ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Philippines' Bangsamoro ‘law’ ready
The Philippine presidential palace on Monday received the draft of the Bangsamoro basic law, a priority measure President Benigno Aquino III would submit for congressional scrutiny and approval to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous region in Mindanao.
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, submitted the document during a meeting with Undersecretary Michael Frederick Musngi of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
“The draft has been submitted,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told the Inquirer after the meeting.
“After a thorough review by the Office of the President, the intention is to submit it to Congress for the consideration of our legislators.”
Asked if the Palace would submit the draft to Congress once session resumes on May 5 after the Lenten break, Valte mentioned no specific deadline.
“While there is no hard deadline set, we remain cognizant of the necessary pace of the process that needs to be undertaken,” she said.
The President is expected to certify the draft basic law as urgent. Once it is approved by Congress, a plebiscite will be held in areas to be covered by the new Bangsamoro autonomous region, which would take the place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The President has described the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”
If ratified in the plebiscite, the basic law would render the Organic Law that created the ARMM repealed and thus abolish the old autonomous region.
Valte said both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels that negotiated the peace agreement were aware that the basic law would likely be questioned in the Supreme Court.
“Knowing that anything that will come out of their negotiations will be challenged, they have made sure that they had the proper legal guidance while it was being crafted and that it will stand scrutiny,” she said in a press briefing.
Valte said the draft law would be reviewed by the Office of the President, particularly by the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, Michael Aguinaldo.
She said the review would also involve Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Benjamin Caguioa “as well as other legal minds in the executive branch of the government.”
“So undergoing these internal processes and reviews would ensure that more or less it would have solid legal footing, if and when it is challenged in the Supreme Court,” she said.
Iqbal earlier described the drafting of the basic law as a “very difficult process.”
The 15-member Transition Commission drafted the proposed basic law based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed in Malaca?ang on March 27.
Support from Congress
The five-page agreement covered signed deals, including the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and four annexes and addenda negotiated between the government and the MILF.
Both Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte have committed to work on the basic law to meet the government-MILF timetable of completing the entire peace process by the time the President steps down in June 2016.
The day after the peace deal was signed, Valte said leaders of both chambers “realize how important the law is, and I believe both have been ardent supporters of the peace process, and hopefully they will continue to be partners in pushing for the basic law.”
Drilon earlier said that the Senate was “more than ready to work on the new Bangsamoro basic law—one that would be universally fair, practical and constitutionally consistent.”
“The public can expect our commitment to the Bangsamoro not only for the sake of national progress, but also for the welfare and future of the entire Southeast Asian region,” he said.
Drilon said the signing of the peace accord was a “also a testament to our Asian neighbors and to the whole world that though shaped by our diversity, we are much more defined by our common dreams of peace, equality and prosperity as a nation.”
“This is a moment of immense pride, relief and joy throughout the entire Philippines, where we have arrived at a new era of understanding, security and opportunities now available for every Filipino–be they Muslim, Christian or members of indigenous groups,” he said.
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