Bangsamoro Basic Law – Managing Risks
Posted by The Society of Honor on March 29, 2015 · 269 Comments
By Pinoy in Europe
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
The purpose of the BBL is to finally put an end to decades, even centuries of conflict in the Muslim-dominated southern regions of the Philippines. It was made in the hope of empowering the region and ending conflict by increasing affluence. This is a great hope and important for the future.
The 122 pages of the draft BBL may be downloaded here. It is important for every informed citizen to read it: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/milf/news/draft-bangsamoro-basic-law
Due to Mamasapano, the BBL has become controversial, the public discussion very heated. Having witnessed the discussion from afar, I am both hopeful and worried and therefore have looked at things.
In a speech held on March 27, 2015, President Benigno Aquino III said the following:
For my part: If the proposed bill is lacking, it can be addressed by pushing through with the debates on it. With the continuation of hearings about the BBL in Congress, each one is given an opportunity to understand the proposed bill. We believe: An initiative that arose out of good intentions can be fixed by those who likewise have good intentions towards their fellowmen . . .
To address this, I am inviting citizen leaders known for their wisdom and integrity to stand as independent convenors. These includeLuis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.
They will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL. They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness. This way, the BBL can be improved. They will write a report that will be made public, so that everyone may be informed, and so that more of our countrymen may understand the matter. In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The purpose of this analysis is to help advance a reasonable decision regarding BBL, as President Aquino stated in his speech; and to further constructive discussion to push out destructive critics. The goal of this analysis is to identify major risks and define possible solutions to manage them. Examples of this:
- Instead of fearing flat tires, one puts one spare tire in a car; two flat tires is unlikely.
- Jet planes have two engines and can fly with one; thanks to engineering, two rarely fail.
- Having fire extinguishers in buildings manages the risk of fires.
As a concerned Pinoy with IT training, I have used the following informed layman’s approach:
- Identify the risks based on the knowledge available to me and the fears that many people have. Made a judgement call based on what I know and perceive to identify which risks may be real.
- For every risk, there is as short justification of why I consider the risk likely to occur and the consequences as major. This is my judgement call again based on what I know and perceive.
- Based on my complete reading of the 122-page BBL, I have identified sections and articles that in my point of view do not manage the risks as fully as they should.
- I have suggested measures to manage the risk in form of changes to the BBL. As an informed layman, it is not within my competence to give exact suggestions as to how to make changes.
- I have left the following aspects out of my analysis:
- Political desirability of the BBL; let us try this solution first before rejecting it.
- Legal, economic and political aspects that I cannot competently judge.
- Symbolic aspects are emotional and political – they are issues for politicians.
- The actual transition to BBL and the plebiscite that will be held to confirm it.
- Possible additional plans to supervise and help Bangsamoro in its starting years.
This analysis may serve as a basis for further discussion based on the premises stated above.
PART 2: POSSIBLE RISKS AND PROPOSED COUNTERMEASURES
The five risks I have identified, and proposed countermeasures, are:
1. Oppression of Christians in Bangsamoro
Why: It is a distinct possibility that Christians may be oppressed in Bangsamoro, given historical resentments. In the BBL, there is much protection given to Lumad communities; they have been duly considered.
1.a. Article II of BBL defines the Bangsamoro people very restrictively as being mainly the descendants of those who lived in Mindanao, Sulu or Palawan at the time of conquest or colonization. This clause, even though it has no further consequences, is not a good sign.
1.b. Article VII Section 9 states that a Bangsamoro Electoral Code will be defined, but does not clarify who is allowed to vote in Bangsamoro, making it possible to exclude non-Muslims.
1.c. Article IX defines basic rights and explicitly mentions the rights of Lumads, but is not clear on the rights of Christian settler groups already living in the area. Same thing with Article X which defines the Bangsamoro justice system. It focuses on Sharia and on tribal laws but has only a short section on local courts.
Risk management measures: modify BBL to explicitly make clear that all Filipino residents of Bangsamoro are allowed to vote and all who were residents of Bangsamoro upon ratification of the BBL enjoy minority rights. What the Moros want for themselves they should give others.
2. Continued mass poverty and corruption
Why: The leading clans of the Moro region have usually been very rich while the people remained very poor. With a government under their full control, there is no guarantee that this will change. The BBL alone cannot fully manage this, only with respect to taking measures to avoid corruption and misuse of funds meant to develop the region.
Good: the BBL has provisions against conflict of interest and even a section that removes Members of Parliament that have been convicted of major crimes – something the Republic of the Philippines could put into its Constitution and throw out Senators that are in jail. It also has a strong development focus.
But: the Bangsamoro area may have natural resources such as oil and natural gas, and was already considered for palm oil plantations by Malaysia. It is therefore important to prevent rent-seekers from within the ranks of Bangsamoro itself from hogging the profits and hindering competitive growth.
2.a. Article XII Section 2 creates a Bangsamoro Commission on Audit, but does not make clear how COA will supervise it. Section 10 states that Bangsamoro will give 25% of all taxes collected to the Central Government, but shall retain that share for 10 years before giving it.
2.b. Article XII Section 22 states that the BMG may contract its own loans, credits and other forms of debts. Section 23 states that the BMG may avail of directly of Overseas Development Assistance. Section 25 states that the BMG may enter into economic agreements.
2.c. Article XII Section 32 states that revenues from non-metallic minerals belong fully to Bangsamoro, from metallic minerals 75% to Bangsamoro, from fossil fuels and uranium 50% to Bangsamoro. It does not define how these revenues are to be calculated.
2.d. Article XII Section 35-39 define an intergovernmental fiscal policy board (IGFPB) in detail – obviously the Philippine Government hardly has any true supervision and control over the finances of Bangsamoro. This makes the risk of funds being channeled elsewhere very real.
2.e. Article XII Section 40 states that the IGFPB may recommend the exercise by the Bangsamoro of additional fiscal powers in order to reach full fiscal autonomy. See 2.d.
Risk management measures: modify BBL to give full supervision of finances to the Republic of the Philippines while the Bangsamoro Government does the actual management. Give the Republic of the Philippines the right to redistribute Bangsamoro funds by itself if not used for regional development.
3. Continued security problems and rearmament
Why: Given the history of the region, the risk of continued security problems and even covert rearmament of individual groups – possibly with money from corruption – is very real and with very adverse consequences. The Philippine Government must have this under control.
3.a. Article XI Section 2 defines that the Bangsamoro Police is part of the PNP, but the Chief Minister of Bangsamoro de facto decides over it. Not enough Central Government control.
3.b. Article XI Section 16 says that the Chief Minister may request the President to call upon the Armed Forces if needed. No direct right of the Armed Forces to intervene or monitor matters.
3.c. Article XI Section 17 specifies that the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall establish coordination protocols to govern AFP movements in Bangsamoro.
Risk management measures: modify the BBL to put the Bangsamoro police fully under PNP supervision, or have only the PNP. No need for the AFP to coordinate with the Bangsamoro government. Set up a joint Bangsamoro/Philippines body to deal with abuse claims by Bangsamoro residents.
4. Uncontrolled expansion within Mindanao
Why: Given the fact that some Moro rebels believe that the whole of Mindanao justly belongs to them and some with this ideology may come into power. This is dangerous, especially in conjunction with possible rearmament. But let us focus on the relevant BBL articles:
4.a. Article III Section 2d stipulates that contiguous areas to the Core Territory defined in Section 2a-c where there is a resolution of the LGU or a petition of at least 10% of the registered voters in the area asking for inclusion at least two months prior to ratification can become part of Bangsamoro. This is obviously a dangerous paragraph because it can cause contiguous areas to become part of Bangsamoro via fraud or intimidation.
4.b. Article XII Section 5 allows the Bangsamoro Government to provide assistance to development efforts of other regions. This in connection with 4.a. is very dangerous. Development assistance to neighboring regions can be used Binay-style to buy allies.
4.c. Article VI Section 10 stipulates that the Bangsamoro Government may provide assistance to communities of Bangsamoro people living outside the territory of the Bangsamoro. This gives the Bangsamoro government the chance to finance terrorism if the wrong people are in it.
Risk management measures: the territory of Bangsamoro should be fixed. In doubtful areas contiguous to the defined core territory, a plebiscite to decide whether they can join should be held with representatives from both the Republic and Bangsamoro supervising it. After this, the territory of Bangsamoro may no longer be changed. Those who want to live there can move. Those who do not want to live there anymore can leave. Any other solution invites chaos and discord.
5. Secession from the Republic of the Philippines
Why: Some Moro rebels do not see themselves as Filipinos and may want to secede from the Republic of the Philippines. This in conjunction with rearmament and expansion in Mindanao is a big risk.
5.a. Article VI stipulates that there shall be a Central Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Board to resolve disputes and issues through regular consultations and continuing negotiations. There is therefore no mechanism to enforce the rules of the Philippine republic if the Bangsamoro Government decides to violate them.
5.b. Article VI Section 9 stipulates Bangsamoro participation in Central Government, but there is no Central Government participation in the Bangsamoro Government except for Presidential supervision. This means no real control over what the Bangsamoro Government does.
5.c. Article V Section 2.9 says that the Central Government shall have primary responsibility over coastguard matters, but then again, Section 2.10 states that the Republic and Bangsamoro shall cooperate and coordinate through the intergovernmental relations mechanism with regard to the enforcement of customs and tariff laws and regulations. Effectively this means that the Republic has little control over what possible assistance may come from overseas.
Risk management measures: direct supervision of the Bangsamoro Government by the Republic, not coordination. Define when autonomy may be suspended, or a transitional plan to autonomy with a five-year transition period. The coasts of the Philippines should be controlled ONLY by the Republic to prevent arms and men from seeping in from elsewhere. A representative of the Republic should be part of the Bangsamoro government, possibly with veto rights on vital matters still to be defined.
PART 3: CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVES
With some changes, the risks inherent in giving autonomy to a region that has been a hotbed of rebellion for 40 years can be managed to create a balance between the aspirations of the Bangsamoro and the concerns of the Republic of the Philippines. And thus forge a lasting peace built upon a rock.
May the National Peace Summit convened by President Aquino see this analysis and the lively discussions that will follow it as a constructive contribution to making BBL stronger.
In fact many aspects of the Draft BBL are actually better than the present Philippine Constitution.
- The parliamentary form of government for example is a better guarantor of continuity in a culture that is strongly clannish and individualistic, not like the Americans who have greater sense of common weal and more respect for the state than we have – their system fits them.
- Its respect for tribal traditions and justice as well as local peacekeeping and mediation – which is already part of the Philippine barangay system – is more rooted in our Malay base culture.
- It could be a helpful blueprint for states within a Federal Philippines, if that is desired.
But there is one final, interesting aspect that I think should be considered:
- In Germany, richer federal states help poorer ones via the so-called Länderfinanzausgleich.
- Bavaria was a recipient state until 1992 and now contributes most to this mechanism.
- Bangsamoro gets a block grant now; maybe they will be the ones helping back in the future?
Hopefully, things will be managed in such a way that future perspectives remain open for us all.
They say the best way to understand something complicated is to approach it the way a child would: ask simple questions. To understand the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Filipinos should do the same – ask simple questions. Once people finally get down to the basics, they will soon realize how unrealistic, unnecessary and wasteful the bill is.
Let us cut to the chase and see what the fuss is about:
1. Why did the Philippine government enter into a deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and not with the other rebel groups?It’s simple, really. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has a better lobbyist or team of public relations personnel. They also have friends in high places. Not only does the rebel group have the backing of Malaysia, they also have the backing of people in Philippine government. Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential peace adviser managed to convince President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino to entertain the idea of coming up with a deal with the rebel group to fix the conflict in Mindanao. The fact that BS Aquino is desperate for something that would define his administration – a legacy – probably helped push the rebel group’s agenda. So in 2011, BS Aquino met Murad Ibrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Japan for the first time to initiate the deal. I guess that was when BS Aquino first agreed to give away parts of Mindanao to a rebel group.
2. Why do the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and their supporters think they are entitled to parts of Mindanao?
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is just one among many Muslim rebel groups who want to secede from the Philippines. Some Muslim extremists cannot and refuse to assimilate with the rest of the Philippine population. While some moderate Muslims can get along fine with Filipinos of different faiths or religion, there are Muslims who cannot move on from the past and declared themselves victims – first, of the Western colonizers and now of “Imperial Manila”.
Some Muslims or Moros as they prefer to be called nowadays, insist that their homeland was taken away from them and they just want to get it back. Now that’s just silly, indeed. They are talking about something that happened more than 300 years ago. There is no way to prove the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used to own parts of Mindanao. As Rigoberto Tiglao mentioned, back then, the only Muslims in Mindanao were members of the Sultanate of Sulu and Borneo over the Tausug tribe and the Sultanate of Maguindanao over the Maguindanaons.
In fact, the founders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used to be members of the original rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who had a deal with the past Philippine administrators. Since they could not agree with the terms of the peace deal with the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front broke away from the MNLF. Suffice to say, the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front do not have a legitimate claim on any part of Mindanao.Some of their supporters keep invoking their “history” of being oppressed. But that is nonsense. If they are talking about how Western colonizers took their “homeland” away, the inhabitants of the entire archipelago now called the Philippines were also victims of the same atrocities but most tribes in other parts of the country have moved on. Now we can all say that Filipinos, including people from Mindanao are simply victims of first, the tyranny of the gullible voters, and then their public servants’ incompetence and abuse of power.
3. Why do Filipino taxpayers have to give the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front 27 billion pesos annually under the proposed law?
It seems the BS Aquino government thinks that giving money is the easiest way to solve any problem including the conflict in Mindanao. Think about it. It’s not his money he is giving away in the first place so it is easy for him to be generous. The taxpayers should have their say in determining the fate of this bill. Like I said in my previous article, the current Philippine government’s policy to uplift the status of the poor could be a scam for government officials to pocket public funds. Now the budget for the BBL doesn’t even have any mechanism to govern how the beneficiaries should spend it. The billions of pesos could end up in the hands of the warlords.One just has to give a quick look at current government policies to uplift the status of the poor and one will realize that giving massive public funds to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will not work to uplift the status of the poor in that region. Much of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) ended up in the pockets of scammers running fake NGOs like Janet Lim-Napoles. The Conditional Cash Transfer program of the DSWD does not work to alleviate poverty in the country. Some even say that it promotes mendicancy. Even the Reproductive Health Law has not reduced the population so far. It could take time but we shouldn’t hold our breath.
In short, there really is no reason for Filipino taxpayers to give billions of pesos to a rebel group whose real identities are still unknown and especially a group who doesn’t even want to be called Filipinos.
4. Will the BBL really bring peace to Mindanao?
BS Aquino keeps saying that the BBL will bring peace to Mindanao but the reality is, it will not. Not only does it favor only one Muslim rebel group, it also favors one religious group over others. The Philippines is supposed to be a secular country. Using religion to appeal for a group’s agenda should not have been entertained from the very start. It was wrong of BS Aquino to give in to the demands of a rebel group who want to impose their religion on others.
The likely scenario that will happen is, even if Congress managed to pass the bill, the Supreme Court will just declare it unconstitutional the same way they did with former President Gloria Arroyo’s proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) because it violated the constitutional rights of the non-Muslims in Mindanao. And when that happens, the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will throw a tantrum and proceed to wreak havoc in the region.
Likewise, even if the BBL is passed into law, there are still other rebel groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, MNLF and Abu Sayyaf who are still in good fighting spirit. Their exclusion from the negotiating table is enough to make them reject the BBL.
Those are some of the questions that should help ordinary citizens understand the BBL. Another question they need to ask is why BS Aquino is pressuring Congressmen to pass the bill by June. Well, it is obvious that he just wants to include it as his “achievement” in his final State of the Nation Address. Never mind if the actual “peace” doesn’t take place anyway.
About IldaIn life, things are not always what they seem.
Post Author: Ilda
In life, things are not always what they seem.