay in the submission of a measure that seeks to create a Bangsamoro entity in Mindanao.
Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday said that the government remains committed to the signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and all other previous agreements but that the BBL should conform with existing laws and the Constitution.
“You saw, for instance, the commitment of our President during the signing of the [CAB]. That commitment has not wavered. All we want to be sure of is that the bill that will be submitted to Congress will be acceptable to all, to the government and also the Bangsamoro people,” he told reporters.
The problem, according to Lacierda, arose when the BTC that was designated to craft the BBL submitted a proposal that the Palace believes would not pass congressional scrutiny.
Lacierda noted that while the BTC “drafted a bill based on the [CAB],” some provisions were “added” or “suggested.”
These additions were a reason why Malacanang lawyers had to pore over the draft to ensure that the Bangsamoro law will not suffer the same fate as the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was struck down by the Supreme Court.
“We don’t have the exact provisions that were provided. But those provisions, they were additional provisions or were added or suggested by the [BTC]. The draft [BBL] that was drafted, crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, was the one that was reviewed by the Office of the President,” Lacierda explained.
When asked to comment on speculations that the provision on “sub-state” was one of the thorny issues discussed by the two panels, he replied that he is not privy to the contents of the BTC draft.
“I am limited only to the information that we have right now. As to [the]copy of the draft of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, we don’t have a copy. What we intend to do is to come out with the forged common Bangsamoro Basic Bill between the government and the MI[LF],” Lacierda said.
He noted that the government “was not unaware” of what was going on in the BTC.
Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chief government negotiator, earlier warned that certain provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro law may be unconstitutional.
She refused to identify the parts of the draft bill that could be illegal, although she hinted that some of the contentious provisions involve the structure of government and the fiscal autonomy of the political entity that will be created to supplant the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to Ferrer, both parties were trying to resolve “political considerations” and “policy issues” in the draft law.
Also on Wednesday, she said negotiators were able to make some progress on discussions on fiscal autonomy and the structure of the Bangsamoro government when they met last week.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles called on the public to support the peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
“There are difficulties that lie ahead and I am sure that there will indeed be many more but let us not lose hope,” Deles said. “Keep the faith and work with us in bringing to fruition real peace and development in the Bangsamoro.”
The government and MILF panels will hold marathon meetings for 10 days to discuss and iron out contentious provisions of the draft BBL that Congress is anxiously waiting to act upon.
The meeting, according to former peace negotiator lawyer Jesus Dureza, will be an opportunity for both sides to renegotiate the draft law and take a second look at the CAB.
The meeting was confirmed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
“There will be a meeting, but the details and the venue are yet to be confirmed,” said Marlon Peter Dedumo, director of the OPAPP Mindanao media bureau.
Dureza stressed the need for the two panels to make “readjustments” to save the negotiations.
“I thought we have learned lessons from the failed MOA-AD,” he said. “It also disabused the minds of all, especially among the MILF leaders that what Malacanang wants, it can get. That misplaced trust has been eroded. That full confidence is no longer there so it is prudent to mitigate risks and make some readjustments while we can.”
Dureza urged the MILF to “consider changes with an open mind instead of digging in and proclaiming that what was signed was cast in stone and no longer subject to renegotiations.”
He said the government should “own up and acknowledge its mistake of making the MILF believe that what was already signed was good and okay, only to change gears at the last minute.”
“If there are persons on either side who cannot accept these parameters, I now strongly advise them to stand aside, resign and be not in the way in the difficult search for that still elusive formula for peace. Someone has to take the bullet,” Dureza added.
Lacierda allayed the fears of MILF commanders over the delayed submission of the draft BBL, saying the government is committed to having the bill passed by Congress.
“That will be a priority measure [because it has to be passed], hopefully, before the end of December of this year so that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be in place in order for them, for the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, to participate in the synchronized national elections in 2016,” he said.
“So the commitment is there, the timeframe, we believe that we can continue with the timeframe that we have envisioned so that all the necessary building blocks for an effective and a truly representative bill and law will be passed by Congress,” Lacierda added.