At long last, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is going to be launched tomorrow in Davao City. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim led key personalities from government and MILF, respectively, in gracing the occasion. Members of the international community, as well as other sectors of society, are also attending.
As expected, this launching renews hope for the enactment of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which did not happen during the previous administration. This time there is so much time to do it; the Duterte administration is still in the first year of its six-year term; and his political capital is still at its highest mark. His allies control both chambers of Congress.
However, the best time to pass the BBL is during the first two or three years of the president’s term. Thereafter, this political capital is waning. This explains why President Benigno Aquino III failed to pass it during his time. The BBL was presented to Congress only towards the last quarter of 2014, less than two years of his remaining stay in office. Suddenly on January 25, 2015, the game changer exploded like a thunderbolt. Nobody expected it. This was the Mamasapano tragic incident that claimed the lives of 44 police commandoes, 17 MILF combatants, and five civilians. This tragedy provided the last nail that sealed the coffin of the BBL. The bloody incident effectively brought to the surface the biases, hatred, and prejudices of many non-Moros including many politicians, policy-makers, and members of the media. They all ganged up on the Moros, MILF, and BBL, as if the MILF was the aggressor in that bloody firefight.
The role of the BTC is very important. It has to craft and produce a new BBL (but still compliant to the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro). Moreover, it has to look for materials from other agreements, say the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement of 1996, R.A. 9054, and Indigenous People’s Rights Act, etc. to enhance and improve the proposed law. But these importations, if we may say, must not produce an incoherent law, because one cannot assemble elements that are not congruent with each other.
But in delivering the BBL, which is a unilateral responsibility of government, there is no mistaking that the president occupies the premier role in terms of power, influence, logistics; followed by Congress, both the Senate and the House; the Office of the President, which is composed of the various departments, offices, and agencies, especially the President Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), etc. The media must also cooperate and push for the BBL vigorously. All other sectors, although their push is also crucial, occupy the seats underneath. The nation must also endorse and ready for the national healing and reconciliation provided for by the enactment of the BBL.
The truth is that the BTC is just a tiny aspect of the OP, and can do not as much. But this is not to say that the BTC will leave some stone unturned. Like the previous BTC, which confronted all opportunities and odds head on, it is expected to repeat the “take-all approach”; or perhaps, even upping the ante. To do that, it has to operate and act as a single entity or body with one mission; i.e., to produce a BBL that is enhanced, improved, and owned by everyone as theirs.
Finally, when the BBL is presented to Congress, this august body should treat it as urgent bill and pass it without delay. More than that, it should enhance and improve it further, not diluting it, because the BBL is intended to solve the Bangsamoro Problem which the two parties patiently and protractedly addressed during their more than 17 years of hard and harsh negotiations. And this problem cannot be solved by passing a law lower than or at par with R.A. 9054 which serves as the law governing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).