Final Bangsamoro draft goes to Congress 'end of August'
MANILA, Philippines – The final draft of a proposed law seeking to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao is expected to reach the hands of President Benigno Aquino III for his review within the week.
"All the crucial issues have been discussed and clarified. On this basis, the final draft [of the Bangsamoro basic law] is being prepared for submission to the President. The parties are targeting submission of final draft to President within the week and submission to Congress by the end of August," Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles said in a text message to reporters.
Aquino is expected to certify the measure as urgent upon its submission to Congress. The panels had earlier hoped to submit the final draft to Aquino on Monday, August 18.
A product of the final peace accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, the proposed Bangsamoro basic law seeks to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a parliamentary form of government that has greater political and fiscal powers.
The legal teams of the Office of the President and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are harmonizing the details of the draft after the last round of discussions ended on Friday, August 15, a source privy to the discussions told Rappler.
It took 4 consecutive workshops, including a marathon 10-day meeting, before both sides were able to reach a consensus on the contents of the draft law.
The MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) crafted the initial draft of the measure that was submitted to the Office of the President.
Malacañang, however, introduced changes to the document, which the MILF said "heavily diluted" the proposed law and, in effect, rendered the envisioned Bangsamoro government less autonomous than the ARMM.
Previous discussions on what the draft law should contain had been held between the respective negotiating panels of the government and the MILF.
During the last round of meetings held in Davao City from August 13 to 15, however, MILF representatives met directly with the Office of the President, instead of the government negotiating panel.
A Rappler source said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr met with BTC chairperson and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal to arrive at an agreement on contentious issues in the draft, which has yet to be made public.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa and Undersecretary Nabil Tan on the government side, and lawyer Raissa Jajurie and professor Abhoud Sayed Linga from the MILF joined the meeting.
The final peace accord between the government and the MILF requires the former rebel group to gradually decommission its arms and troops while political commitments, including the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law, are achieved.
Before the envisioned Bangsamoro government can be established, the proposed law must first be approved by lawmakers in Congress and by the people in a plebiscite.
Both sides hope to finish the transition phase by 2016 before Aquino steps down from office. – Rappler.com