Passion For Reason

‘A Framework with missing Agreements’


One does not rise to a standing ovation for a trailer even before the movie is made, lest unrealistic expectations spoil the actual viewing. Similarly, the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a milestone for sure, but unrestrained hype may well derail peace in the end. The Framework says little but the public has been conditioned to believe it says everything. What will happen when our people check under the hood and discover what’s not there?

Most importantly, the key Framework provisions each refer to an “Annex” that does not exist. This is not about missing footnotes but goes to the heart of a peace pact: What will be in the “Annex on Power Sharing,” “Annex on Wealth Sharing,” and “Annex on Transitional Arrangements”? How exactly will power and wealth be shared in the future? There can be no “just and lasting peace” unless we agree on these.

When the Framework was first published online, I thought the missing annexes would soon follow. After all, the Supreme Court struck down the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008 because, among other grounds, it lacked transparency. But the Framework signing has come and gone, and it is clear that those annexes still do not exist.

Even worse, each annex is declared to “form part of this Framework Agreement.” How can we consent in advance to terms that do not exist and retroactively write them into the Framework? This was the Supreme Court’s point exactly in 2008.

Analyzing what is in the Framework itself, I am concerned that the Bangsamoro’s relationship to our constitutional bodies remains unclear. For example, the Framework treats constitutional accountability for funds as a triviality. The government peacemakers’ website highlights that the porous auditing of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao funds has been a real pain. Of the “850 million pesos allocated for infrastructure projects in ARMM’s 2010 budget, not one construction budget (sic) was completed.” It adds that “90 percent of ARMM’s funding was allocated to ‘Personnel Services’ and until now, that money has not been accounted for,” suggesting an orgy of ghost employees. To say that the ARMM has little to show for these funds is to be too kind.

Then why does the Framework now virtually exempt the Bangsamoro from the Commission on Audit’s reach? It says that the Bangsamoro “may create its own auditing body [for] funds generated … from external sources.” We’re talking about a lot of funds here, given US, EU and Muslim countries’ exuberance. The Agreement then mentions the COA’s power but limited only to funds held by “any government instrumentality, including GOCCs.”

This language is so slippery. It purports to affirm COA jurisdiction but it furtively lays the basis for the Bangsamoro government to access foreign funds without independent audit, while limiting the COA to locally generated funds. Worse, the term “instrumentality” is actually limited by the Administrative Code merely to “regulatory agencies, chartered institutions [like state universities and colleges] and GOCCs,” and excludes all the Cabinet departments and their bureaucracies.

In sum, the Bangsamoro gets a free pass to the expected bonanza from gung-ho foreign sponsors and, if the negotiators have their way, without even having to amend the Philippine Constitution.

Yet the Constitution is explicit that the COA shall have the power “to examine, audit, and settle all accounts [of] the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities” and “[n]o law shall be passed exempting any entity of the Government or its subsidiaries in any guise whatever.” Surely  that includes the “new autonomous political entity” called the Bangsamoro and its in-house “auditing body.”

Even more sinister, notice a strange clause that occurs not once but twice in the Framework: The Bangsamoro rulers may “block grants and subsidies from the Central Government.” Say that again, please? Spurn manna from heaven? Why not, if the manna from abroad is more bountiful, and along the way, the better to strengthen the Bangsamoro government’s hand versus its component units, and weaken Manila’s hold.

The COA exemption and the Bangsamoro veto over Manila’s funding are not the only mysteries in the Framework. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago insists that the Framework needs constitutional amendments because of the Bangsamoro shift to a “ministerial” and federal system of government. Sen. Panfilo Lacson asks whether the Bangsamoro will have a separate police force. Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza asks whether the Framework is even subject to the Constitution, which merits only one passing mention.

Last week, I pointed out the mischief in the term “asymmetric” to describe the relation between the Central and Bangsamoro governments. If they’re not equal, then who’s above and who’s below? The COA exemption demonstrates one ominous asymmetry: Foreign funds are COA-exempt, while local funds held by lowly “instrumentalities” are not.

Don’t get me wrong. We all want peace, and we must do right by our Muslim countrymen. But an overplayed agreement referring to nonexistent annexes is a shaky foundation for peace. Carving out a regional auditing body defies the historical record and is akin to setting the fox to guard the chicken coop.

After Edsa 1, the Filipino people thought hard and wrote down all their promises to future generations in our Constitution. In 2012, this covenant cannot be unraveled by unwritten promises. Let us instead be sure that all our vows for peace to Muslim and Christian alike are made crystal-clear before we place them alongside our Constitution.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Other Stories:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=39014

Tags: Bangsamoro , framework agreement , Moro Islamic Liberation Front , Philippine government , Raul C. Pangalangan

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Pimentel wants Balikatan-type drills for PNP
  • Palace renews appeal for plane passengers to test for MERS—CoV
  • 2 teenagers killed in Mlang, North Cotabato
  • No sympathy from North Korea over ferry disaster
  • 4 French journalists freed from Syria captors home
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Warriors beat Clippers in playoff opener
  • Pacquiao top Mayweather contender
  • Lifestyle

  • Angono petroglyphs in danger of disappearing
  • Britain’s baby Prince George visits Australian zoo
  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Filipinos in US poised for success
  • Visas for priests and other faith leaders
  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • Marketplace