Dateline Manila: Frequently asked questions on the Bangsamoro (First of Three parts) PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 September 2014 12:04

BY Sammy Santos


After weeks of unexplained delays, renewed negotiations and fears of a breakdown in Mindanao peace talks, President Aquino finally submitted to Congress the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

During simple ceremonies in Malacañang last Wednesday, President Aquino asked Congress to swiftly enact a law creating the Bangsamoro political entity in a crucial step in ending nearly five decades of conflict in Southern Philippines.

It will be recalled that the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a deal in March to end a rebellion that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stifled development in the resource-rich region. A study showed that the war has cost Mindanao more than P640 billion worth of lost economic opportunities since the conflict started in the 1970s.

Under the agreement, the MILF has agreed to disband and surrender weapons in exchange for powers over the economy and society in the Bangsamoro area.

President Aquino said he was hopeful the Bangsamoro entity would be set upbefore his term ends in June 2016. “If we are able to legislate this, we can give our Moro brothers enough time to prepare, thus enabling them to nurture the seeds of meaningful governance which were planted for the Bangsamoro,” the president said.

MILF leaders are expected to govern the new autonomous area during a brief transition period until elections in May 2016, in which the MILF will take part, transforming the guerrilla group into a political party.

The law creating the Bangsamoro to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the president described as a failed experiment, was a product of 17 years of negotiations and months of drafting. Under the deal, the Bangsamoro autonomous will have self-rule over an expanded area with wider powers to impose taxes and fees on permits and licenses.

For those who have not been following the developments of the Mindanao process, allow me to present here the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Bangsamoro as prepared by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP).

What  is the purpose of this new law?

The purpose of the draft Basic Law is to establish the new Bangsamoro political entity and provide for its basic structure of government, in recognition of the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Who  are the Bangsamoro people?

Those  who  at  the  time  of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their spouses, and descendants.

Why is  it  necessary  for  the Bangsamoro  to have an official flag?

A Philippine government entity, such as the Bangsamoro, is authorized to have its own flag under Section 44 of Republic Act No. 8491, otherwise known as the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

What comprises  the Bangsamoro territory?

The Bangsamoro territory is composed of the land mass, maritime, terrestrial, alluvial and aerial domain. Section 1 of the bill expressly states that the Bangsamoro territory remains part of the Philippines. Likewise, the draft Basic Law provides that the Bangsamoro shall respect and adhere to the Philippines’ international treaties and agreements. Thus, whatever power that the Bangsamoro may exercise over its territory must be consistent with and not contravene the country’s international obligations and commitments. The local government units that will comprise the Bangsamoro territory will be determined through the plebiscite for the ratification of this basic law.

What is  the  extent  of  the  Bangsamoro’s  maritime jurisdiction?

The Bangsamoro has jurisdiction over waters that extend up to 12 nautical miles from the low-water mark of the coasts. This is referred to as the Bangsamoro waters – where the Bangsamoro Government is granted certain rights over the resources therein.

The  draft  Basic  Law  provides  that  the  Bangsamoro  Government  will have aparliamentary form of government. Is this consistent with a democratic form of government, provided in the Constitution?

Yes, a parliamentary system is democratic. A parliamentary system is a form of government where the executive is formed by the legislature such as the Chief Executive (who is the head of the executive) is selected by the legislature. Therefore, the Chief Executive is indirectly elected. A democracy is a system of government which derives its legitimacy from the people. Hence, eligible citizens participate, directly or indirectly, in the election of their representatives in government.

Under the draft Basic Law, the Bangsamoro government is democratic because all members of Parliament will be elected as representatives of the Bangsamoro People. Consistent with the Constitution, both the executive and legislative in a parliamentary system shall be elective and representative of its constituent political units.

Is a parliamentary form of government allowed by the Constitution?

Yes, the Constitution left it to the wisdom of Congress to determine the appropriate government structures for local government units and the autonomous regions.

What do the terms “reserved”, “exclusive”, and “concurrent” mean?

Reserved powers are matters over which authority and jurisdiction are exercised by the National Government. The reserved powers enumerated in the Annex on Power Sharing remains the same. Only the National Government can exercise power or authority over national defense and security, foreign relations, monetary policy, customs and tariffs, among others. Concurrent powers refer to the powers shared between the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government. In the exercise of these concurrent powers, the concerned ministries of the Bangsamoro Government are required to cooperate and coordinate with the National Government. Exclusive powers are matters over which authority and jurisdiction pertain to the Bangsamoro Government.

All issues that may result in a conflict between the National and Bangsamoro Governments, or may arise from the exercise of powers enumerated in Art. V, shall be resolved by an intergovernmental relations mechanism. Unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President, through the Chief Minister.

The draft Basic Law creates Bangsamoro offices that exercise functions related to those vested in constitutional bodies? How will these bodies relate to each other?

The draft Basic Law creates the following bodies:

(i) The Bangsamoro auditing body which shall have auditing responsibility over public funds utilized by the Bangsamoro Government, without prejudice to the power, authority and duty of the national Commission on  Audit to examine, audit and settle all accounts, pertaining to the revenues and the use of funds and property owned and held in trust by any government instrumentality, including GOCCs;

(ii) The Bangsamoro Civil Service Office which shall develop and administer Bangsamoro government employees and officers, without prejudice to the Civil Service Commission’s powers;

(iii) The Bangsamoro Electoral Office which shall be part of the Commission on Elections;

(iv) The Bangsamoro Police which shall be part of the Philippine National Police;

(v) The Bangsamoro Commission on Human Rights (BCHR) which shall have investigatory and prosecutorial powers. In the performance of its functions, the BCHR may coordinate with the Commission on Human Rights;

(vi) The Bangsamoro Regional Police Board which shall be part of the NAPOLCOM and will perform the functions of NAPOLCOM in the region.

What is the scope of the Bangsamoro Government’s powers over financial and banking systems in the Bangsamoro?

Without prejudice to the power of supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Bangsamoro Government shall encourage the development of Islamic Banking. Under the draft Basic Law, a Shari’ah supervisory board may be created specifically for this purpose. Towards this end, the Bangsamoro Government is also authorized to participate in the management of the Al- Amanah Islamic Investment Bank.

What is the scope of the Bangsamoro Government’s regulatory power over power generation, transmission, and distribution?

The draft Basic Law allows the Bangsamoro Government the power to regulate power generation, transmission and distribution facilities in the Bangsamoro which are not connected to the Grid. Through this authority, it is endeavored that the Bangsamoro Government will be able to spur the establishment of generation and other power facilities in the area that will allow them to address the needs of the inhabitants of the Bangsamoro.

What is the scope of the Bangsamoro Government’s power to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of local government units?

The power to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of local government units granted to the Bangsamoro Parliament is consistent with the power granted to other local government units in Sections six to 10 of Chapter II, Title I of the Local Government Code of 1991 and is similarly subject to the limitations provided by the Constitution.

What will happen to the powers granted to the ARMM under Republic Act No. 9054?

Republic Act No. 9054 will be expressly repealed by the enactment of the Basic Law. However, the draft Basic Law adopts certain powers already devolved to the ARMM, which are enumerated under Art. V, Section 4. The Annex on Power Sharing specifically allows the Bangsamoro Transition Commission—that prepared the draft Basic Law—to select powers under Republic Act No. 9054 relevant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and adopt these in the Basic Law.

Describe the relationship between the National and Bangsamoro Governments?

The relationship between the National and Bangsamoro Governments shall be asymmetric. It is asymmetric because it is distinct from the relationship between the National Government and other local government units. Specifically, the Constitution (Art. X, Sec, 20) confers the Bangsamoro Government, as an autonomous region, with legislative powers over such matters as administrative organization, and ancestral domain—which is not granted to local government units. However, similar to local government units, the President’s power of general supervision remains.

What is the Intergovernmental Relations Mechanism?

A “Central Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body” shall be established to resolve any issues that may arise relating to the exercise within the Bangsamoro of the respective powers of the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government, through consultations and continuing negotiations in a non-adversarial manner. All unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President, through the Chief Minister. The draft Basic Law also provides for a Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum for purposes of cooperation and coordination of legislative initiatives.

Describe the relationship between the Bangsamoro Government and its constituent local government units?

The National and Bangsamoro Governments accept the concept of devolution as inspired by the principles of subsidiarity. The provinces, cities, municipalities, barangays, and geographic areas within its territory shall be the constituent units of the Bangsamoro. The privileges already enjoyed by the local government units within the Bangsamoro under existing laws shall not be diminished unless otherwise altered, modified or reformed for good governance. To ensure mutual cooperation and cohesion between the Bangsamoro Government and its constituent LGUs, a Council of Leaders shall likewise be established.

Is the National Government giving the Bangsamoro undue preference for positions in National Offices?

No. Although, it shall be the policy of the National Government to appoint competent and qualified inhabitants of the Bangsamoro in certain National Government offices at least one (1) Cabinet Secretary; at least one (1) in each of the other departments, offices and bureaus, holding executive, primarily confidential, highly technical, policy-determining positions; and one (1) Commissioner in each of the constitutional bodies at least one (1) justice in the Supreme Court; and two (2) justices in the Court of  Appeals. This does not remove the discretion of the President to appoint qualified persons from other sectors.

What is the relationship between the Bangsamoro Electoral Code and Batas Pambansa Bilang 81, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code?

The Bangsamoro Electoral Code will be enacted to specifically govern parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro, and shall be correlated to all national election laws, including Batas Pambansa Bilang 81.

What is the composition of the Bangsamoro Parliament? How are seats in Bangsamoro Parliament classified and allocated?

The Bangsamoro Parliament shall have at least 60 members – fifty percent of which shall be elected through a system of proportional representation; forty percent from single member districts, and 10 percent will be elected to reserved seats, representing key sectors in the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro Parliament shall have two reserved seats each for non-Moro indigenous communities and settler communities. Women shall also have a reserved seat.

What is the process for the filling of reserved seats for IPs/ICCs?

Reserved seats for non-Moro indigenous peoples shall be filled pursuant to their customary laws and indigenous processes.