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Four annexes: an overview

Up until last week all that the public had was the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Upon this framework would be hung annexes that would give substance to what was contemplated. Both government and Bangsamoro negotiators worked hard to get the annexes done until they were ready to submit four to the public.

Finally last week with much fanfare and witnessed by, among others, the prime minister of Malaysia, the final document was signed. It is a historic document which, it is fervently hoped, will bring peace and prosperity to the war-torn island of Mindanao.

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The substance of the agreement is found in four annexes: the Annex on Normalization; the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities; the Annex on Power Sharing; the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, which includes an addendum on  the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Cooperation.

Annex on Normalization. By normalization is envisioned “a process whereby communities can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihood and political participation within a peaceful deliberative body.” It aims to ensure human security in the Bangsamoro.  To achieve this end, various commissions are created for transition and collaboration, together with an International Monitoring Team. The primary function of implementing the plan is with a Joint Normalization Committee, a Joint Peace and Security Committee, Joint Peace and Security Teams. And this will be done by the gradual decommissioning of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) forces by an Independent Decommissioning Body and the redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; through the total ban on land mines, the disbanding of private armies, a social economic program, a Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, mobilization of resources, and confidence-building measures.

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Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. For this annex, a Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will be formed. A principal function of the BTC will be the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to be submitted to the President for him to certify to Congress as urgent. Once the basic law is enacted by Congress, it will be submitted to a process of popular ratification by the qualified voters in the core territory of the Bangsamoro. The ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will repeal Republic Act No. 9054 and will create the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). The BTA shall perform the functions of governance until a ministerial government is installed.

The BTC will be composed of 15 members, all of whom are Bangsamoro. Seven of them shall be chosen by the Philippine government and the other eight members, including the chair, by the MILF.

The BTC will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be presented to President Aquino for him to certify to Congress as urgent. It will also work on proposals for a constitutional amendment should this be necessary.

The basic law shall be submitted for ratification by the voters in the core territory of the Bangsamoro.

A principal function of the BTA shall be to prepare for the transition to a ministerial form of government.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law shall provide for the organization and composition of the BTA whose members shall be appointed by the President.  The BTA shall be MILF-led.

Annex on Power Sharing. Since there are two governing entities involved, it should be clear who exercises what powers. The powers are divided thus: reserved powers, i.e., powers retained by the central government; concurrent powers, i.e., shared powers between the two entities as set in this annex and provided in the basic law; and exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government.

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The relationship between the two governments is described as “asymmetric,” a bit of a tricky concept. It is reflective of the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity and their aspiration for self-governance which makes it distinct from the regions and local governments.

It is governed by a democratically elected assembly consistent with a ministerial form of government.

There is power-sharing on transportation and communication, mineral energy resources, taxation and others.

Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing. The parties recognize that revenue generation and wealth sharing are important to the existence of the Bangsamoro, which is among the most underdeveloped areas in the country. Thus, the parties commit jointly to pursue measures to increase the Bangsamoro’s wealth and capability for revenue generation. This will involve taxation and other sources of revenue and wealth.

Remarks. As can be seen, this is perhaps the most ambitious undertaking the government has attempted. It took months for the negotiators to draft the framework and annexes. Now the challenge is with Congress. I anticipate that there will be intense and protracted debate and, after Congress shall have come up with a draft of the proposed basic law, the debate will spill over into the public arena. How long will it take for this process to reach completion? Specifically, will it be finished before the 2016 elections? Some are optimistically predicting that it will. That remains to be seen. This overview gives only a very limited picture of the complicated goal that is hoped to be accomplished.

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