GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 18, 2017 – President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed last January 9 the appointment papers of the members of the new 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). MindaNews reported this January 13. MILF’s Luwaran echoed the news on the same day. No national media reported the news.
The report, an answer to an information hiatus long overdue, elicited some questions.
MindaNews headline, counting“2 months after signing EO, Duterte finally appoints BTC members”, subtly asked: “Why has it taken this long to appoint the members?”
But the delay is much longer. The new BTC members could have been appointed last September at the latest – not four months after.
The BTC membership was expanded to 21 in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR) which President Duterte approved on July 18, 2016 to enhance inclusivity in the redrafting of the Bangsamoro basic law. Subsequently, the GPH and MILF negotiating – now “implementing” – panels accepted BPDR in their meeting in Kuala Lumpur on August 14. The executive order creating the new BTC should have been issued in the next two weeks of August and the members appointed immediately.
QUESTIONS: Why was this not done? EO No.O8, s, 2016 was issued more than two months after, on November 7. Why that long? It took two more months to sign the appointment; yet, no names of the appointees have been released. What’s keeping this? The release, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews, will be done “shortly”. How long is “shortly”?
Dureza also said that the BTC has to hit the ground running as soon as the appointment papers are released and the members have taken their oath”; it has to submit the enabling law draft to the Congress in July 2017 as set in the BPDR and before President Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 24. When will it hit the ground?
The Secretary was aware of the short time the BTC has – just about six months or less counting from February if it is installed this month – to draft the enabling law. Likened to the Marines scrambling down their helicopters hitting the ground running, the undaunted BTC members will have to do overtime to beat the deadline. No worry. All will be well.
Good picture to see. Is it an honest depiction of the Bangsamoro scenario?
What the picture hides are the diversion in the roadmap and the consequences vital to the fate of the Bangsamoro due to the emergence of Chairman Nur Misuari, the founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front -- the acknowledged prime mover of the Moro liberation movement. For all its apparent sincerity, the Duterte government is not on the level with us – not much different from the past governments.
The BPDR envisioned a single-track roadmap where the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)-led BTC with members from all MNLF factions, the IPs (Indigenous People) and the LGUs (Local Government Units) of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) will consolidate or converged in the new basic law draft all the past peace agreements of the Moros with the government and the relevant existing laws. This is the side of the picture being shown.
But Misuari refused to join the MILF-led BTC on the BPDR. He has his own “Roadmap to MNLF-Duterte Government Peace Talks (RMDGPT)”. This is the second track in the over-all roadmap. The Duterte Government has accepted it. In fact, knowing Misuari, it must have delayed the issuance of EO No. 08 until his meeting with the President to have his position known. The EO, almost completely without reference the BPDR, came out four days after Duterte-Misuari in Malacañang on November 3. Just coincidental?
This is the side of the picture the Duterte government has to clearly show but seems loathe to.
Secretary Dureza has said this much: The BTC will draft a law to create the Bangsamoro to replace the ARMM as agreed in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsmoro; the MNLF-Misuari panel will have RA 9054 amended to enhance the ARMM in accordance with the 1996 Final Peace Agreement – a contradiction: one, to abolish the ARMM; the other, to keep it.
As Dureza told MindaNews on November 3, the GPH-MILF (MILF-led BTC) and the GPH-MNLF (Misuari) peace tracks “will somehow converge in Congress without converging in the process”. This means a U-turn away from the original BPDR plan to submit to the Congress only one basic law draft converged in the process of drafting. In the revised scenario, two drafts will be submitted for the Congress to converge.
How can this be done? The Duterte government is not on the level with us.
First, will the two drafts be in the Congress on or before July 24, 2017? Scrambling and running hard on hitting the ground, the MILF-led BTC may be able to. Can the same be said of the GPH-MNLF (Misuari)? Dureza told MindaNews, it is supposed to do so “by July this year”.
“Supposed to” means “unsure but hoping”. Where are the panels? What are the talking agenda and the mode? There are none to see. Where is Misuari now? Last December 14, he was reported on his way to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to “seek advice” from the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) heads of state concerning the peace talks. Is he back? No report. If not, when?
Second, granting the two drafts will be in the Congress on time, MNLF spokesman and head of the MNLF-Misuari panel had warned that converging the two drafts would be a disaster.
Third, how can the ARMM be abolished and retained at the same time as proposed in the contradictory drafts revealed by Secretary Dureza?
This impossible scenario could have been avoided had President Duterte persuaded Misuari to sacrifice his “principles” and bitterness against the MILF and the other MNLF factions for the sake of the Moro unity and the Bangsamoro. He is the only person who can especially with the help of the OIC – a help that has been given.
The OIC, in a statement dated November 11, 2016 and appearing in its official website, commended the decision of President Duterte in releasing Prof. Nur Misuari as “another manifestation of the positive approach of the current administration towards the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people”.
In that Statement, the OIC acknowledges Misuari’s role in the peace process; supports the MILF, its Chairman Al Hajj Murad and the CAB; and avows its desire for the MNLF and MILF to close ranks, merge the two peace tracks and converge all the gains in all peace treaties. The OIC position is clear: It does not favor either the MNLF or the MILF; above all, “it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”
In Jeddah, did the OIC advise Misuari in accordance with its November 8 Statement? If he is back in the Philippines, will President Duterte persuade him to follow the OIC’s avowed desire and position? If he will not, Why NOT.
The Duterte government must be on the level with us. If it cannot persuade Misuari to follow the single BPDR peace track, presenting the MILF-led BTC side of the picture only is pointless. We all know that is not the whole picture. That is not how to solve the Moro Problem.