Discuss the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) recently signed the final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. What on earth is this Framework Agreement? The government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), issued a FAQ on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro way back in 2012. Because the FAQ site does not contain a comment section (and because the significance of the agreement has been unfortunately diminished by the issues surrounding Vhong Navarro, Deniece Cornejo and Cedric Lee), we are reproducing the F&A below in the interest of academic discussion (and to disseminate the information). Please exercise civility and respect when discussing.

Q: What is the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro?

A: The Framework Agreement outlines the general features of the political settlement between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It defines the structure and powers of the Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  It also sets the principles, processes and mechanisms for the transition until the regular election in 2016 for the new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity. The Agreement paves the way forward to the just resolution of the historical divide between the Government and the Bangsamoro.

Q: Why is there a need for a Framework Agreement?  What is its significance?

A: The Framework Agreement puts together the points of consensus achieved in the series of talks between the GPH and the MILF that took off with the forging of the Ceasefire Agreement in 1997.  It elaborates on the nature of the political entity that will replace the ARMM.  This new entity shall be called the Bangsamoro. The document also charts the road map or the steps and mechanisms for the transition leading to the creation of the Bangsamoro. The road map can aptly be described as an inclusive and people-driven process.

Q: Is this the final peace agreement?

A: Not yet. The GPH and MILF panels will continue to discuss the details that will form the different annexes to the Agreement. There shall be annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional mechanisms. The Framework document and the Annexes all together will constitute the comprehensive agreement. Both panels aim to finish the annexes within this year.

Q: What are the wealth- and power-sharing arrangements between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro?  

A:  Under power-sharing, the Parties have agreed that the Central Government will have reserved powers, and the Bangsamoro will have its exclusive or devolved powers. There will also be concurrent or shared powers between the Central and the Bangsamoro governments.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be passed by Congress shall also provide for the justice institutions in the Bangsamoro that reflect the plurality and diversity of the communities in the region.

Given the importance of revenue generation and sourcing for the operation of the Bangsamoro region, the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall provide for powers of the Bangsamoro to create its own sources of revenues, as well as to have a just share in the revenues derived from natural resources. A Fiscal Policy Board and an intergovernmental sustainable development body shall be created to serve as mechanisms for partnership and coordination between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro toward building a strong fiscal foundation and sustainable development in the region.

The annexes will further provide the details on powers and wealth creation.

Q: After the signing of the Framework Agreement, what’s next?

A: The President will issue an Executive Order that will create the Transition Commission (TC). Eight members of the TC shall be selected by the MILF; seven shall be selected by the GPH. Both parties are committed to make the TC representative of the different sectors and groups in the Bangsamoro.

The TC shall work on a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. The draft law shall then be submitted to Congress for deliberation. Once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed and signed by the President, a plebiscite shall be conducted in the envisoned core territory of the Bangsamoro. Elections for the new Bangsamoro government will be held in 2016.

As the TC is being organized, the panels will continue to work on the Annexes. Aspects of the Agreement that do not require legislative action, such as those on development and normalization, will simultaneously be implemented through the different joint transition mechanisms that will be created.

Q: What’s going to happen to the ARMM?

A: As envisioned, the Bangsamoro shall replace the ARMM. The ARMM shall continue to function until the  is passed and ratified. There shall provide a transitory period whereby a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall bridge the period between the plebiscite and the 2016 election. The BTA shall prepare for the transformation of the region into the Bangsamoro.

Q: Is the Bangsamoro an amended ARMM?

A: No, it is not an amended ARMM, but a replacement of it.

According to former GPH peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen, to “replace” it is part of the MILF’s language that needs to be accommodated. “If you want to strike a bargain between the two so that both are in the same roadmap towards a more peaceful accommodation of their interest and decades of war then, therefore, we will have to accommodate the language of each other in order to reach that kind of a framework agreement.”

Q: How will the Bangsamoro government look like? 

A: The Bangsamoro shall have a ministerial form. Voters will vote for political parties, and the parties who win seats in the legislative body shall elect the head of the Bangsamoro.

The GPH believes that the ministerial system will support the development of a strong and responsible party system in the Bangsamoro. The MILF and all other political forces, through political parties, will be able to participate in elections and seek power through democratic and peaceful means.

Q: What does a ministerial form of government mean?

A: In a ministerial form of government, the people will elect their representatives to the assembly. This assembly will then elect its leader who will be called the chief minister.

Q: What is meant by an asymmetrical relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Central Government?

A: 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 partake of this special and distinct status and can thus be described as asymmetrical.

Q: Can the Bangsamoro be established without a Constitutional amendment?

A: Yes.  The terms of the Agreement can be implemented without changing the present Constitution. The relevant provisions in Article X of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on the creation of Autonomous Regions shall apply, in the spirit of accommodation and flexibility. The GPH is fully committed to supporting the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by Congress before the 2016 regular election.

Consistent with the right of any citizen or group of citizens and the procedures provided by the Constitution, the Transition Commission may work on further proposals for constitutional reform.

Q: Is the Framework Agreement a threat to national sovereignty and integrity? 

A: The Framework Agreement adheres to the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the Philippine Republic. The process of entrenching the new political entity will comply with procedures mandated under the Constitution. As President Aquino said in his speech on the Framework Agreement on October 7, 2012:

“The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition… and this Agreement will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal.”

Instead of threatening national sovereignty, the Agreement will pave the way for national unity where “the Filipinos of the Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues and the fruits of national patrimony. They will enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice.”

Q: What is the geographical coverage of the Bangsamoro? 

A: The geographical scope of the Bangsamoro shall be determined through the plebiscite that will be held after Congress passes the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The people will decide whether they will join the Bangsamoro or not.

The plebiscite will be held in the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro, namely, the current ARMM provinces and Marawi City; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; the six municipalities in Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite (Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan, Tangkal); and the 39 barangays in six municipalities of North Cotabato province that likewise voted for inclusion in 2001 (Labacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawaya, Pikit and Midsayap).

All other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area may ask for their inclusion in the plebiscite, at least two months prior to its conduct, for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.

Q: What will happen if people reject the Bangsamoro entity in the plebiscite?

A: If it is not agreed upon by the people themselves to establish the Bangsamoro entity, then there will be no mandate. It will mean that there will be no Bangsamoro.

Q: Who or what is the Bangsamoro?

A: 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 mixed or of full native blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription. Spouses and their descendants shall also enjoy this right. The freedom of choice of other Indigenous peoples shall be respected.

All peoples in the Bangsamoro are Filipino citizens.

The name Bangsamoro thus is an identity, not a citizenship. It also refers to the new autonomous political entity that shall be created in replacement of the ARMM.

Q: Why is the new political entity named Bangsamoro?

A: President Aquino, in his October 7 speech announcing the signing of the draft GPH-MILF Framework Agreement, said that this new political entity will be called Bangsamoro as “it it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation.”

Q: What will happen to the LGUs in the Bangsamoro?

A: The Bangsamoro Basic Law shall define the relations between the local government units and the Bangsamoro and Central Governments.  The creation of the Bangsamoro does not diminish the existing powers of the LGUs unless modified or reformed for good governance. Like the existing ARMM, the Bangsamoro may also have the power to legislate its local government code.

Q: What will happen to the armed members and weapons of the MILF?

A: The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for the decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use. In a gradual and phased process, law enforcement shall be transferred to the police force for the Bangsamoro. The police force shall be civilian in character and accountable and responsible both to the Central and Bangsamoro governments, and the communities that it serves.  Both parties have also committed to work in partnership for the reduction and control of firearms in the area and the disbandment of private armies and other armed groups.

The details of the normalization process will be spelled out in an annex.

Q: Who will monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement and its Annexes?

A: There will be third-party monitoring mechanisms composed of international and domestic bodies to monitor the different components of the Agreement.
 
Q: Is the Bangsamoro an Islamic state?

A: No.  The Bangsamoro Government will be a secular government where basic rights of all will be protected.

Q: What will happen to the judicial system under the Bangsamoro?

A: The Bangsamoro Basic Law shall shape the judicial system. The civil courts for non-Muslims will be maintained, while Sharia courts will be established for Muslims. There will also be a judicial process for indigenous rights.

The Bangsamoro judicial system will not be independent of the Supreme Court as the Constitution mandates. There is always one Supreme Court.

Q: How will non-Muslims be affected by this?

A: The Framework Agreement reiterates the Parties’ recognition of basic rights that shall continue to be enjoyed by all. These include, but are not limited, to the following:

• Right to life and to inviolability of one’s person and dignity;
• Right to freedom and expression of religion and beliefs;
• Right to privacy;
• Right to freedom of speech;
• Right to express political opinion and pursue democratically political aspirations;
• Right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means;
• Right of Women to meaningful political participation, and protection from all forms of violence;
• Right to freely Choose one’s place of residence and the inviolability of the home;
• Right to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in social and economic activity and public service,     regardless of class, creed, disability, gender or ethnicity;
• Right to establish cultural and religious associations;
• Right to freedom from religious, ethnic and sectarian harassment; and
• Right to redress of grievances and due process of law.

Other provisions state that Indigenous Peoples’ rights shall be respected. Their customary rights and traditions shall be taken into consideration in the formation of the Bangsamoro’s justice system.

Q: What is the timetable for crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law?

A: Both Parties want the Bangsamoro Basic Law to come out within the term of President Aquino because the goal is to sign, implement, and assess the agreement before passing it to the next administration.

The timetable is that there should be an exercise to ratify the Bangsamoro Basic Law prior to 2016, which is the time when this administration will have to hand over the reins of government to a new set of public officials.

Q: How long is the transition period?

A: Ideally the transition period will be completed by the elections in 2016. The intention is to have a full and functional ministerial Bangsamoro Government in place after being elected in 2016.

Q: What are the assurances that both parties will honor the Framework Agreement?

A: Both sides have committed to working together to complete the implementation of the Framework Agreement.

Former GPH peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen said that peace agreements are political commitments made by one party to the other. “Although we can put numbers, we can put dates in the agreement, in the ultimate analysis, it is the good faith of both sides. It is in the good faith of both sides that the agreement is implemented.”