By Edith Regalado, Philippine Star


DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should come up with a “Plan B” should Congress fail to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).


The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the independent body that tracks the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF, cited the “ongoing, indeed increasing, uncertainties regarding the possible outcome of the legislative process” concerning the BBL at the Senate and the House of Representatives.


The monitoring team urged the government and MILF panels to intensify efforts to promote the passage of the BBL in compliance with the CAB, as well as manage public expectations in the event Congress fails to complete its work on the proposed law.


The TPMT was jointly set up by the government and MILF to monitor implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed on Oct. 15,  2012.


The panel is composed of five members, two nominated by the government, two by the MILF, and a jointly nominated chairman, Huseyin Oruç of the Turkish non-government organization IHH.


The members include Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Rahib Kudto of Unypad, Steven Rood of the Asia Foundation and Alistair MacDonald, former EU ambassador who has been nominated to chair the TMPT.


MacDonald, for his part, sent letters to peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the government and Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF, noting the stakeholders’ concerns about the delays in the approval of the BBL.


MacDonald pointed out the “content of any BBL which might be adopted by Congress” as well as about the “continuity of the process, if indeed a BBL cannot be passed under this administration.”


MacDonald said the observations of the TPMT came from its meetings with MILF members led by chairman Murad Ebrahim last month.


The meeting was also attended by members of the MILF Central Committee, peace panel and mechanisms; the multinational International Monitoring Team and Independent Decommissioning Body; the Bangsamoro Development Authority and civil society representatives.


On the side of government, the peace monitors also met with the government panel, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, and members of the House of Representatives and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. 


The TPMT also held meetings with the chair of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), members of the International Contact Group and the people behind Fastrac, a joint initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank providing support to the Bangsamoro peace process.


MacDonald described the meeting called by President Aquino with congressmen last Dec. 8 as “encouraging.”


Aquino called a meeting with House members in Malacañang to convince the lawmakers to fast-track approval of the BBL.


The House was able to at least close the period of interpellation in the final days of its December session despite its inability to establish a quorum over the past several months, MacDonald noted.


However, there has been no significant progress in the Senate, he said.   


“It is difficult to look forward, at a time when there are so many uncertainties as to whether a BBL will be passed, whether if passed the BBL will be compliant with the CAB, and whether if not passed the next administration will be committed to carry forward the process,” MacDonald said.


Despite delays on the passage of the BBL, MacDonald said the TPMT lauded the progress in the normalization aspect of the CAB.


“The BBL is only one element, though a crucial element, in the peace process, and developments in the area of normalization should not be overlooked,” he said.


MacDonald pointed out some positive developments, including the ongoing implementation of large-scale Joint Peace and Security Team training, the work of the Joint Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities and Task Force Camps Transformation, the completion of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-MILF profiling of the 145 former combatants, and the strengthening of the organizational coherence and footprint on the ground of the International Decommissioning Body.


He also identified the submission of the TJRC report as “an important contribution to drawing public and political attention to the issues underlying the peace process.”


MacDonald also noted the progress being made in promoting a coming together of the different stakeholder groups in the Bangsamoro.


He cited the fact that apart from the “Unified Declaration” of the MILF and the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Muslimin Sema in October, further efforts have been made to confirm support of the BBL from other factions of the MNLF, led by Abdulkhayr Alonto and Nur Misuari.


Misuari, founder of the MNLF, has openly opposed the government peace agreement with the MILF, saying it was a violation of the 1996 final peace agreement with the MNLF.