Work begins for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission
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The President named the members of the 15-person Transition Commission (TC) tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law on February 25, 2003. EO 120 issued by PNoy on December 18th, 2012 created the Transition Commission. The said EO also allocated 100 million pesos for its operations. As such the TC becomes a ‘government instrumentality’ using public funds.
The signed Framework Agreement (FA) states that eight (8) members including the chair are nominees of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF and seven (7) are nominees of the Philippine Government. The 15 members compose the TC. The President of the Republic appoints all members of the TC including the 8 nominees by the MILF. By the President’s appointments, all members become public officials and as such they need to take their oath of office to legitimately use public funds.
Ordinarily, the oath taking and swearing before the Philippine Constitution would pose no problems since the FA simply states ‘nominees’, and nominees may or may not be organic members of the MILF. It may pose a difficulty if the nominees are organic members of the MILF since they do not swear by the Philippine Constitution.
The problem of swearing of public officials by the Philippine Constitution before assumption of public office only arises when the MILF nominees to the TC including the Chair are members of the front. In fact, except for two members, the entire MILF Peace Panel would now sit as members of the TC.
So the first hurdle is the oath of office – would it be a different and separate oath of office? Then the discussion moves on to the understanding of the role of ‘drafting’ the Basic Law for the new autonomous political entity also known as Bangsamoro.
There are people who think that it is simply putting into law the forthcoming comprehensive peace compact composed of the FA and the four important annexes on ‘Transition & Government, Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing, and Normalization & Decommissioning. This thinking requires NO public consultation/hearings on the substantive elements of the Basic Law.
There are, on the other hand, people who believe that the EO and FA empower the 15-member TC to draft the Basic Law drawing from the Comprehensive Peace Pact and the results of their public consultations/hearings with the constituents or stakeholders on major or substantive issues of the Basic Law. In fact, the allocation of 100 million pesos tells that there would be wider consultation and public hearings and not simply doing an ‘editorial work’.
The members of the TC were announced on February 25th, 2013. Whether they have taken their respective oaths of office prior to assuming their roles as drafters of the Basic Law seems to be a ‘state secret’.
The first time the 15-member TC ‘got together’ was during their study tour in Japan courtesy of JICA. The Japanese, in their enthusiasm to ‘assist’ gave the 15+ members a guided tour, a sort of exposure-cum-study on a working model of autonomy enjoyed by the Japanese Prefecture and the workings of a ministerial form of government.
The 15-member TC is scheduled to meet on April 03, 2013. The Commission has a lot of things to work out. They need to establish the ‘house rules’, create committees, and budget its 100 million peso allocation. They mean to establish all these things even prior to the inking of the comprehensive peace compact.
The people within the core areas identified in the FA as well as in other areas to be added await the public consultations to discuss the concrete issues and concern that would be the content of the Basic Law.
While Congress is the ‘default mode’ in the actual shape of the Basic Law, the wider ownership and all-inclusive draft law is crucial not only in winning the two houses of Congress but also in the referendum to be held for the purpose.
In short, we echo the proverbial slogan that is often quoted in the task ahead. “The journey of a thousand miles has just begun”! We need everybody to be on board!
Follow Fr. Eliseo Mercado on Twitter @junmeromi.