By Hannah L. Torregoza, Mario B. Casayuran | Manila Bulletin
Left out in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) crafted by government and secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators, the original secessionist movement – the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – now has a key role in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR).
Section 196, Article 15 (Transition Period) of Senate Bill No. 2894 sponsored by Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. provides that a representative of the MNLF shall be part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government or governing body in the BAR during the transition period. The MNLF representative will be appointed by the President.
“The MNLF was not given any participation under the original BBL version, that’s why I included them in the BTA in my substitute bill. In fact, in the public hearings which I had conducted, I had invited them and all the other stakeholders because I consider them as partners in this endeavor of finally bringing peace to Mindanao,” Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Local Government, said.
The Muslim secessionist movement started with the creation of the MNLF more than four decades ago spearheaded by former University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Nur Misuari who became its revered chair. After the Ramos administration signed a peace accord with Misuari in 1996, some disgruntled leaders broke away from the main rebel group and formed the MILF.
The BTA, according to Marcos, will be composed of 60 members, which include all the incumbent members of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Legislative Assembly, and those who will be appointed by the President from the women sector, settler communities, non-Moro inhabitants, other essential stakeholders, and the MNLF.
The MILF, being the principal party to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), shall enjoy preference in the appointment to the BTA, both in its leadership and membership.
Marcos filed SB 2894 titled “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” Monday, describing it as all-inclusive because it contained applicable advocacies, positions, and proposals from all the stakeholders in all 12 public hearings that he conducted in in Cotabato City, Marawi City, Tawi-Tawi, Jolo, and Zamboanga City.
If enacted into law, the BAR would be established in place of the abolished ARMM.
Other stakeholders called by Marcos to the public hearings were the Sultanate of Sulu, Indigenous People, religious groups, youth groups, legal luminaries, labor and peasant groups, local government units, and other concerned organizations.
In scrutinizing the Palace version of the BBL, Marcos removed the P17-billion development fund allotted for the new Bangsamoro government. Marcos, however, retained P1 B from this amount as transition fund.
Under the Malacañang version, P7 billion will be allocated for the first year following the ratification of the BBL, while another P10 billion will be released in tranches of P2 billion in the next five years.
Interviewed at the sidelines of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) briefing at the Senate, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied such item in the proposed budget for next year that is meant supposedly for the implementation of the controversial BBL.
“We did not provide for any item in the budget for the Bangsamoro because it hasn’t been legally constituted yet,” Abad told reporters after the hearing.
He said the government will utilize the fund allocated for the ARMM in the event the BBL is passed into law. (With a report from Francis T. Wakefield)