The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro

An Overview
1
THE COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT
ON THE BANGSAMORO

The discourse on the Bangsamoro entity has elicited shades of views and
notions, and depending on where one comes from, it evokes joy or fear. The Moro
people or nation, deserves a rightful place, and be allowed to grow and flourish again.
The Moros need such region to survive as a political and cultural figure.

To them, territory- culture nexus is supreme, otherwise, no qualms as many Moro
traders are now pervasive. The Bangsamoro offers a new future, a new hope, and the
remedy for its thwarted past. As Muslims, they are not fanatics or extremists, they are
more akin to their cultural cousins in Malaysia and Indonesia, and Bangsamoro will
serve as the foundation of national unity and strength.

Through the years, we have seen the initiatives and efforts to establish a
peaceful and democratic relationship between national government and the Muslim
liberation movements, from the MNLF to the MILF. We have been witnesses to the
Bangsamoro‘s struggle for their identity, for fair and good governance, and for inclusive
growth and development.

We hope that with this agreement in place, the government can now work on the
convergence of the two peace agreements forged with the MNLF and the MILF, and
proceed to focus much needed attention on the socio-economic and political
development of the region to attain genuine autonomy.

With this being realized, it provides a strong foundation for prosperity and
inclusive growth, not just for the Bangsamoro but for all peoples of Mindanao and the
entire country as well.


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An Overview
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TIMELINE

2010
JULY
 July 15 - Malacañang announces the appointment of then UP College of Law
dean Marvic Leonen as the government's chief negotiator in the peace talks.
SEPTEMBER
 September 7 - Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles announces that Aquino
has formed an advisory body to assist government negotiators in the peace talks.
The body is composed of "members from both Houses of Congress, retired
justices of the Supreme Court, members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission,
local governments in strife-affected areas, non-government organizations
involved in peace efforts, and the former chairmen of previous peace panels."

2011
AUGUST
 August 4 - MILF chair Murad "Al Haj" Ebrahim holds an unprecedented meeting
with Aquino in Tokyo, Japan. Both agree to expedite the peace process.

2012
OCTOBER
 October 7 - The Philippine government and the MILF conclude the 32nd round of
exploratory talks with a framework agreement that will create a Bangsamoro
region.
 October 15 - The Aquino administration and the MILF sign the peace agreement
in Malacañang. It marks the first time the rebel group steps into the country‘s
seat of power.
NOVEMBER
 November 12 - The 33rd round of peace talks opens, with the main agenda
focusing on details of the Three Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing and
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An Overview
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Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
This round ends without any agreement being signed.
DECEMBER
 December 12 - The panels convene for the 34th round of peace talks, marking
the first time that professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is taking the helm as the
government peace panel chair after being appointed to replace now Associate
Justice Marvic Leonen.
 December 16 - The 34th round of peace talks concludes with a "technical
impasse" over the issue on whether the MILF should lead the Bangsamoro
Transition Authority.
 December 17 - President Benigno Aquino III signs Executive Order 120 creating
the 15-member Transition Commission that will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

2013
JANUARY
 January 21 - The 35th round of peace talks begins, with both parties expected to
settle the "technical impasse" on who will lead the Bangsamoro Transition
Authority – the only unresolved issue in the annex on transitional arrangements
and modalities.
 January 25 - Both panels sign a document outlining the terms of reference for the
Third-Party Monitoring Team that will "review, assess, evaluate and monitor" the
implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
FEBRUARY
 February 14 - Malaysian security forces summon dozens of suspected Abu
Sayyaf members in a remote area with a history of incursions by armed Filipino
Islamic groups.
 February 25 - As the 36th round of peace talks begin, President Benigno Aquino
III names the members of the Transition Commission (TransCom) that will draft
the basic law that would pave the way for the Bangsamoro political entity.
 February 27 - The Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities is signed
before the last session of the 36th round of peace talks ends.
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An Overview
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The parties also agree under the Framework Agreement to form an Independent
Commission on Policing (ICP), which will submit recommendations on how the
relationship between the Philippine National Police and Bangsamoro police
should work.
MARCH
 March 25 - The government asks the MILF to postpone the 37th round of peace
talks to allow it more time to review the annexes.
APRIL
 April 3 - The 15-member Transition Commission convenes for the first time.
 April 9 - The 37th round of peace talks finally starts, with only discussions on the
annex on normalization remaining at the level of the technical working groups.
 April 11 - This round ends without any agreement being signed.
 April 30 - The Transition Commission agrees on the process to be followed in
establishing the inner workings of the commission, including its organizational
chart and internal rules and regulations.
JULY
 July 6 - The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter guerilla
group, ambushes an army truck and attacks an army camp a day before peace
talks resume.
 July 8 - Panels proceed with the 38th round of peace talks, with the MILF
returning to the negotiating table "with guarded optimism."
 July 11 - The 38th round of talks ends without any agreement, with the MILF
peace panel members leaving the venue in a huff.
Afterwards, they agree to return and extend the talks, in an attempt to seal the
deal on wealth-sharing.
 July 12 - Parties fail to arrive at any agreement and agree to extend again the
talks for one more day.
 July 13 - Parties sign the annex on wealth-sharing. Among others, the agreement
gives automatic appropriations to the Bangsamoro, as well as a 75% share on
taxes and revenues from metallic minerals.
AUGUST
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An Overview
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 August 22 - The 39th round of talks starts, with the last two annexes topping the
agenda.
 August 25 - No agreement is signed after this round, but both panels release a
joint statement that expresses confidence that the final peace pact will be
completed soon.
SEPTEMBER
 September 9 - Up to 400 suspected members of the Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF) take over 4 barangays in Zamboanga City.
 September 10 - The 40th round of peace talks is opened, with the government
peace panel nearly missing their flight to Kuala Lumpur after Aquino called for an
emergency meeting following the siege of Zamboanga City.
 September 19 - The panels decide to extend the session for one more day,
though both parties feel that it is unlikely that a document will be signed and
completed this round.
 September 20 - The 40th phase of talks end without signing a deal on power-
sharing and normalization. Proposed changes to the annex – both from the
government and the MILF – extend discussions, described to be "generally
constructive" during this round.
OCTOBER
 October 8 - Parties hold the 41st round of talks, as Zamboanga City recovers
from the bloody siege by rebel forces associated with a faction of the MILF's rival
group, the Moro National Liberation Front.
 October 11 - Peace panels from both parties extend their talks for another day.
 October 13 - The 41st round of peace talks ends. Parties fail to complete the
power-sharing annex.
DECEMBER
 December 5 - The 42nd round of peace talks opens, with power-sharing being
the agenda.
 December 8 - The panels sign the annex on power-sharing, but without a deal on
the so-called "Bangsamoro waters" – the most contentious issue in the peace
talks.
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2014
JANUARY
 January 22 - Negotiations continue at the 43rd round of peace talks to discuss
what to do with firearms and what will happen next to those who will lay down
their arms.
 January 24 - The panels arrive at a deal on how power will be shared over
"Bangsamoro waters."
FEBRUARY
 February 6 - Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano
Belmonte Jr meet with other top congressional leaders and agree to pass the
Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of 2014.
MARCH
 March 14 - Deles announces that the final peace pact is set to be signed on
March 27.
 March 25 - In a Malacañang press briefing, Deles says close to 500 members of
the MILF will witness the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement.
 March 26 - Malacañang prepares for the signing of the Comprehensive
Agreement on the Bangsamoro, described as the "biggest event" organized by
the Palace since President Aquino assumed the presidency.
 March 27 – signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the
Kalayaan Grounds

OVERVIEW

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is a five-page,
12-point text document representing the final peace agreement between the GPH and
the MILF.

According to Miriam Coronel Ferrer, it recognizes “the justness and legitimacy of
the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through
a democratic process; the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro question with
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honor, justice, and dignity; the aim to end the fighting between the government and the
MILF and promote peace and stability; the recognition of the responsibilities of the
parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other
inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power.”

The signing of the CAB is the culmination of the 17 years of peace negotiations
between the two parties and will pave the way for a Bangsamoro autonomous political
entity.

It also reiterates the two parties‘ commitment to the following
agreements/documents:
- The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) (signed Oct. 12,
2012), which outlines the ―political settlement‖ between the GPH and the
MILF and the process of transition from the Autonomous Region on Muslim
Mindanao to a new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity
- The Four Annexes and the Addendum to the FAB
- The Ceasefire Agreement of 1997 signed by the GPH and the MILF
- The Agreement on Peace signed in Tripoli in 2001, laying down the
agenda for the peace talks
- The Declaration of Continuity of Negotiation signed in June 2010, which
picked up the pieces from the failed memorandum of agreement on ancestral
domain (MOA-AD).

The Four Annexes and the Addendum to the FAB
a. Annex on Transitional Modalities and Arrangements (signed Feb. 27,
2013), which establishes the transitional process for the establishment of the
Bangsamoro. It details the creation of a transition commission, a Bangsamoro
Basic Law, and a Bangsamoro Transition Authority
b. Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing (signed July 13, 2013),
which enumerates the sources of wealth creation and financial assistance for
the new entity.
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An Overview
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c. Annex on Power Sharing (signed Dec. 8, 2013), which discusses
intergovernmental relations of the central government, the Bangsamoro
government and the local government units under the Bangsamoro
d. Annex on Normalization (signed Jan. 25, 2014), which paves the way for the
laying down of weapons of MILF members and their transition to civilian life.
Normalization is the process through which the communities affected by the
conflict in Mindanao can return to peaceful life and pursue sustainable
livelihood.
e. Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation
(signed Jan. 25, 2014), which details the scope of waters under the territorial
jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro (12 nautical miles from the coast) and Zones of
Joint Cooperation or bodies of water (Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf) within the
territory of the Philippines but not within the Bangsamoro

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.

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
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An Overview
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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.

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
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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.

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ROADMAP TO THE CREATION OF THE BANGSAMORO
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REACTIONS ON THE FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT

When the Agreement was published, it elicited different reactions from the public.
Expressions of support were cautious while criticisms were mostly based on legal
interpretations from concerned lawyers whose pessimism about the outcome of the final
agreement arises from doubts as to whether it could be substantiated with appropriate
annexes that can solve the Mindanao problem.

One newspaper columnist writes that the Agreement ―is a curse to the nation‖
and an “agreement for PH dismemberment.‖ Another one argues that the Bangsamoro
Framework Agreement “fails to uphold the Constitution and overlooks inviolate
provisions on sovereignty and territorial integrity.‖ A careful reading of the Agreement,
however, does not affirm such views; on the contrary, it upholds Philippine territorial
integrity and national sovereignty.

The specific provision that solicits legal reaction is in Paragraph VII (4b), which
provides that the Transition Commission will ―work on proposals to amend the Philippine
Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the
Agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace
agreements.‖

On this, Marvic Leonen, the chief peace negotiator clarifies that the Philippine
Government ―is not bound‖ to have the charter amended as President Aquino ―did not
guarantee the acceptance of (such) proposal (for amendment). It is clear,‖ Leonen
pointed out, “that the transition commission can only make recommendations, but it is
up to Congress to dispose.‖ In the Philippine Constitution, amendments fall within the
jurisdiction of the Congress.

Another critical point is in Paragraph 1 (4), which states that the relationship of
the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric.‖
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The term “asymmetric‖ is derived from the ―asymmetric theory‖ popularized by
Professor Brantly Womack of the University of Virginia. Womack originally used the
theory to analyze the relationship between China and smaller and weaker nations.
―Symmetry‖ is what characterizes the different states that make up the United States of
America. The states enjoy the same status among themselves vis-à-vis the central
government. ―Asymmetrical‖ is a term that has been applied with reference to
constituent units in both unitary states and federal systems, (such as) Aceh in the
unitary Republic of Indonesia, which has an asymmetrical relationship with the
Indonesian government; also the ARMM and the Cordillera Autonomous Region ―are
different from the regular local governments in the provinces, cities and municipalities,
and the relationship of the autonomous regions to these regular local governments is
asymmetrical.‖

The word ―asymmetric,‖ as clarified by the members of the Philippine peace
panel is not a legal term but a political one. This is clarified by Prof. Miriam Coronel,
who writes that ―in political science, there is ‗asymmetry‘ when a territorial unit within a
political system enjoys a distinct or special status because of its peculiarities.‖ Coronel
describes this asymmetry as ―a relationship that enhances the status of one part without
diminishing the standing or sovereignty of the central over its parts. In concrete terms,
the President shall have supervisory powers over the Bangsamoro and shall likewise
have jurisdictions over major powers such as defense and foreign affairs, among
others.‖

The critics of the Agreement, however, do not share the same positive meanings
of the term. One critic interprets ―asymmetric affiliation‖ as ―dysfunctional, divisive and
impaired, making assimilation extremely difficult if not impossible” (Yasay, UCCP
Cosmopolitan Church Forum, 21 November 2012). As such, assimilation has been
unacceptable to the Muslims. They regard it similar to a plague; Peter Gowing refers to
it as the Muslim‘s ―Christian problem,‖ which threatens the security and integrity of their
distinct bangsa or Muslim identity. Assimilation for the Muslims is tantamount to
―psychological death‖ and preventing it from happening to their ―Muslim way of life‖ lies
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at the core of their struggle in Mindanao for centuries.

Another portion in the Agreement that generates misinterpretation is the
provision on the authority of the Bangsamoro to receive ―block grants and subsidies
from the Central Government‖ as ―the power to block grants‖ (IV:3). Critics read it as
―block‖ (to hinder) grants, which is different from the original meaning in the agreement.
Coronel defines ―block grants‖ as ―lump sum funds for special development programs or
projects. It is a technical term used in financing and economics. It is not used here as a
verb to refuse or prevent.‖

CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS

Question of Territory and Disposition of Natural Resources

On Aerial Domain

Governance over the aerial and atmospheric domain is an issue we must keep
tab on in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). If governance by the
Bangsamoro over the enveloping atmosphere involves policing or environmental and
ecological protection and conservation, then this governmental function should be
shared with or devolved upon the Bangsamoro Government.

The notion is in keeping with IPRA, which vests in the Indigenous Peoples like
the Bangsamoro the “right to manage and conserve the natural resources within the
territories (traditionally occupied, owned or used by them) and uphold the
responsibilities for future generations, . . . the right to negotiate the terms and conditions
for the exploration of natural resources in the area for the purpose of ensuring
ecological and environmental protection and conservation measures, pursuant to
national and customary laws.” (Section 7(b), IPRA)

It is the Bangsamoro themselves who should determine what is good for
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themselves.

On the J urisdiction and Disposition of Natural Resources

Unlike the MOA-AD, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro does not
directly vest in the Bangsamoro Government the joint jurisdiction with the National
Government over natural resources in the territory of the Bangsamoro Government
beyond 15 kilometers from its internal waters. Neither does it vest in the Bangsamoro
Government jurisdiction and control over strategic mineral and other sources of energy
including their exploration and exploitation.

In fact, the FAB does away with these features of the MOA-AD that endowed the
BJE with associative characteristics as it relates to natural resources; generally, it treats
natural resources within the domain of the Bangsamoro Government as an object of
property law, nay, an object of economic activity whose produce and by-products may
be shared and divided among the economic actors and productive forces. This is clear
from the following provisions of the FAB, thus:
The Bangsamoro shall have a just and equitable share in the revenues
generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural
resources obtaining in all the areas/territories, land or water, covered by and
within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, in accordance with the formula agreed
upon by the parties.

(Emphasis supplied)
xx x
The details of the revenue and wealth sharing arrangements between the Central
Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall be agreed upon by the
Parties. The Annex on Wealth Sharing shall form part of this Agreement.

Beneath the internal and territorial waters of the region are fossil energy and
minerals and the disposition thereof could relate to the degree of participation of the
Bangsamoro Government in its exploration and exploitation, not to mention in the
revenues generated thereby; it could also relate to police regulation of its internal and
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territorial waters as a maritime or commercial byway, where fishing trawlers and
poachers from neighboring countries ply at will and deplete and destroy living riches
therein including corals and protected marine life. Indeed, what arrangement that may
be forged to enforce maritime regulations and environmental policies that will not
impinge upon the territorial integrity of the country and the ownership by the State of the
natural resources of the country.

To emphasize, on the part of the Bangsamoro Government, its share of the
authority could come in the form of management, policing or environmental protection
and conservation, utilization and disposition of its marine life, which duty is also
allocated to the local government units with respect to their municipal waters.

Such kind of power sharing or exercise of authority on the part of the
Bangsamoro Government comes within the purview of the UN DRIP. Thus:
The Declaration recognizes their ownership of the lands, territories and
resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or
acquired, and the states are obliged to give legal recognition and protection to
these lands, territories and resources with due respect to the customs, traditions
and land tenure system of the indigenous peoples. They are empowered too to
determine and develop

priorities and strategies for the development or use of
their lands or territories and other resources.

Obviously, for not arrogating ownership over the natural resources within its
jurisdiction and territorial areas, the peace panels hewed to the concurring Opinion of
Chief Justice Puno in Isagani Cruz case, holding that the right of ICCs/IPs to own,
develop lands and natural resources within the ancestral domain does not deprive the
State of ownership over the natural resources and control and supervision in their
development and exploitation.

In the Indigenous People‘s Rights Act (IPRA for brevity), what are ceded to the
indigenous peoples consist of the right ―to manage and conserve the natural
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resources (not ownership) within the territories (traditionally occupied, owned, or
used by them) and uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit
and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources
found therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration
of natural resources in the area for the purpose of ensuring ecological,
environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and
customary laws.‖



In brief, despite their deprivation of ownership of the natural resources within
their ancestral domain by constitutional fiat, the Bangsamoro Government is vested with
usufruct thereof, not to mention the social responsibility imposed on it by the State, that
is, to conserve them for future generations.

Wealth or revenue sharing between the Bangsamoro Government and the
Central Government is a settled issue. To emphasize, it certainly will not infringe on the
ownership of the State over natural resources to cede part of incomes or revenues
derived therefrom or elsewhere. The Constitution itself amply provides for it. By the
mandate of the fundamental law, the Central Government allocates a just share in the
national taxes to its political subdivisions.

Local government units are entitled to an
equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth
within their respective areas, in the manner provided by law, including sharing the same
with the inhabitants by way of direct benefits.

Government imposes on mining
corporations the obligation to pay royalty that is earmarked for social and economic
amelioration projects for the cultural communities where they operate.

On the Moro Homeland as Part of the Territory of the Philippines

On the issue of Territory and Disposition of Wealth, one more pivotal issue to be
clarified relates to the nature and character of the territory of the Bangsamoro
Government.

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At this point, the question may be posed: Does the FAB makes out for the
Bangsamoro a territorial enclave outside of the political map of the country?

Both the MOA-AD and the FAB provide for the same territorial core of the
Bangsamoro Government,

which consists of geographic areas in Mindanao including
the present territorial limits of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM for
brevity) and those who voted in the 2001 plebiscite for the amended Organic Act of
ARMM, Republic Act No. 9054.


These geographic areas traditionally constitute the ancestral domain and
ancestral lands of the Bangsamoro, not to mention the outlying lands. However, in both
documents vested property rights of non-Muslims including the other indigenous
peoples are recognized.

Reparations will be provided for members of the Bangsamoro
who were unjustly disposed of their territorial and proprietary rights and customary land
tenure.

But the MOA-AD goes further and classifies the territorial boundary of the Moro
homeland as a ―territory under compact‖ (or daru-ulma’hada) or ―territory under peace
agreement‖ (or daru-ul-sulh),

which modality, according to MILF Panel Member Atty.
Michael Mastura, is a relative recent invention in treaty-making.

However, these features of the MOA-AD are done away with in the FAB, which
means that the territory of the Bangsamoro Government, despite its being the
ancestral land of the Bangsamoro, generally speaking, still form part of the
country over which the PHG exercises political authority pursuant to the Regalian
Doctrine defined in Section 2, Article XII of the Philippine Constitution.

In fine, there is NO CONSTITUTIONAL INFIRMITY in the provisions of the
Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in relation to Territory and Disposition of
Wealth.

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Question of Political Asymmetry and Subsidiarity

The FAB provides that the relationship between the Central Government and the
Bangsamoro Government shall be asymmetric.

As it is, the existence of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government in southern
Philippines within the Philippine State is a case of political asymmetry. So does the
presidential form of the Philippine Government and the ministerial form of government
sought for the Bangsamoro Government under the FAB.

The allocation of powers
between the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government is another
instance of incongruency.

According to Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, ―An asymmetrical relationship
implies a special status of the Bangsamoro vis-a-vis the Central government that is
different from that of local governments and administrative regions. The autonomous
regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera contemplated in the Constitution
partakes of this special and distinct status and can thus be described as asymmetrical.”

If the new setup is to pass constitutional muster, and more importantly, to give
effect to aspirations of self-determination of Filipino Muslims, it is important to come up
with a good definition of an asymmetric relationship, that is not the already-rejected
―associative‖ relationship defined in the MOA. The Court used the definition of Keitner-
Reisman that ―[a]n association is formed when two states of unequal power voluntarily
establish durable links. In the basic model, one state, the associate, delegates certain
responsibilities to the other, the principal, while maintaining its international status as a
state. Free associations represent a middle ground between integration and
independence.‖ The mention of the word ―states‖ immediately (and perhaps
understandably) triggered the alarm bells of secession on the part of the Court, leading
it to reject the constitutionality of this relationship.

In the new Framework Agreement, asymmetric was taken to mean as follows:
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given a unitary setup, the Central government shall have the powers on: (in addition to
reserved and concurrent powers)
• Defense and external security
• Foreign policy
• Common market and global trade
• Coinage and monetary policy
• Citizenship and naturalization
• Postal service

The Moro entity, on the other hand, shall have exclusive powers concerning its
Sharia-based judicial system (which applies only to Muslims), the creation of its own
sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees and charges; it also has the authority to
receive grants and donations from both domestic and foreign sources and to contract
loans from domestic and foreign lending institutions except those requiring sovereign
guaranty, among others.

This is not a tricky setup in federal arrangements. But in unitary states, it‘s
difficult to draw the line. In a sense, the current system in the Philippines is already
asymmetrical. There currently exists an Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM) (along with another autonomous region in the northern part of the country)
which was constitutionally created during the 1986 drafting process. The ARMM is
however the very embodiment of a failed experiment in autonomy and decentralization,
so short of a constitutional amendment, the asymmetry sought in the new agreement
could just be of a different degree, rather than kind. The examples which immediately
comes to mind would be China vis-à-vis Hong Kong and Spain vis-à-vis its Basque and
Catalan regions.

But the closest comparison would be to the Aceh situation. In Indonesia,
although the form of state is Unitary, four regions were given the special status of
autonomy (keistimewaan) as provinces. They were namely Aceh, Jakarta, Jogjakarta,
and West Papua. These regions were given special statuses based on the constitutional
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
21
laws of special autonomy (Undang-Undang Keistimewaan Daerah) with each having
their own special degree of special autonomy.

Aceh exercises the Sharia law bond with the Aceh traditional culture system of
government instead of using the Unitary System the others Provinces had. Besides that,
Aceh is also granted the rights over the participation of regional parties in their province
unlike other provinces.

Hasrul Hanif, in his Paper entitled “The Making of Post-Conflict Peace
Building Governance: Asymmetrical Government & Political Economy of
Development in Contemporary Aceh”, portrayed the institutional design of the
asymmetrical government of Aceh and political economy of development in Aceh after
Helsinki‘s MoU that has been signed by government of Indonesia and Free Aceh
Movement in August 15, 2005 and implementation of Law NO. 11/2006 on Government
of Aceh in order to understand the prospects and problems of sustainability of
democratic peace keeping process in Aceh. His paper described the role of politics of
symbols, asymmetrical design of government and certain strategies economic and
social development for enhancing democratic strategies of institutionalization of post-
conflict peace building governance.

Hedrik Fredborg and Nadia Selim, in their paper entitled “ Local Democracy
And Peace Building In Asia: Devolution Arrangements And Power Sharing In
Local Government Councils” stated that Devolution of power is part of the approach
to addressing grievances and promoting peace in many countries in Asia. In conflict
prone and post conflict environments, it can be a successful instrument by promoting
participation, representation, inclusion and accountability. Through close proximity to
communities, local governments can effectively respond to the needs of the people and
consequently regain legitimacy. Devolution can also promote transparency and
accountability of state structures by subjecting local bodies to scrutiny by the people;
and can increase representation by engaging heretofore excluded groups in the public
policy arena – thus transforming individuals and communities from passive beneficiaries
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
22
of peace to active stakeholders of peace building.

Recognizing the potential shortcomings of devolution, special arrangements are
employed as ways to deal with highly specific local issues of representation and the
preservation of social and cultural identity for marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
Special arrangements generally provide for a greater level of transfers of power from
the center to the local that is unique from the arrangements in place for the rest of the
local bodies in the country. These measures may include special autonomous status
and have been mandated by peace agreements as a vital component to securing
peace. Autonomous arrangements are, by their very nature, asymmetric. It is one
type of power arrangement that could be applied within a nation and is frequently seen
as an option of preserve the integrity of a country threatened by secessionist forces. For
special autonomy arrangements, the emphasis is put on the provincial and/or local
government‘s power to control its own affairs.

Such arrangements have usually combined enhanced devolution with special
council arrangements for political representation of specific groups. Mechanics of
special council arrangements can include affirmative actions or provisions which legally
guarantee a number of seats to certain groups to ensure their representation and
inclusion within the political system. Such strategies are generally employed to correct
historical imbalances in power in conflict affected areas, and give local population
greater control over matters relevant to their daily lives and ascertain that specific
interests and needs of marginalized groups are taken into account in the political
decision making.

Devolution to a conflict-affected region can be in accordance with the national
policy and legal framework covering the entire country (i.e. ‗symmetric‘) or agreement
on a special ‗asymmetric‘ arrangement can be made. For management of those
devolved powers, the arrangements for representation in the (in most cases elected)
local government councils can similarly follow a uniform, or ‗symmetric‘, system or a
special – ‗asymmetric‘ arrangement aimed at sharing power between groups. Table one
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
23
below illustrates these design options.

Table 1 – Devolution and Representation: Symmetric and Asymmetric
Arrangements
Devolution
Symmetric Asymmetric
• One uniform national
devolution policy
• One uniform arrangement for
representation in local
councils across entire
country

Examples: Nepal, Thailand

 Special devolution arrangement for
one or more regions
 One uniform arrangement for
representation in local councils across
entire country

Example: Aceh Province in Indonesia and
Bougainville in Papua new Guinea*
• One uniform national
devolution policy
• Special arrangement for
representation in local
democratic institutions in
one or more regions

Examples: predominantly tribal
districts of a number of Indian
States
• Special devolution arrangement for one or
more regions
• Special arrangement for representation in
local democratic institutions in one or
more regions

examples: Chittagong Hill Tracts, Mindanao
in the Philippines, Papua new Guinea

*Aceh has some, limited, asymmetric arrangements related to local democratic
institutions, e.g. provision for local political parties and independent candidates.
Similarly, in Bougainville, the peace agreement focuses on devolution but in addition to
elected representatives, there are some provisions for appointed members


Decentralization is actively used in many countries to manage diversity in
countries with a unitary state structure to give voice to minority groups and to make
governance more responsive to diversified constituencies. A recent example of a
country which opted for enhanced decentralization with the aim to accommodate its
multi-cultural nature and to prevent escalation of inter-ethnic tensions is Macedonia. In
2001, an important agreement was signed whose major provisions outline the scope
and enumerate the steps to build decentralized governance.

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The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
24
Whereas decentralization in many countries is implemented with the policies and
laws applied in a uniform manner across the entire country, as outlined above, a
number of countries have also adopted asymmetric devolution arrangements which
implies that one or more regions are entitled to special powers within the state
compared to the rest of the country. It is an option that could be applied within unitary
states and is frequently seen as an option to preserve the integrity of a country facing
secessionist claims of minority groups. Emphasis is put on the enhanced self
government and on the autonomous unit‘s power to control its own affairs. In general,
autonomy could be regarded as a flexible arrangement for self-government tailored to
respond to varying circumstances and contingencies.

Asymmetrical Government in Aceh

The conflict in Aceh is generally perceived as stemming from the people‘s
dissatisfaction with central government policies and conspicuous economic deprivation.
The obvious richness of the province‘s natural resources on the one hand and
persistent poverty on the other hand exacerbated feelings of unequal treatment by the
central government.

Despite various political endeavors to negotiate and end the violence, conflict in
Aceh continued on for nearly 30 years. Hostilities finally came to a halt with the 2005
Helsinki memorandum of understanding (MoU). Subsequently, The Law on Governing
Aceh, Law 11/2006 provided a legislative framework for implementing the MoU and
granted special autonomous status to the province of Aceh.

Key features of the Law on Governing of Aceh (LGA) includes:

 Right to retain 70% of revenue from oil and gas, hydrocarbon, and other natural
resources
 Additional revenue from 2% of national grant allocation for 15 years and 1% for 5
more years.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
25
 Responsibilities for most areas which are not considered central government
functions.
 Right to use regional symbols including:
o a flag
o a crest
o a hymn
o Establishment of Sharia courts for Muslims
o Right to establish local political parties
o Protection of local culture and establishment of traditional culture body
o Right to set interest rates different from those set by the Central Bank of
Indonesia

Law 11/2006 is distinct from other decentralization laws in Indonesia as the
emphasis of devolution is at the provincial level rather than at the district and city/village
level. The law also provides Aceh with a much greater level of autonomy than is
experienced by any of the other provinces. For one, it gives Aceh far greater control
over natural resources and resultant revenue through the revenue allocation.

Aceh is entitled to over 70 % of the revenues from local oil and gas resources
and to over 60 % of other natural resources. These proportions are significantly larger
than the respective 20 and 15 % that was allowed under the 1999 law covering the rest
of the country apart from Aceh and Papua. As a result of these allocations, coupled with
increased transfers from the central government and tsunami related aid from the
international community, Aceh has the third-highest capita revenues among the
provinces in the country.

The LGA differs from the 1999 laws in that not only party-nominated candidates
can be elected but that independent candidates are also allowed to be elected, and
there is an exemption from the requirement for political parties to be registered in 50
percent of constituencies to stand for election. Together these provisions of the LGA
provide a good basis for local political interests to be represented.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
26

Despite the high level of revenue at Aceh‘s disposal, it remains the fourth poorest
province in Indonesia. This is largely due to low levels of spending on sectors such as
education and health which promote human development. Part of the issue is the
capacity of the Acehnese government to absorb and disburse such high level of
funding. Moreover, there is a lack of clarity on allocation of assignments and appropriate
mechanisms for regulation in Aceh. While the law on autonomy seems to provide some
guidance on the distribution of government functions, it falls short of expanding on a
detailed distribution of functions between the province and the districts.

Much progress has been made in addressing grievances of the Aceh people and
finding a political solution to a violent conflict. The special autonomy for Aceh is close to
the "comprehensive autonomy" offered by Jakarta to East Timor before it became Timor
Leste. Nonetheless, the local authorities and the people of Aceh now must define and
agree on a vision for the future of the province, spelling out the details of how their
special autonomous statute will be translated into policies, regulations and delivery of
services on the ground, including peace and security. This represents a complex
process that is further complicated by the absence of by-laws that are needed to ensure
the practical implementation of the Law on Local Autonomy for Aceh

On the Ministerial Form of Government

A ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro Government is a political
antagonism to the presidential system of government that underpins the collective
political life of the nation. In a presidential form of government, the national leadership is
elected by popular suffrage, while the contrary obtains in a ministerial and parliamentary
form of government where, as is the practice in countries influenced by Great Britain,
the mother and originator of the ministerial and parliamentary system, the head of
government or the prime minister or chief minister is elected by an electoral body of
deputies or a legal corporate that also wields the power of recall.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
27
Indeed, the ministerial and parliamentary form of government is a salutary
proposal, tailored-fit as it is as before to the Bangsamoro. It is also an affirmative
articulation of a general policy in the Constitution that reads, thus:
The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural community
within the framework of national unity and diversity.
xx x
The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that
protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social,
economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequalities, by
equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.
(section I, Article XIII, Philippine Constitution)

In fine, the proposal for a ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro measures
up to constitutional regulation even as it carries on the legacy of the past.

On the Expansion of the Jurisdiction of the Shari’ah Court

As early as 1977, the judicial system of the Bangsamoro called, Shari‘ah,

was
recognized by the Philippine Government as part and parcel of the whole legal system
of the country, albeit limited in scope to Muslim personal laws and its application
confined to Muslims. It is sought to be expanded in the FAB, its scope to extend to other
branches of Islamic law and its application still restricted to Muslims. As defined in the
FAB, the provision reads, thus:
The Parties recognized the need to strengthen the Shari’ah courts and to expand
their jurisdiction over cases. The Bangsamoro shall have competence over the
Shari’ah justice system. The supremacy of Shari’ah and its application shall be
only to Muslims.



By this provision a Shari‘ah judicial system is envisioned for the Bangsamoro that
is asymmetrical to the Philippine judicial system which includes a system of appeal, a
court hierarchy where the Supreme Court is the court of last resort and its power of
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
28
judicial review and administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof
including the present Shari‘ah courts, absolute and cannot be diminished.

Presently, the Shari‘ah justice system is a three-tiered court – the Shari‘ah
Municipal Court, the Shari‘ah Municipal Circuit Court, and the Shari‘ah District Court,
which are equivalent to the Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Court and Regional
Trial Court, respectively. Decisions of the Shari‘ah District Court is appealable directly to
the Supreme Court. With its members not Bangsamoro and without formal education
and competence on Shari‘ah, the Supreme Court would be deprived then of its review
power over decisions of the Shari‘ah courts, not to mention its administrative
supervision over all courts. By this scenario, the implementation of this feature of the
FAB will require an amendment to the Constitution.

The Shari‘ah law has its well-spring in Islam. Thus, no Muslim is truly a Muslim if
he/she does not live by its tenets and injunctions, no society is Islamic that does not go
by the regulations and the demands of Shari‘ah. As a Muslim, Islam is the
Bangsamoro‘s system of life, and this is sought to be incorporated into the Basic Law.
The FAB provides, thus:
The Basic Law shall reflect the Bangsamoro system of life and meet
internationally accepted standards of governance.

The importance of this proposal cannot be overemphasized. Suffice it to state,
the deprivation of Muslims from practicing Islam as a way of life and in all its splendors
is the main raison d‘etre of their insurgency.

No doubt, the grant of an ―expansive‖ Shari‘ah system of justice for the
Bangsamoro will go a long way for the resolution of the so-called Moro Problem.

The Shari‘ah judicial system may be expanded within the present Philippine legal
order without compromising its integrity. This can be done with the creation of a
Shari‘ah Division in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, with the appointment
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
29
of three (3) Muslim justices to the Court of Appeals and at least another three (3)
Muslim justices to the Supreme Court to compose the majority in one of its three (3)
Divisions. One Muslim legal luminary may be appointed as Deputy Court Administrator
to supervise the Shari‘ah courts.

To be sure, this provision for the expansion of the Shari‘ah justice system in the
country is an affirmative articulation of a general policy in the Constitution, thus:
xx x
The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that
protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social,
economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequality by equitably
diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.
95


The proposal should therefore be accorded breadth and depth, and policy-
makers including Congress should think out of the box and bootstrap the political
arrangements defined in the FAB to their constitutional form and shape without
sacrificing substance and content.

On the Police Force

The FAB provides for the creation of an ―independent commission by the Parties
to recommend appropriate policing within the area . . . composed of representatives
from the parties, local and international experts on law enforcements (that they may
invite) to assist the commission in its work.‖ It envisions a ―police force for the
Bangsamoro‖ . . . that ―is professional and free from partisan political control . . . civilian
in character . . . fair and impartial as well as accountable under the law for its action,
and responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro, Government,
and to the communities it serves.‖


The Parties agree to continue negotiations on the form, functions and
relationship of the police force of the Bangsamoro taking into consideration the results
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
30
of the independent review process of the independent commission.

It is premature then to measure the legal significance or validity of this provision
of the FAB on the creation of the police force for the Bangsamoro Government.

To emphasize, the provision is open-ended and too sketchy to make out a
definite body corporate with all its functional essentials. If at all, the FAB only conjures
up an inchoate entity as of a larvae in a cocoon. Until defined, it is a formless entity.

On the Internal Audit System

At first glance, the unconstitutionality of the provision of the FAB authorizing the
Bangsamoro Government to create its internal audit body for accountability over
revenues and other funds generated within or by the region from external sources,sticks
out.

Already, legal luminaries have made the claim and suggested the need for the
amendment of the Constitution to realize this point of consensus between the parties, it
being contrary to the provision of the Constitution that mandates the creation of an
independent Commission of Audit (COA for brevity)

―to examine, audit and settle all
accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts owned or held in trust by, or pertaining
to the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies or controlled corporations . . .‖


Another argument adduced relates to the nature of the Commission as an
agency of government vested with ―exclusive authority . . . to define the scope of its
audit and examination, establish techniques and methods required therefor, and
promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations, including those for the
prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or
unconscionable expenditures, or uses of government funds and properties.‖


And in the exercise of its authority, they argued, COA is nonpareil, an absolute
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
31
monarch on its own, the fundamental law proscribing the passage of any law
―exempting any entity of the Government or its subsidiarity in any guise whatsoever, or
any investment of public funds from the jurisdiction of the Commission of Audit.‖

However, on closer scrutiny, the grant of audit authority for the Bangsamoro
Government to create an audit body is ―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.‖ This colatilla is a rendition of the
power of COA under Section 1, Article IX of the Constitution.

In brief, the audit body sought to be established in the region is internal to the
Bangsamoro Government, a mere administrative tool for good housekeeping, nay,
governance. It does not in anyway derogate upon the authority of COA, much less
diminish its stature and nature as an independent national audit agency of the Philippine
Government, of which the Bangsamoro Government is a bigger and specialized
subsidiary.

On the Decommissioning of rebel forces

The deal calls for rebel arms to be put "beyond use" by 2016, chief government
negotiator Miriam Ferrer said. The decommissioning of rebel forces and weapons has
already been flagged as a potential stumbling block in a region where even politicians
have private armies and guns are easy to obtain.

Part of the deal is for it to decommission its own army alongside the pursuit of a
host of complementary measures to normalize the situation in once conflict-affected
communities.

Others argued that the President‘s capitulation to the MILF lies in the fact that he
got no concessions from the insurgent group in terms of the most important aspect of
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
32
real peace pacts: disarmament. In all past peace accords in the world, there were
categorical provisions for the insurgent group to lay down its arms.

For example, El Salvador‘s ―Chapultepec Peace Agreement‖ with the Farabundo
Marti Liberation Front was signed in January 1992; the pact called for the insurgents‘
total disarmament nine months later, which was complied with. The more recent
―Helsinki Pact‖ between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement
signed on Aug. 15, 2005, called for the insurgent group‘s total disarmament to start a
month later and to be completed—as it was—by yearend.

There is no such provision for disarmament in the Aquino-MILF pact, merely a
vague statement (Item VIII.5): “The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for
decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use.” No timetable, no
definition of ―putting beyond use.‖

On the recognition of those possessing Bangsamoro Identity

The framework recognizes as possessing the Bangsamoro identity 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 descendants whether of mixed or of full blood‖ together with their ―spouses and
descendants,‖ but adding that the ―freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall
be respected.‖ This is the same as the provision in the MOA-AD.

Will this satisfy those who are not indigenous Moros?

Both the MOA-AD and the framework lump together the identities of the
Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples living in Mindanao, including Palawan. More
acceptable is the provision of the current Organic Act which distinguishes the
Bangsamoro people (that is, those who are believers in Islam and who have retained
some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions) and other
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
33
tribal peoples whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from
other sectors of the national community.

On the Bangsamoro Territory

Another contentious issue will be determination of the areas that will be part of
the Bangsamoro territory. What the framework proposes is larger than the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao territory today. This will require a plebiscite as prescribed
by the Constitution.

On the powerful Transition Commission

Next there is the powerful Transition Commission. Will the Moro National
Liberation Front be given a role?

There is an argument raised by some parties that if the Congress enacts the
Bangsamoro Basic Law, the same shall be in violation of the 1987 Constitution. They
posited that t he Bangsamoro Basic Law is unconstitutional for two principal reasons.
 First, the Transition Commission which drafted it is void because President
Aquino III has no power to create a public office. No constitutional provision or
law allows its creation. In no way can it be considered an existing agency prior to
its creation. It cannot be justified as a means by which the President ensures
―that the laws are faithfully executed‖ precisely because its creation is for the
purpose of abrogating the existing organic act of the ARMM – an existing law the
execution of which must be ensured by the President in the first place. Legally
speaking, therefore, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law does not exist, and
because it does not exist, the President cannot certify it as urgent, and the
Congress cannot act on the same.
 Second, allowing the Bangsamoro Government to keep 75% of the taxes in the
autonomous region, to get the lion‘s share of revenues from natural resources in
the region, and to get 50% of the revenues from fossil fuel exploitation there,
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
34
inevitably reduces the corresponding shares of the Philippine provinces,
municipalities and cities which are not included within the Bangsamoro
region. That reduction in their shares of revenues will translate to a substantial
reduction in government services and will trigger more taxes if basic state
services are to continue to be delivered. In other words, the Bangsamoro Basic
Law affords extra-ordinarily special treatment to the Bangsamoro Government, to
the prejudice of and damage to other local government units in the Philippines.

Fairness dictates that if the people in Luzon, the Visayas, and the bulk of Mindanao will
end up with a substantial reduction in their shares of the national revenues pursuant to
the Bangsamoro Basic Law, then the plebiscite to be held on the Bangsamoro Basic
Law should not be limited to the Bangsamoro territory. Every qualified voter all over the
country must be allowed to vote in that plebiscite. To deny the people their right to vote
in that plebiscite is to countenance class legislation. The equal protection clause of the
1987 Constitution forbids class legislation.

Task of the Transition Commission

In preparation for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro
Transition Commission has been created.

The Commission was organized into five committees to draft the basic law.
These are the:
1. Committee on Basic Rights, Culture, Social Justice and Indigenous Peoples;
2. the Committee on Transitory Provisions;
3. the Committee on Political Autonomy;
4. he Committee on Fiscal Autonomy; and
5. the Committee on Justice and Security Matters.

Fiscal Autonomy And The Creation Of The Block Grant
Of particular interest is the work of the Committee on Fiscal Autonomy because it
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
35
will draft the provisions that will ensure that sufficient and sustainable funding will be
available for the massive task of creating the Bangsamoro, formulating and
implementing its development programs and projects, setting up political and
administrative structures, and ensuring a regime of peace and prosperity.

The Framework Agreement has several annexes that give details on important
provisions. One of these is the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.
Compared to the provisions of the ARMM law, the provisions in the Annex give more
flexibility to the Bangsamoro in levying new taxes and other forms of revenue, collection
of existing taxes and levies, sharing in the income of government-owned or controlled
corporations, sharing in income from national wealth, and requirements for auditing and
accountability.

The Annex also has provisions for a block grant from the national government
that will not be less than the budget of the ARMM immediately before the creation of the
Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Furthermore, a Special Development Fund will be
provided for by the Central Government.

It is clear that in addition to additional powers to generate its own income, the
Bangsamoro will also receive block grants, shares from income generated from national
wealth, as well as from national taxes and levies.

Thus, if properly generated and collected, these additional sources of revenue
can fund the regular as well as the development operations of the Bangsamoro without
necessarily resorting to excessive and risky borrowing activities.

Bangsamoro Fiscal Autonomy And Children
The Bangsamoro provinces have among the highest rates of poverty and the
lowest rates of education and health. This is a result of generations of neglect and
frequent peace and order problems.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
36
It is hoped that with the establishment of Bangsamoro and its generous fiscal
powers, special attention will be given to children. Because of poverty, they lose their
childhood quickly as they become workers. Insuring that the children can have
sufficient nourishment and that they can enjoy their childhood by allowing them to play
will perhaps be the most wonderful gifts the new governing entity can give its children.

The people look forward to the vision that more opportunities will be given to
children—both boys and girls—to study and improve their chances of finding work when
they have grown. With the Bangsamoro government soon to be established on a strong
fiscal foundation, children will be finally granted the opportunity to enjoy their childhood
more, to eat full meals, and to reach higher levels of education at par with those of other
provinces.

Who are the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission?
They have one thing in common -- they are all Bangsamoro.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
37

Mohagher Iqbal - Chairman
• Also the chief negotiator of the MILF on the peace talks
• Member of the MILF Central Committee, chair of the committee on information
• Studied BA Political Science and MA Political Science at the Manuel Quezon
University
• Joined the Moro National Liberation Front in 1972 after returning to Maguindanao
from Manila
• Joined the MILF, then known as the New MNLF Leadership, in 1977
• Wrote two books -- Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, and The Long
Road to Peace: Inside the GPH-MILF Peace Talks under the pen name Salah
Jubair
• Hails from Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
38
The members
From the MILF side:

Ibraham Ali
 Member of the MILF Central Committee
 Board of Consultants of the MILF peace panel
 Member of the MILF since the 1970s
 Member of the MILF‘s Darul Ifta (House of Opinion)
 Member of the Board of Trustees of Hayatol Ulama of the Philippines
 Educated in Saudi Arabia – studied at the Arabic Language Institute of the King
Abdul Aziz University in Mecca from 1980 to 1987; College of Islamic Law at
Ummol Qura University in Mecca from 1982 to 1987; and King Soud University in
Riyadh for a post-graduate diploma from 1994 to 1995
 Director of the Kutawato Islamic Institute in Cotabato City from 1989 to 1993
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
39

Maulana Alonto
• A writer and an activist from Lanao del Sur
• Member of the MILF central committee
• Joined the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel as member of its Technical Committee in
2000 when peace negotiations were held in Tripoli, Libya
• Became a member of the peace panel in 2003
• A former MNLF member, he joined the organization as a young Moro student
• Fought against the Marcos dictatorship as head of the information and propaganda of
the Northern Mindanao Regional Revolutionary Committee (NMRC)
• Left the MNLF in 1981 and joined the "above-ground" anti-Marcos movement
• Joined the MILF when former MILF chair Sheikh Salamat Hashim came home from
exile in the mid-80s
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
40

Abdulla Camlian
• An alternate member of the MILF Peace Panel since 2010
• Chairman of the MILF Technical Committee
• Studied BS Military Science in the Cairo Military Academy in 1965
• Hails from Basilan; Sama-Bangingi-Tausug ethnic roots
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
An Overview
41

Raissa Jajurie
• Board of Consultants of the peace panel of the MILF
• Member of the MILF‘s technical working group on the annex on wealth-sharing
• Studied AB Political Science at the Ateneo de Manila University and law at the
University of the Philippines
• A human rights lawyer with expertise on the issues of workers, women, peace in
Mindanao, indigenous peoples, and the Moros
• Handles cases of Moro political detainees and human rights defenders, and works on
the prosecution of human rights violation
• A Tausug, she hails from Jolo, Sulu
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Hussein Munoz
• Deputy Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces
• Studied AB Political Science at the University of Mindanao in Davao City
• Also known as ―Sonny Davao‖
• Fluent in English ang Tagalog, as well as in Maguindanao, Tausug, and Bisaya
• Hails from Lupon, Davao Oriental

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Said Shiek
• Head of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
• Finished Secondary Education at the Lanao National College and practiced his
teaching profession in the province
• A Maranao

Timuay Melanio Ulama
• A Teduray leader who heads the Organization of Teduray and Lambangian
Conference
• Indigenous Peoples (IP) consultant of the MILF
• Finished BS Agronomy in Upi Agricultural School and MA Public Administration in
Notre Dame University
• Hails from Upi, Maguindanao

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On the government side:

Talib Abdulhamid Benito
• A practicing Shari‘ah lawyer
• Former Dean of the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies at the
Mindanao State University in Marawi City from 2008 to 2012
• Long-standing member of the Philippines Shari‘ah Bar since 1985, serving as legal
researcher and professor, specializing in Muslim procedural law and Muslim law
of personal and family relations
• A Maranao
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Pedrito Eisma
• Host of a news program aired in Basilan Today TV
• Recognized twice as an Outstanding Municipal Councilor as an awardee of the
Gawad Parangal ng Bayan in 1999 and the Excellence in Public Service Award
in 2000.
• Authored the resolution that led to the conversion of the municipality of Isabela into a
component city separate from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
• Teaches Political Science and Director of Student Affairs at the Claret College of
Isabela in Basilan
• Finished Bachelor of Law at Silliman University
• A native of Basilan
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Froilyn Mendoza
• Member of the all-women contingent of the Civilian Protection component of the
International Monitoring Team
• Studied BS Agriculture at the University of Southern Mindanao and earned another
degree as registered midwife in Northern Cotabato College
• Project Manager of the special project for the advocacy of Lumad women‘s rights in
the ARMM by UNIFEM (now UN Women)
• Advocacy specialist of the special project of the Institute for Autonomy and
Governance for the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in the ARMM
• One of the founding members of the Teduray Lambangian Women‘s Organization Inc
• A Teduray who hails from South Upi, Maguindanao
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Akmad Sakkam
• Served as ambassador to three Islamic states -- Iraq from 1986 to 1992; Bahrain from
1994 to 1999; and Oman from 1999 to 2003
• A recipient of the Presidential Award of Merit given by former President Cory Aquino
for his ―outstanding service to the country in the safe evacuation of Filipino
workers in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War of 1991‖
• Served as labor attache to Saudi Arabia from 1976 to 1981
• Recipient of an outstanding service award from the DFA for exceptional performance
and contributions to foreign policy formulation
• A native of Sulu
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Fatmawati Salapuddin
• Active member of the civil society sector, particularly in the area of peace-making
• Director of the Bureau of Peace and Conflict Resolution under the National
Commission on Muslim Filipinos since 2010
• Served as a member of the Consultative Assembly of the Southern Philippines
Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the transition mechanism of the
1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF
• A native of Sulu
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Asani Tammang
• Former representative of Sulu for 3 consecutive terms -- the 9th, 10th, and 11th
Congress
• A trial lawyer; served as assistant provincial prosecutor in the past
• "Proud son" of the town of Pamanao in the province of Sulu
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Johaira Wahab
• Youngest member of the Transition Commission
• Obtained her bachelor‘s degree in Philosophy, minor in Psychology at the University
of the Philippines (Diliman), magna cum laude, in 2005 and finished her law
degree (Juris Doctor) at the same university in 2009
• Member of the Philippine Institute of Arbitrators
• Member of the board of Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro
• Actively engaged in advocacies for gender justice in Islam and minority rights
• Member of the International Advisory Group of Musawah
• Served as the head of the legal team of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel
upon the resumption of the peace talks with the MILF under the Aquino
administration in July 2010
• Hails from Maguindanao
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Source: Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

On the issue of forming independent Police Force

Another contentious issue that has been raised is the proposal to create a new
Bangsamoro police force separate from the Philippine National Police

Last year, the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) chaired by Randall
Beck, an assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said it is
eyeing ―wide ranging‖ consultations related to finding the appropriate form, structures
and relationships of the police force for the future Bangsamoro autonomous entity.

But first, it must be noted that a law, Republic Act 6975, established the PNP on
January 29, 1991 as the country‘s police force that is ―national in scope and civilian in
character.‖ RA No. 8551 otherwise known as the PNP Reform and Reorganization
Act of 1998 and signed on February 17, 1998 amended certain provisions of RA 6975
and allowed the reorganization of the PNP to effectively perform its mandate to enforce
the law, prevent and control crimes, maintain peace and order, and ensure public safety
and internal security with the active support of the community. The PNP is the
primary law enforcement agency of the country, which is national in scope and civilian in
character. It was constituted from the full merger of the former Philippine Constabulary
and the Integrated National Police with Police Director General Cesar P. Nazareno, now
deceased, as its first chief.

At present, the PNP headed by its 18th chief, Director General Alan LM Purisima,
is undergoing a massive reform program aimed at transforming it into a much credible,
effective and efficient force.

Beck, who represents the Canadian government in the ICP, chairs the seven-
member body created by the peace panels of government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) to come up with proposals on how to establish the Bangsamoro
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police force. The body first met in September in Kuala Lumpur during the 40th
exploratory meeting of the parties. The body formally convened October 21 to 23 in
Manila to hear presentations from various resource persons, according to the Office of
the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (Opapp). During their first meeting,
now retired Police Director Lina C. Sarmiento discussed the structure, history, and
constitutional mandate of the PNP while government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-
Ferrer presented the legal framework relevant to policing in the Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao. Sarmiento since then has left the PNP and is now the head of the
new Martial Law Victims‘ Compensation Board.

Based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the
Bangsamoro police force will be ―civilian in character‖ and ―professional and free from
partisan political control.‖ Such police force is also hoped to be ―responsible to the
central government, the Bangsamoro government, and to the communities it serves.‖

In exploring ideas for the establishment of the police force, the ICP said it will
be guided by the principles of ―equal access to justice and security for all members of
society‖ and inclusiveness ―to reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity in the
Bangsamoro.‖ The Aquino government says the Bangsamoro police force is also
expected to be capable of addressing ―the different security issues facing women, men,
children and minority groups.‖

On the issue of Ancestral Domain in the Bangsamoro

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fully respects the Indigenous Peoples‘
Rights Act (IPRA) as a law enacted by Philippine Congress. But its application in the
future Bangsamoro political entity has never been agreed as part of signed documents,
especially in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The MILF
consistently staved off attempts --- and succeeded --- in excluding the application of this
conceptual legal framework in the Bangsamoro. It is too narrow and restrictive.

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As far as the CAB is concerned, there is only one ancestral domain in the
Bangsamoro; and this ancestral domain is owned by Moros and indigenous peoples
(IPs) particularly the Tidurays, Lambangian, and Dulangan Manobos. (By the way,
Moros are also indigenous). If outside of the Bangsamoro, the concept of ancestral
domain is more tribal in application, here it is elevated to a more national in character,
because the term ―Bangsamoro‖ becomes an identity, similar or at par with ―Filipino‖.
Both are national identities. There are facts that support this discourse. The
Maguindanaons and Tidurays have only one ancestral root; they are the descendants of
the two brothers, Mamalu and Tabunaway. Therefore, both in ancestry and domain,
they are one and cannot be separated. Besides, North Upi and South Upi, where the
descendants of Mamalu dwell, have large Maguindanaon populations. Besides, the
other municipalities bordering these two municipalities have mixed Maguindanaon and
Tiduray populations. Therefore, an outright delineation cannot be possible; it would only
create trouble. What is possible is ―identification‖ of areas occupied, possessed, or
owned by the Maguindanaons and Tidurays.

In the Annex on Power-sharing, ancestral domain and natural resources are part
of the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro. But in order to allay the fears of the IPs,
whether founded or otherwise, a safety clause for their protection was added in the
document, which reads: ―Protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples in the
Bangsamoro in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the
Indigenous Peoples and taking into account, in addition to economic and geographical
criteria, their individual and communal property rights, cultural integrity, customary
beliefs, historical and community tradition.‖ Besides, the NCIP was not devolved to the
ARMM, which instead has the Office of the Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC) to
take charge of the affairs and interests of the IPs. On top of all reasons, it was not the
Moros or Muslims who ―grabbed‖ the landholdings of the IPs anywhere in Mindanao.
The truth is that both Moros and IPs are victims of this massive landgrabbing in
Mindanao. They should, therefore, unite not disunite --- and not intrigued by ―evil
whisperers‖.

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On the issue of the Bangsamoro Waters

Among the issues that should be addressed are the following:
- the impact of wealth sharing and power sharing on the Bangsamoro Waters
- preferential fishing rights in the Zones of Joint Cooperation for the
Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples in the adjoining provinces.
- the legal geography of the new Bangsamoro Region.
- constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Basic Law—described agreement as a
test on the limits of our Constitution in the context that it is reconciling a
separatist movement with a constitutional regime. (it has been held that the
Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro can be accommodated by
the present legal framework and the enumeration of powers therein is in
consonance with Article X of the 1987 Constitution)
- views on investment implications of the Bangsamoro agreement and its
annexes—point out things to consider under the annexes that need to be
managed in terms of the expectations of the Bangsamoro having exclusive
powers over investment and the central government spelling out investment
policies on the treaty level and the national legislative level.

There are still several issues to be resolved, such as clarifications on the impact of the
Bangsamoro Basic Law with existing laws and the creation of dispute resolution
mechanisms, as the agreement was not designed to cover all the issues that may arise.









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CONSTITUTIONAL DILEMNAS IN THE CREATION OF THE
BANGSAMORO AUTONOMOUS POLITICAL ENTITY
(by Merlin Magallona)

In framing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the main guide should be the
Constitution.

This is not clearly reflected in the framework. The framework says that the
―provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall be consistent with all the agreements of
the Parties.‖ Similarly, it says that the ―Bangsamoro shall have a just and equitable
share in the revenues generated through the exploration, development or utilization of
natural resources obtaining in all the areas/territories, land or water, covered by and
within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, in accordance with the formula agreed upon
by the Parties.‖

This seems to mean that Congress, in the formulation of the Basic Law, must
accept any agreement of the parties. This seems to make Congress a rubber stamp for
whatever the agreement wants. This needs clarification.

FIRST: The Framework Agreement appears to limit the powers of the Central
Government in its relation to the NPE.
In Part III, paragraph 2, it is provided that The Central Government shall have
powers in:
a. Defense and external security
b. Foreign policy
c. Common market and global trade, provided that the power to enter into
economic agreements already allowed under Republic Act No. 9054 shall
be transferred to the Bangsamoro
d. Coinage and monetary policy
e. Citizenship and naturalization
f. Postal service
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It seems to be the intention of the Parties to the Agreement that this limitation of
powers is exclusive: the Central Government shall not exercise powers that are
not thus listed. This intent is expressed in the last sentence of the same
paragraph 2, as follows:
This list is without prejudice to additional powers that may be agreed upon by the
Parties.

This sentence has the effect of giving emphasis to the following propositions:
1. The powers listed above are granted by the joint will of the Parties to the
Agreement. This implies that the exercise of such powers by the Central
Government becomes merely contractual.
2. Any other powers may be exercised by the Central Government only upon
agreement of the Parties, which obviously may be quite apart from the
Framework Agreement. But the authority of the Parties to grant such additional
powers springs from the Agreement. If the Parties may agree to add more.

In this respect, the subject-matter of the Agreement pertains to or involves the
powers of the Philippine State and are essential elements of statehood. It is a
forbidden area for bargaining in the relations with other States; it is an utter
anomaly to subject State powers to the freedom of stipulation on the part of the
State‘s regional or local government.

The powers of the State in question are the core content in the making of the
fundamental law; it is the essence of the Constitution that it allocates these
powers to the main departments of the Government, evidencing that the
sovereign function of determining the structure and substance of power is the
supreme prerogative of constitution-making. Does the Framework Agreement
envisage that its principle on power relations referred to above be incorporated
into the Constitution by necessary amendment? This gives the impression that
the Agreement operates over and above the Constitution. Concomitantly, it does
not make reference to the Constitution, save by way of the prospect of its
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amendment, as pointed out below.

SECOND. The grant of powers to the Central Government under the Agreement
involves the constitutional concept of power that ―Sovereignty resides in the people and
all government authority emanates from them.‖

Does the Agreement then entails a
transfer of the sovereign powers of the people to the contractual arrangement between
the Parties?
While it is to be hoped that such unimaginable situation is not intended, it gives
rise to the thought that the Parties are mindless of the Constitution.

THIRD: Does the Agreement intend to constitutionalize its definition of State powers by
amendment or revision of the fundamental law?
It may be assumed that it marks a radical shift from the Constitution. However, it
would be fair to interpret the Agreement as contemplating that the Constitution be
adjusted to its requirements. Thus, in enumerating the functions of the Transition
Commission in Part III, paragraph 4(b), the Agreement provides:
To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose
of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of
the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace
agreements.
It may be assumed that reference to ―the agreements of the Parties‖ includes the
Framework Agreement in the first place. Overall, it is the Constitution that is
tailored to suit the Agreement and the joint will of the Parties bending the
fundamental law to their Procrustean bed.
By its commitment to empower the Transition Commission to propose
amendment to the Constitution, has the Central Government departed from the
Supreme Court‘s directive in the MOA-AD case that it has no authority by itself to
propose such amendment? It appears that in this regard the Central Government
has avoided the constitutional minefield by a carefully composed text of the
provision in question; it reads ―To work out proposals to amend the constitution,‖
not ―To amend or to propose to amend.‖ However, the fine line may be breached
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by the provision of the Framework Agreement in Part VII, paragraph 3 that
There shall be created a Transition Commission through an Executive
Order and supported by Congressional Resolutions.
Inevitably by this provision when translated into official action, the creation of the
Transition Commission, together with the function of working out proposals for
amending the Constitution, as embodied in the Executive Order, becomes an act
of the President of the National Government. Note that the Agreement does not
deal with any modality as to what to do with such proposed amendments.
Proceeding as they do from his Executive Order, these proposals, would likely be
left to his discretion, the exercise of which would likely be under pressure from
the NPE. But the President is subject to the process of amendment or revision as
prescribed by the Constitution, culminating in a plebiscite on the part of the entire
national community, certainly not only on the part of the Bangsamoro people.
Hence, the President may have to sponsor the proposals of the Transition
Commission to amend the Constitution as his commitment under the Agreement.

FOURTH. As pointed out above, the powers granted to the Central Government under
the Framework Agreement are provided as exclusive.

This is in sharp contrast to the method by which the present Constitution
structures the powers of autonomous regions, such as the Autonomous Region
of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). What is subject to exclusivity are the powers
granted to them; they have only such powers as are expressly provided. Thus,
under Section 17, Article X, the Constitution has established that
All powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted by this Constitution
or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National
Government.

Accordingly, subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws‖
legislative powers of autonomous regions are limited by Section 20, Article X of
the Constitution to the following:
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(1) Administrative organization;
(2) Creation of sources of revenue;
(3) Ancestral domain and natural resources;
(4) Personal, family, and property relations;
(5) Regional urban and rural development;
(6) Economic, social, and tourism development;
(7) Educational policies;
(8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and
(9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of general
welfare of the people of the region.

Even as these powers are limited, it must be emphasized that their exercise is
still subject to national laws and therefore to the legislative power of Congress.
On the other hand, in re-structuring the power relations between the Central
Government and the NPE, the Agreement stipulates that ―the Bangsamoro shall
have its exclusive powers‖, which means powers exercisable only by itself and
may be understood as precluding the intervention by the Central Government.
The reversal of the constitutional order in the structure of governmental powers
will generate difficulties in making space for the necessary constitutional
changes.

FIFTH. The principles and methods embodied in the Agreement would not become
operational by themselves.
Because of their radical shift from the existing constitutional system they may be
rejected as unconstitutional in the sphere of legitimation, unless they gain
assimilation as amendments to the Constitution or as legislative enactments into
the Basic Law of the NPE. For this reason, Executive action for implementation
would be accordingly circumscribed. (but this has now been addressed as the
enactment of the Basic Law shall be through an Act of Congress)

SIXTH. Coming back to the problem of the Agreement granting limited powers to the
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Central Government, the following consequences would ensue:
There may arise two categories of State or governmental powers in their exercise
over local governmental units. The first category would consist of the NPE,
together with its constituent units, in relation to which the Central Government
has limited powers under the Agreement. The second category would involves
the rest of all the other government units, which will remain as they are in their
present constitutional status. The first category would entail the asymmetric
relation between the Central Government and the NPE, but the entire
constitutional order would maintain its normal symmetry only with respect to the
other local government units.
Will constitutional normalization be desirable by restoring equal status on
government units? Their equality may be achieved by the elimination of such
categorization of local government units, either by the transformation of all local
government units on the basis of the NPE model, or restoring all local
government units or autonomous regions to their present constitutional status.
It would be the height of absurdity to aim at constitutional amendments by which
all local government units or regions would be established in equality with the
NPE model. It may prove to be merely a conceptual absurdity, but in practice it
may spell the dismantling of the State.

SEVENTH. The Agreement stipulates that the NPE ―shall be governed by a Basic Law.‖

Presumably, this will serve as the constitution of the NPE; it shall be ―consistent with all
agreements of the Parties,‖

giving primacy to Framework Agreement. To be drafted by
the Transition Commission, the Basic Law is at the same time subject to the
requirement that ―It shall be formulated by the Bangsamoro people‖ under Part II,
paragraph 4 of the Framework Agreement. Although to be appointed by the President,
will the members of the Transition Commission represent the Bangsamoro people in
drafting the Basic Law, or an agency of the Executive Department?
In representation of the Central Government as Party to the Framework
Agreement, the President is to ―work ... to ensure the widest acceptability of the
Bangsamoro Basic Law as drafted by the Transition Commission‖.

As ―submitted
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by the Transition Commission‖, the President is committed to certify the Basic
Law ―as an urgent bill,‖ as a requirement under the Framework Agreement.

Will the President have the discretion to make changes in the Basic Law as a bill
prepared by the Transition Commission before he certifies it as urgent? On the
assumption that the core content of the bill embodies the principles and
modalities of the Framework Agreement, the President would have little room of
discretion within his commitments as thus provided. The other side of the
dilemma would be transmitted to Congress as a political battleground.
How will the President enforce his commitments under the Framework
Agreement as built into the bill providing for the Basic Law, upon Congressmen
and Senators.
Will Congress exercise its plenary powers in changing the content of the bill,
without breaching the commitments of the Central Government under the
Framework Agreement?
This Agreement requires that the Basic Law be ―ratified by the qualified voters
within the territory‖; would ratification — and therefore effectivity — of the Basic
Law be achieved if the Basic Law in the course of its passage in Congress, if at
all, suffer amendments objectionable to the Transition Commission and in breach
of the President‘s commitments? It is unlikely that the principles and methods
contained in the Agreement would be incorporated into the Constitution as
amendments, at the time the Basic Law would come to Congress for enactment.
In which case, Congress would measure its validity against the Constitution as it
stands unamended. In the first place, unless the Basic Law would not depart
from the Constitution, the necessary constitutional changes must be in place
before the Basic Law could come to Congress for enactment. May the President
find it necessary to move Congress to make such changes as a precedent to the
enactment of the Basic Law? Then the Basic Law, infused by the principles of the
Framework Agreement, would be exposed to the risk of a failed adventure.



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THE CHALLENGE

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. The people anticipates 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.

There is no question that the people of the Bangsamoro should be given the
opportunity to catch up with the rest of the country in terms of social, political and
economic development. There is no question that they have been largely left out, even
as other regions are moving on. However, all of these equalization efforts have to be
done within the provisions of the Constitution ,existing law, and equity considerations for
all Filipinos who will be sharing the burden of financing the Bangsamoro.

The Moros suffered from lack of true leaders to carry their aspirations. Except for
a handful, most Moro leaders were mere tools of the state or its regimes, in pursuit of
the policy of integration of Moros into the national body politic. This was a sinister policy
because it failed to take into account Moro history, culture, identity and aspirations. With
the Bangsamoro pact, national unity through diversity is forever sealed, and nation
building or rebuilding can now take its normal course without the danger of derailment.

The Bangsamoro is not a complicated project assuming there is political will and
maturity that this is the only promising alternative to spur grown and progress in the
Philippines.

Let us learn from the mature democracies of Europe, or from the UAE, where the
even emirates that comprised the country are very autonomous from the central
government. It would be instructive to look back to history to capture a bright future for
ourselves. If we are stuck to myopia and deep prejudices against the Moros, then
indeed, the future is not ours.