• Revising the Bangsamoro Basic Law

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    Sadly, it took the mass murder of Special Action Force police commandos. Finally, amid the dead bodies of the Fallen 44, Congress has found the courage to stop the Aquino bullet train that is the Bangsamoro Agreement and Basic Law. Legislators will now do their constitutional duty of carefully reviewing and redrafting the BBL, as they are sworn to do with every measure they enact.

    Both the Senate and the House of Representatives said this week that they would revise the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill, rather than pass it largely unchanged and on deadline at the behest of Malacañang and its negotiating partner, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    If the prudent delay and due diligence result in legislation that brings peace and development to Mindanao while safeguarding national unity, security and sovereignty, then tragic as it was, the Mamasapano massacre and its SAF heroes, dead and living, along with their suffering families, would not have shed blood and tears in vain.

    Congressmen and senators, therefore, owe it to the casualties of Mamasapano, police, rebels and peasants alike, that the Bangsamoro Basic Law be crafted to finally end carnage like that of January 25, and combat the lawlessness, deprivation, social injustice, and terrorism which have fueled and fed upon centuries of conflict.

    Repair the law — and the agreement
    So what do we do with the BBL? Many things, but let’s start with four priority principles to protect and promote: the unity, sovereignty and security of the Republic, the interests of all groups in Bangsamoro, law and order in our land and our world, and the lives and future of Mindanao’s poor and powerless.

    In safeguarding and advancing these indispensable imperatives, Congress should address deficiencies not only in the BBL, but in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the six annexes, one addendum, and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which the CAB subsumes.

    As Government Chief Negotiator and University of the Philippines political science professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer explained in a UP forum on the BBL last November, the law does not include all provisions in the Bangsamoro Agreement, but only those needed to establish the regional government.

    Congress should therefore include in its revised Bangsamoro Basic Law (or mini-constitution) any provisions it deems necessary to address problematic ones absent in the bill, but present in the MILF accord. These remedial provisions may either countermand items in the Bangsamoro pact contrary to the national interest, or mandate the President to renegotiate them.

    The most dangerous provision
    One such provision would strip the military of all law enforcement functions within the future autonomous entity. It is not covered in the draft Basic Law, but stipulated in the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the first of the MILF accords signed under Aquino.

    In the FAB’s Section VIII on Normalization, Paragraph 6 provides: “In a phased and gradual manner, all law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the police force of the Bangsamoro.”

    The BBL further stipulates in Section 2 on Concurrent Powers of the national and Bangsamoro governments: “The Bangsamoro Government shall have primary responsibility over public order and safety within the Bangsamoro. It shall have powers over public order and safety … The Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall cooperate and coordinate through the intergovernmental relations mechanism.”

    If these provisions are fully implemented, the future Bangsamoro government shall be the main enforcer of law and order, with its own police force under the Chief Minister, as provided in the BBL bill. The AFP will limit its role to external defense, with no role and power for police action, and reducing its deployment in the region accordingly.

    Back in 2012, this writer already expressed misgivings about the FAB provision removing law enforcement functions from the military. For one thing, it seem to violate constitutional provisions declaring the AFP the protector of the people, and empowering the President to call out the armed forces to suppress rebellion and lawless violence, which are clearly law enforcement actions.

    Even more worrisome, if the AFP units are redeployed to reflect its non-police role, that would leave the Bangsamoro police as the largest armed entity in the area. Should the regional government declare independence, the entity would have belligerency status, governed by a duly constituted authority with its own security force. That would allow other countries to recognize and give assistance to the breakaway territory.

    Notably, the draft Basic Law draft now pending includes a provision enabling the Chief Minister to ask the President to call out the AFP “… To prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion, when the public safety so requires, in the Bangsamoro; … To suppress the danger to or breach of peace in the Bangsamoro, when the Bangsamoro Police is not able to do so; or … To avert any imminent danger to public order and security in the area of the Bangsamoro.”

    The provision does not seem to prevent the President from ordering the AFP to undertake law enforcement operations in the region, such as hunting down terrorists who elude the Bangsamoro police. However, the FAB provision, if it is not ruled unconstitutional or countermanded by Congress, would still obligate the Commander-in-Chief to eventually remove all AFP law enforcement functions.

    Considering how lawless elements can find havens in rebel areas even now, Congress should include in its BBL a section that would negate this FAB provision.

    There are other provisions in the BBL and the CAB which require remedial action, as future articles will discuss. But the Framework Agreement’s section seeking to get the AFP out of law enforcement is the most dangerous provision, potentially undermining national security, law and order, and the unity and sovereignty of the Republic itself. Congress and the Supreme Court must not let it stand.

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    18 Comments

    1. Something for our wise leaders, strategists and negotiators to chew on while the BBL is pending in Congress.

      The BBL draft provides for the Bangsa exercising unassailable rights and control over all natural resources within their territory. This will undoubtedly include Lake Lanao and the Agus river that drains it. Well, it so happens that the Agus Power Plant Complex consisting of six (6) cascading power plants from the mouth of Lake Lanao in Marawi City down to Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City are located within the proposed Bangsa territory. A large chunk of Mindanao’s electricity is generated in this complex.

      Kindly chew.

    2. Whichever way you look at it, the BBL draft literally spells out the formal secession of the Bangsa Moro from the RP despite the fact that the RP constitution calls only for an Autonomous Muslim Region and not a separate state. The proposed residual Bangsa participation and links with the RP government thereafter seem superficial and for cosmetics only. And they are not obligated to do so. Bangsa’s secession appearing to be the real issue, why do we have to subsidize the new BM government? Let them go completely on their own if that is what they want. No subsidies, no power transmission from RP territories, no participation in RP affairs, no nothing from the RP.

    3. “Revising the Bangsamoro Basic Law/.”

      There’s no such thing as a BBL. There’s only a draft or a proposal. So, what’s stopping us from dropping the idea altogether? A threat of war posed no less Deles and Ferrer who are supposed to be working for the government!

      Is the threat for real? Of course it is? The traitors promised MILF the moon and the stars in an amazing show of submission, not negotiation. Surely, the notorious group will come to collect, and they will not be appeased by any partial compliance. Shall we give in to their demands? It’s all or nothing, remember?

      Question… Will there be peace in the region after the MILF takes over much of the functions of the national government?

    4. Carl Cid Inting on

      Mr. Saludo is correct to point out that giving the MILF extraordinary powers over law enforcement as one of the most dangerous provisions. Furthermore, the exclusivity of the Bangsamoro over law enforcement and police powers (after the Armed Forces of the Philippines transfers all powers to the Bangsamoro police force) will certainly create the possibility of a Frankenstein that would dominate and have life-or-death powers over citizens both within and outside the Bangsamoro territory. Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and other important non-Bangsamoro communities can be terrorized into submission by sheer force. What is more, we have seen how mere militias can be beefed up into formidable armies that cause death and chaos on anything that gets in their way. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS all over the Middle East are just some examples. Malaysia, an ally of the MILF, will be a reliable supplier of arms and equipment. They will surely be able to secure sympathetic Middle Eastern states to finance and arm them as well. The MILF will, in no time, be far better armed, equipped and trained than the AFP. Nobody will be able to stop them, should they set their sights on gobbling up the rest of Mindanao!

      However, I am also bothered by other provisions. The “assymetrical” relationship of the Bangsamoro to the national government is one. Assymetry is found in a federal form of government, but not in a centralized form of government such as ours. Furthermore, why is the Bangsamoro “assymetrically” granted more autonomy, greater revenue-sharing, allowed to have its own laws and even guaranteed seats in the Supreme Court and other national governmental bodies? Why is it granted such special status, while not allowing these priveleges for the other regions? This is patently unfair!

      There are several other aspects in the BBL that I find tremendously disturbing, but that would take up too much space.

      • Indeed. All regions should be empowered. And this Bangsamoro state is bull. Our government shouldn’t be based on religious or cultural what nots. Government is supposed to unify people while religions does the opposite.

    5. Why should there be a waste of time reviewing the BBL when in almost all chapters or pages, there are very questionable entries in there? I agree in what contributor LAGUATAN suggest, put the BBL inside a waste can and burn it. Period.

      • Yes. If PNpy’s still there, let him stick to the ARMM law which he is mandated to execute, not change. He should work with the duly elected leaders, not negotiate with a terrorist group. Anyone who stands in the way should be dealt with accordingly.

    6. There is more corruption and injustice in the Philippines.
      It shows the Popes visit did nothing to purify the Philippines.
      The Philippines is the first country not to seek justice and retaliate for the 44 SAF peace keepers. Like with the journalists 44 SAF were murdered and the corrupt politicians are sweeping it under the carpet. The top corrupt rich echelon in this country don’t give a s**t about the AFP, PNP or the people.

    7. There are many agreements (FAB, CAB, others) signed. The BBL bill contains references to them. All of these agreements should be studied and junked if signed by only the MILF and the President. All agreements must be ratified by the people in the south and by the Congress. Follow the law. No agreements with terrorists.

    8. Pilipinas police and armed forces should always be loyal to the government of the Philippines. Just imagine an item where for some reason or another, Malaysia and Pilipinas go into serious disagreement with threats of war. Will Gobyerno-Pilipinas be worried about a heavily-armed fifth-column in Mindanao who do not owe loyalty to Pilipinas?
      BBL has to be re-written with more details fully specified in the document.

    9. No need to repair the BBL, just throw it out into the dustbin and burn them. That is the product of treachery and dishonesty.

    10. Ano ba talaga ang pinagtatalunan?
      Alam ng lahat na kailangan magkaroon ng hustisya ang SAF 44!!at yan ay unti-unti ng pinagbabayaran ni Aquino at halos lahat ng kailangan nila ay mukhang ibinibigay niya upang mawala ang multo na ginawa ng desisyon niya at ang pagtugis sa mga may kagagawan nito!
      BBL alam din ng lahat na maraming mali dito at ito ay mukhang itinatama naman!
      Ano pa ang kailangan,dapat gawin upang matapos na ang gulo at maiwasan pa muli ang pagkasawi ng marami pang tao!
      Lahat ng tao ay ibig ay kapayapaan,kaya sana kung makakatulong ang bawat isa at tumulong at wag sanang sila pa ang maging dahilan ng lalong pagkakagulo!
      Sa huli dito din ang punta niya ang pag-uusap para sa kapayapaan, sana ngayon na at pag-isipan mabuti upang tuluyan ng maging payapa ang bansa!

    11. vagoneto rieles on

      The background of Ms.Quintos-Deles is not as clear as that of Ms. Coronel-Ferrer who is a Law Professor in UP. This is enough to understand why and how the BBL is such a theoretical and fanciful piece of work. After reading on Mr Saludo’s column, however, it seems to go beyond ‘theoretical and fanciful’. The CAB and the BBL draft, (why are there two documents referenced by one law?), contain varying, if not altogether, conflicting provisions. The result could only be ‘halo-halo’ or ‘chop suey’.
      To be fair to the Law Professor, we must say that, given the impossible demands of Bangsamoro, the resulting product..the BBL.. was the best they could have possibly come up with. To be fair to the Filipino people, however, this ‘halo-halo’ or ‘chop suey’ must be scrapped. Now.

    12. Revision of the BBL is necessary as plunder to the Binays who amassed wealth by the billions of money from the government. Revised the AMLA where you don’t have to wait for the Sandiganbayan’s decision to look into the wealth of the Binays.

    13. Exactly, that’s what we had prior to the integration of law enforcement. When a crime is committed in Manila and he crosses Quezon City – you are out of jurisdiction and cannot pursue! That’s when their first approach is shoot first and ask question after baka makatawid pa ng boundary. BBL is nothing but a safe haven to muslim criminals not a peace treaty. It stinks so bad that if we commit to it then we might as well set Luzon on fire. For one they cannot be trusted. Look at all the other muslim nations, they themselves can’t find peace or even a median. Junk BBL and if they deserve it put them in a square footage control like the american indians they’re kept in their own boundaries only. Philippines belongs to the Filipinos and not some Islam group pretending to be Filipinos. We should stop them now before they grow teeth to chew the entire archipelago.