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Transition Mechanisms and Timelines on the Proposed Bangsamoro: Perils and Opportunities

Sixth of a Seven-Part Roundtable Discussion Series on Muslim Mindanao Autonomy


“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome” Isaac Asimov, writer

H istory has shown that in the change-over from one form of government to another, peace and stability does not usually come overnight. In many cases, it takes a few generations even for a new status quo to take root, and the implementation of

transition mechanisms is imperative to ensure that the needs of citizens are met during this

potentially rough period.

On August 17, 2015, the sixth of a seven-part series of roundtable discussions on autonomy in Muslim Mindanao was held in the Senate of the Philippines. The focus of this particular round of discussions was on transition mechanisms and timelines of the proposed Bangsamoro. The series of discussions was organized jointly by a number of institutions, specifically the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), the Senate Muslim Advocates for Peace and Progress (SMAPP), and the Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO).

Panelists for this session included Fr. Eliseo Mercado, from civil society group Kusog Mindanaw, Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli, Legal Counsel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Atty. Laisa Alamia, Executive Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Mr. Samuel Chittick, International Advisor for the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC).The various speakers provided a wide range of perspectives on experiences and models of transition mechanisms pertinent to the ongoing peace process in parts of Mindanao, drawing from historical perspectives and international experience and practices as well as from the experiences of observers and participants of the current peace process. Also attending the roundtable discussion were representatives from the academe, civil society and indigenous peoples in the affected areas, representatives of a number of Senators, and officers and technical staff from the Senate of the Philippines.

As with the rest of the roundtable series, these discussions were meant to be academic and non-partisan in nature. The discussions were meant to explore context, historical perspectives and frameworks that drive the provisions or the different versions of the proposed Bangsamoro Law. Participants were expected to come away from the discussions with a greater understanding of the issues and the diverse and conflicting opinions, and

of the issues and the diverse and conflicting opinions, and Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning
of the issues and the diverse and conflicting opinions, and Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning

ultimately with “more tools in their toolkit” for advising decision makers on matters relating to the BBL.


Historical Perspective on Peace Agreements in Muslim Mindanao

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Chairman, Kusog Mindanaw and Director and Senior Policy Adviser, Institute for Autonomy and Governance

F r. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, is a civil society leader and academic in the region who has been a longtime observer, adviser and participant to the peace process in Muslim Mindanao. He presented a historical perspective on the different transition

procedures and mechanisms in the Mindanao peace process, dating back to the Tripoli Agreement up to the current efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Before delving into the history of peace agreements in the region, Fr. Mercado briefly discussed the importance of the change in terminology from “peace talks” to “peace process”. From the earliest peace negotiations leading to the Tripoli Agreement in the 1970s all the way up to 1992, parties involved referred to “peace talks” or “peace negotiations”. The unspoken implication of this terminology was that as soon as the talks or negotiations are completed, violence and conflict in Muslim Mindanao would disappear, almost overnight. Sometime around 1992, the term “peace process” entered the parlance as parties began to realize the that ultimate goals of the peace negotiations would not materialize, as if by magic, upon the completion of peace talks and that an extended period of transition between the current status quo and the desired state would more likely be the case.

Fr. Mercado began his review of the history of the peace negotiations with the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, during the Marcos administration. Under the agreement, a provisional autonomous government for the Southern Philippines was first established, covering 13 provinces and all cities within. As President Marcos had both executive and legislative powers at that time, the issuance of a Presidential Decree was enough to establish, initially the Regional Commission, and later on, the Office of the Regional Government in Region IX and XII. This was followed by the setting up of what was called the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP) or Regional Executive Council, which was the executive branch of the autonomous government and the Sangguniang Pampook or Regional Assembly which served as the legislative branch both in Regions IX and XII. Fr. Mercado described the establishment of this provisional autonomous government as largely unilateral, given the tremendous power wielded by President Marcos at that time.

After the end of the Marcos dictatorship, a new Constitution was put into place in 1987. Article X of the 1987 Constitution called for the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim

called for the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning
called for the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning

Mindanao. The process for creating this new autonomous region was initially through the establishment of a Regional Consultative Commission (RCC) which then drafted RA 6734 and which eventually gave birth to the ARMM. RA 6734 was put to a referendum in 10 provinces and all the cities therein and Fr. Mercado recalled that it was a shock that in the end, only four (4) provinces and no cities voted to join the newly created ARMM. From his observations at the time, he believes the law was rejected as many of the citizens objected to the use of the term “Muslim Mindanao”, with non-Muslims in the affected provinces fearing the new autonomous government would be exclusionary to them.

Fr. Mercado also characterized the process leading to this as largely unilateral as well, due to the fact that Nur Misuari and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had objected to Article X from the start, did not participate in the RCC, and rejected RA 6734.

The next major development in the history of the peace negotiations came under the Ramos administration. It was during this period when General Almonte, who was one of the main figures on the side of the government at the time, introduced the idea of the “peace process” which is still the paradigm being used today, and the concept of linking peace with development. Another feature of the peace process in this time was to reject the idea of tying it to arbitrary political boundaries such as provinces and cities and instead creating what was called the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD). The plan was to bring intensive economic development to the 14 provinces and 9 cities falling under the SZOPAD while creating a body called the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) which would monitor, facilitate and coordinate all these developments. This time, Nur Misuari was heavily involved, holding three key positions at that time, specifically, as Regional Governor of ARMM, Chairman of the SPCPD and speaker of the Consultative Assembly. Unfortunately, all of these ultimately failed to bring peace and development as, according to Fr. Mercado, there was very little in the way of interfacing between these new structures and institutions and the traditional national government line agencies which were also operating in the affected zones.

As a final point, Fr. Mercado wanted to share an important lesson he learned from observing peace processes in the Philippines and abroad. He stressed the fact that there will always be differences between the content of negotiated peace agreements and the corresponding legislation; and there will also be differences between the legislation and actual implementation. He said that aspiring for perfect one-to-one correspondence in each case is not rooted in reality. But rather than letting this fact hamper any forward movement, stakeholders should see it as part of a transition and continue to aspire towards their ideal situation.

transition and continue to aspire towards their ideal situation. Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
transition and continue to aspire towards their ideal situation. Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

Overview of the GPH-MILF Transitional Process, Structures and Timelines

Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli, Legal Counsel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process

M r. Julkipli is the legal counsel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and is a member of the legal team which assisted the government peace negotiating panel for talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation

Front (MILF). He presented an overview of how the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (SB 2408), and the substitute bill (SB 2894) envisioned the transitional processes, structures and mechanisms for the peace process. He further noted though that several provisions pertaining to the transition mechanisms were originally encapsulated in the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) particularly in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities (ATAM) and were subsequently adopted and/or modified in the two Senate Bills.

Mr. Julkipli pointed out that there are essentially two layers of transition under the Framework Agreement. The first layer is a transition process wherein parties are moving towards full implementation of the various provisions of the agreement. This layer of the transition process began after the aforementioned ATAM was concluded and signed but while the other annexes of the agreement were still being negotiated. The second layer of transition deals with the entrenchment of a new autonomous region to replace the current autonomous set up. Essentially, this transition process is with regard to the change from the current ARMM to the proposed Bangsamoro.

There are two key mechanisms which are relevant to the first layer of transition. These are the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT).

The BTC is composed of 15 members and was created by Executive Order 120 in 2012 and its key function was nothing less than to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law itself. In connection with this, the BTC is also tasked with continued coordination with the Legislature in the passage and enactment of the BBL. The BTC is also tasked to work on proposals to amend the Constitution whenever necessary to accommodate and entrench the terms of the agreements in the country’s fundamental law. Lastly, the BTC is also tasked to coordinate whenever necessary the development efforts in the region with the help of allied institutions.

There remains some debate on when the BTC is supposed to terminate. There appear to be conflicting or confusing provisions in the ATAM which would indicate whether the BTC should cease to exist upon the passage into law of the BBL or upon ratification of the said Law. Mr. Julkipli is of the opinion that termination of the BTC should only happen upon ratification.

The other key transition mechanism is the Third Party Monitoring Team, which is composed of five members from various independent organizations. The two key functions of the

various independent organizations. The two key functions of the Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
various independent organizations. The two key functions of the Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

TPMT are as follows: 1) monitor and evaluate the implementation of all agreements, and 2) review and assess the progress of the implementation process. The TPMT will continue to exist until the so-called “Exit Document” or “Exit Agreement” is signed, signifying that all agreements have been complied with, as determined by the TPMT with the participation of all parties as well.

With regard to the second layer of transition, which is the change from the current ARMM setup to the proposed Bangsamoro, the key mechanism to consider is the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). The key function of the BTA is to serve as the interim government or governing body of the Bangsamoro during the transition period. This particular transition period begins as soon as the BBL is ratified and ends upon the qualification of the Chief Minister under the first regular Bangsamoro Parliament as provided for in SB 2408. The BTA will be composed of 50 members, all of whom will be appointed by the President, provided that there shall be sectoral representatives especially from the non-Moro indigenous communities, women, and settler communities among others. As per the provisions of the peace agreements, at least 26 out of the 50 members of the BTA must come from nominees of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

While the exact details and scope of powers and responsibilities of the BTA will be ultimately determined by the final provisions of the BBL as passed by Congress, (such as the creation or phasing out of certain government offices, for instance), the main purpose of the BTA is to ensure the smooth transition from the ARMM to Bangsamoro and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population so that there is no vacuum in governance during the transition period.

From ARMM to the Bangsamoro: Issues, Opportunities and Perils

Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia, Executive Secretary, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and co-founder, Nisa Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro

M s. Alamia is the current Executive Secretary of the ARMM and the co-founder of the civil society group Nisa Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro which translates as “Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro”. Her presentation aimed to provide context by

discussing the situation in the ARMM and providing some insights and possible reasons for

the persistent social, political and economic issues in the region.

In trying to answer the question “Why create a special autonomous Bangsamoro?”, Ms. Alamia suggested that the situation in Muslim Mindanao is unusual and different from anywhere else in the country. The ARMM is the poorest region in the country with a poverty incidence of 48.7 percent as of 2012. In two of the five provinces in the region, more than half of the population is poor. Specifically, Lanao del Sur, the poorest province in the country, has a poverty incidence of 67.3 percent and Maguindanao is at 54.5 percent. In addition, several municipalities in the region are extremely vulnerable with 30 municipalities

in the region are extremely vulnerable with 30 municipalities Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
in the region are extremely vulnerable with 30 municipalities Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

considered as prone to armed conflict and 36 municipalities prone to hazards. Further exacerbating the already volatile situation in the region is a history of conflict, insecurity and natural disasters which result in waves of displacement.

Focusing on the issue of displacement in recent history, Ms. Alamia noted that nearly a million people (982,000) were displaced during the 2000 “all-out war” campaign of the military in the region. In 2003, renewed military operations in the Buliok Complex resulted in a net displacement of around 400,000 people. In the aftermath of the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which resulted in more violence in the region, the then National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported an estimate of 728,659 persons were uprooted because of the fighting. And most recently, controlled special operations against the MILF breakaway group known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Front (BIFF) in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident in January 2015 has caused the displacement of 125,000 people in the second district of Maguindanao. The province of Maguindanao has been particularly vulnerable to this problem as a large proportion of the hostilities have focused on this area. It has been estimated that between 2000 and 2010 alone, displacement has affected four out of every five households in the province. She points out that no other region in the country has experienced these waves of displacement, at this scale and in this frequency. She also stresses that these are just the statistics for displaced persons and this does not include the deaths, the damage to property and to agriculture, and the social costs of the situation. Even as the government continues to implement programs and anti-poverty measures in the region, meaningful change does not happen overnight and even then, all the gains from these programs are undone by the recurring violence and displacement.

A sub-issue arising from the conflict and displacement is the increase in cases of human trafficking and gender-based violence in the area. The most number of human trafficking cases in the country are found in the ARMM as syndicates tend to operate in areas with a high number of vulnerable population. There were around 300 reported cases of human trafficking in 2014 and around 100 cases in the first semester of 2015.

Aside from the history of violence and conflict, the ARMM also suffers from bureaucratic problems. Ms. Alamia pointed out that critical government programs in agriculture, health and education are not properly implemented in ARMM due to regular delays in the release of funds for the concerned agencies. Even worse though, many program activities and projects (PAPs) of these critical agencies do not receive fund allocations at all. As an example, she cites the case of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the 2015 national budget. Of the 23 national program activities and projects of the DepEd in 2015, 14 did not receive any fund allocation at all for the year and the remaining 9 PAPs either experienced delayed fund releases or had their budgets released through adjacent regional offices in Regions IX, X, and XII. Delays in releasing of funds to the ARMM also naturally result in delayed or even unimplemented PAPs and also result in unliquidated funds, some even

PAPs and also result in unliquidated funds, some even Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
PAPs and also result in unliquidated funds, some even Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

dating back to the very first ARMM regional government. Government rules disallow the release of funds to agencies with unliquidated funds and this leads to further delays. Ms. Alamia believes that the proposed “block grants” under the BBL would help solve these funding issues.

Another issue which Ms. Alamia believed was also a contributing factor to the governance problems of the ARMM was the incomplete devolution of government services . She points out that several key agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) were not fully devolved in ARMM. This hindered the operations of the regional government almost as much as the lack of funds did. She also points out that there was intended to be a structure, the so-called Oversight Committee, which was supposed to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the ARMM law that would have identified and possibly addressed these issues early on. Unfortunately, the Oversight Committee, which is supposed to be under the office of the Executive Secretary of the President, was not working and was never convened at all in the current administration.

The current ARMM administration has instituted a number of reforms to address governance issues in the region. Foremost among these reforms are what she calls “ghost- busting” – specifically, identifying and eliminating ghost projects, ghost employees and the like. Much progress has also been made in terms of completing the cadastral survey of the region. Other areas of improvement in recent years have been in the areas of public infrastructure, attracting investments, employment and livelihood programs and education. However, she also stresses that despite all these reforms, there remain structural defects in the ARMM that can only be resolved through the passage of a Bangsamoro Law that will respond to the aspirations of the people.

Political Transitions after a Peace Agreement: Opportunities for the Bangsamoro

Mr. Sam Chittick, International Advisor for the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC)

M r. Chittick is the advisor for FASTRAC, which is a joint initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank specifically for the Philippines in support of the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Peace

Process. FASTRAC was launched in 2013 with funding support from the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as well as the United Nations and the World Bank. Mr. Chittick’s presentation focused on international experiences with regard to political transitions and the lessons from these experiences that may be relevant to the Bangsamoro political transition.

Historically, political transitions refer to the process of democratization, or moving towards more democracy. While the Bangsamoro transition is a shift from one democratic political

Bangsamoro transition is a shift from one democratic political Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
Bangsamoro transition is a shift from one democratic political Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

arrangement to another, it will still require a new political arrangement (as reflected in the Framework Agreement).

Mr. Chittick pointed out that international experience on political transitions have shown that there is no fixed formula for successful peace negotiations. Comparative international studies demonstrate that the most important factor is context. These include the economic environment, the security situation, the political equilibrium and the relationships of the parties involved to each other and to the society and affected communities.

Mr. Chittick enumerated some of the most common characteristics of political transitions, specifically: 1) Transitions are turbulent, as violence in most communities does not tend to end overnight and there is a high chance for violent incidents to recur during transition processes; 2) The process is non-linear, meaning the society will experience varying degrees

of instability and upheaval at different points; 3) The process is long term in nature, usually

in several phases before momentum for real changes is achieved; 4) Transitions are complex, containing difficult challenges in sociocultural, economic, security and political fronts; 5) Transitions are joint, in the sense that they must be founded on core principles agreed on by all parties; and 6) They present a fantastic opportunity as some examples have

shown that political transitions and new political settlements have ushered in periods of greater peace and stability in affected regions.

A number of studies have tried to trace the origins of the conflict in Mindanao and the

results have shown that the root of all of the issues can be traced to injustice. A 2005 assessment by the World Bank highlighted injustice in sociopolitical, economic, cultural and environmental terms. These are manifested as marginalization and deprivation of basic amenities, extreme poverty in affected regions, perceived suppression of religious/traditional/indigenous practices and dispossession of land and natural resources, among others. These findings were echoed in the Mindanao 2020 report which was released in 2011. A broader study by the Asia Foundation in 2013 on “The Contested Corners of Asia” noted that most subnational conflicts are fueled by perceived injustice over governance, political and economic marginalization and threatened identity of minority populations.

The result of decades of injustices is that the “social contract” between citizens and the state is broken or damaged. As such, part of the transition process is a deliberate effort to renew or secure this social contract and a 2012 UNDP study identifies three key building blocks for doing so. These are: building responsive and accountable institutions, promoting inclusive political processes, and, fostering resilient state-society relations.

Elaborating further on the key building blocks, another UNDP study from 2013 cites a few important points which help bring about successful transitions. First, institutions should reflect the new political settlement (in terms of responsiveness and accountability as mentioned earlier); otherwise it will just be transferring existing political culture to the new status quo. Second, human security is of critical importance during the transition. Third,

security is of critical importance during the transition. Third, Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
security is of critical importance during the transition. Third, Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

economic conditions affect political stability and the potential success of the transition. Fourth, a focus on growth without inclusive development will just maintain the status quo. Fifth, public participation in policy development is essential; the more people are engaged, the better the end result will likely be. Lastly, finding new ways of engaging citizens and addressing exclusion is very important.

The 2011 World Development Report also offers lessons from international experience which may be helpful to the Bangsamoro transition process. The relevant key finding in the report is that in order to break the cycles of violence, one must strengthen legitimate institutions and governance to provide three key things: security, justice and jobs. Security is the most basic measure that conflict-affected citizens will have in determining whether the new situation is good for them. Addressing historical injustices and providing access to justice for those previously excluded is also important. And lastly, jobs and economic opportunities for the citizens, while not necessarily sufficient to end political conflicts, are also essential elements towards building peace in affected communities.

The study however also points out that meaningful and lasting institutional change can take a very long time. Research and experience shows that there is a limit to the amount of change that a societies can absorb, and that reforms need the right amount of time to ensure successful transformation. Even the most successful examples take roughly 15 to 30 years to raise institutional performance, whether in terms of bureaucratic quality, control of corruption, rule of law, and other indicators.


Question: The peace agreement and the proposed BBL seem to cater primarily to the MILF as opposed to other groups such as the MNLF who are still active in the region. How will the BBL bring peace to the region if these other groups are not involved in the process?

Atty. Julkipli: One of the changes introduced in the substitute bill is a mandate to include representatives of the MNLF in the transition authority and the interim government. This has always been the intention of the parties in drafting the BBL but perhaps it was not articulated or expressed clearly enough in the original bill. This has been remedied in the substitute bill.

Question: What are the differences between the original BBL and the substitute bill that the government negotiators find worrisome?

Atty. Julkipli: Concerns include the following:

a. The substitute bill makes reference to the security of tenure of civil servants that may be affected by the transition. This is not so worrisome though as both parties have agreed to elaborate and work on reforms in this regard.

have agreed to elaborate and work on reforms in this regard. Prepared by the Senate Economic
have agreed to elaborate and work on reforms in this regard. Prepared by the Senate Economic

b. The substitute bill calls for a transition period of six months while the agreement called for a one year transition period.

Fr. Mercado: Concerns include the following:

c. There is no preamble in the Senate bill. The House version will be more inclusive as the preamble enumerates the various peoples in the Bangsamoro area.

d. The Senate version removed 39 barangays in North Cotabato and 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte who voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 referendum. This is consistent with jurisprudence wherein inclusion in the autonomous region should be by province or by city. The draft BBL endorsed by Malacañang and House version are more ambiguous in allowing the inclusion of individual barangays and municipalities.

e. Parliamentary composition. The draft BBL and the House version have 50 percent of the BTA from party-list system and 40 percent from district representation. Senate version has 40 members from district representation and only 8 members from party list. Senate version also mentions a reserved seat for the Sultanate.

f. Senate and House versions make specific mention of indigenous people’s rights and self-determination. This is absent in the draft BBL.

g. Draft BBL and House versions have a provision wherein the Bangsamoro Parliament may interfere in law-making in the local government level. The Senate version ensures that the powers and privileges enjoyed by LGUs under the Local Government Code are not diminished.

Atty. Alamia: Another major concern is that some of the powers already granted to the ARMM have been removed in the Senate substitute bill. The new bill should not result in diminished powers for the new autonomous government as compared with the ARMM. Some concerns include the following:

h. The Senate substitute bill removes the powers to create economic zones and free ports and to grant tax incentives and other incentives within the region. These powers are already present under the ARMM,

i. Currently, the ARMM is allowed to receive grants and donations and enter into agreements with multilateral agencies and other funding institutions without seeking approval from the national government. The substitute bill takes away this power and requires national government approval for such actions.

Question: There seem to be vast differences between the House version of the BBL and the Senate version. What are the chances that these differences will be resolved and the BBL will be passed before the end of this Congress?

Fr. Mercado: Passing the BBL will certainly be difficult given the time constraints. Two major events are coming up that will affect the debates. First, Congress will start discussing the 2016 GAA soon and this will become the immediate priority. Second, election season is

will become the immediate priority. Second, election season is Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office
will become the immediate priority. Second, election season is Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office

coming as well and many legislators will be running again, making the BBL a potential campaign issue. While it is not impossible, it would seem very likely that even if the BBL is passed during this administration, it will be next the administration that will end up implementing the law.

Question: What are the panelists’ thoughts on the inclusion of the normalization process and decommissioning in the substitute bill considering that the Constitution prohibits the creation of a bill with more than one subject?

Atty. Julkipli: It is our office’s position that including the matter of decommissioning or normalization to the BBL might cause a legal or constitutional problem. Furthermore, legislating the decommissioning process might compromise the independent character of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), which is tasked with overseeing this procedure. In other words, how independent would it be if some of its functions are now being dictated by a law, enacted by one party which is the Philippine government? There is also the question as to what extent can the government legislate over foreign members of the IDB.

Atty. Alamia: Aside from the aforementioned reasons, we also believe that normalization process should not be included because it is basically a political process.

Dean Bacani: The inclusion of normalization into the discussion of the law also introduces other issues that could complicate the debates. A number of aspects of normalization will need to be legislated. There could possibly be a need to have an amnesty law and perhaps introduce amendments to the firearms law, for instance.

Mr. Chittick: As the normalization process is usually an agreement between a State and a non-State, this is usually not subject to legislation. If the intention of the State is for that armed group to decommission and join mainstream society, then there has to be some mechanism for creating that. The elements of this may be negotiated for inclusion in the legislation if possible. However, the way the current agreement is structured, it would seem that not including normalization in the legislation would result in a smoother process.

Question: Can the peace process be implemented without legislation?

Fr. Mercado: There is no historical reference that can compare with this peace process; hence it’s difficult to say. However, it’s always possible. The peace agreement with the MNLF was signed in 1996 and the law was passed only in 2001. In the interim, then President Ramos issued Executive Order 371 which created the SZOPAD and the SPCPD and it was implemented between 1996 and 2001 effectively serving as a transition mechanism that terminated with the passage of the law.

Atty. Julkipli: While there are certainly aspects of the final peace agreement that may be implemented through executive action alone, the heart of the agreement, being the

executive action alone, the heart of the agreement, being the Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning
executive action alone, the heart of the agreement, being the Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning

creation of the autonomous region, can only be done through legislation. It’s possible that partial implementation can be done in the form of a transitional phase.

Question: The sentiment of indigenous peoples living in the affected areas is that they stand to lose a lot if their rights are not recognized in the final peace agreement. Have there been cases in other countries where the stakeholders or rights holders were allowed to sit in the negotiating table even if they were not part of the armed hostilities?

Mr. Chittick: In terms of the actual process of agreements and negotiations, it’s not so common as these things usually arise because there is an armed conflict that needs to be resolved. However, it is not a completely foreign concept as there is precedent in different peace tables around the world have been able to introduce and invite other (non-armed) stakeholders to be direct participants in the process. In the Philippines, there have been efforts over the last number of years to include these stakeholders in the talks between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF. But it’s not the norm and it is difficult and requires the consensus of the State and non-State actors to make it happen.

Question: How soon or how late should the BBL be passed by Congress so that it can still be implemented by the Aquino administration?

Fr. Mercado: The timeline proposed by the government for the passage and implementation of the law is no longer realistic. Passing a very contentious and difficult law such as the BBL will likely take more than the two months suggested by the government. Rushing the passage now might result in a law that is unsatisfactory to all concerned. However, the debates and discussion should proceed and continue on to the next administration and extend even into the discussions on Constitutional reform in order to craft the best possible instrument for the Bangsamoro. As there is precedent wherein a transition phase is implemented by Executive Order prior to the passage of a law, this can be considered in order that the current peace agreement is not wasted and things are not left hanging.


P rofessor Edmund Tayao provided the synthesis of the day’s discussions. He stated the importance of the element of time with regard to transition mechanisms in the peace process. He mentioned that Fr. Mercado’s presentation on the history of the

Mindanao peace process served to emphasize the fact that it takes time to evolve a real peace process that is able to achieve its true objectives. He pointed out that with Atty. Julkipli’s presentation on how the current peace process is working in two layers of transition, and how, with time running out on the current administration and the current Congress, there is a possibility that the second layer of transition in the peace process will not be achieved. He also referred to Atty. Alamia’s talk which provided a historical context to explain the need to create an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and why this is an

an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and why this is an Prepared by the Senate Economic
an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and why this is an Prepared by the Senate Economic

issue of national importance. Lastly, he mentioned how Mr. Chittick’s presentation of international experiences shows that while there may be no magic formula for successful transitions, the importance of building strong, responsive and accountable institutions, a process that experience has shown could take an extremely long time in even the most successful cases, might be the most important element of ensuring successful political transitions.

important element of ensuring successful political transitions. Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office Page 13
important element of ensuring successful political transitions. Prepared by the Senate Economic Planning Office Page 13