Leaders of the House of Representatives and members of the Transition Commission involved in the peace process began discussions last Wednesday (Jan. 29, 2014) on the proposed basic law creating a new autonomous political entity in Mindanao as provided under the Framework Agreement signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. led House leaders in welcoming members of the Transition Commission, which will now help draft the Bangsamoro organic law following the completion of the last phase of the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.
The Commission is chaired by Mohagher Igbal, who visited the Batasan Complex for the first time. Accompanying Iqbal were Commissioners Robert Alonto, Ibrahim Ali, Talib Benito, Abdulla Camlian, Pedrito Eisma, Raissa Jajurie, Froilyn Mendoza, Hussein Muñoz, Akmad Sakkam, Fatmawati Salapuddin, Said Shiek, Asani Tammang, Timuay Melanio Ulama, and Jun Matawil, chairman of the MILF negotiating panel secretariat.
Belmonte, who is also the honorary chairman of the National Unity Party (NUP), said he hopes the proposed law would not require any amendments to the Constitution.
“We are supportive of [the agreement],” Belmonte said. “Provided it is an acceptable agreement, in the general welfare, Congress should approve it.”
The Speaker said Congress will have to determine whether or not the final comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the MILF and its annexes would require constitutional amendments.
“I hope that all the provisions, of which we have not been provided yet, can be implemented without touching the Constitution,” Belmonte said.
He said that while he supports calls to amend the Constitution, his proposals focus exclusively on changing the Charter’s economic provisions and do not cover political issues.
The government and the MILF signed the last of the annexes to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement on Jan. 25, clearing the way for the signing of a comprehensive peace pact aimed at ending the armed conflict in Mindanao.
The 15-member Transition Commission was created under Executive Order No. 120 issued by the President last December. It is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro basic law that would create a new political entity in Mindanao. This new Bangsamoro government will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Once Congress passes the Bangsamoro law and the President signs it, a plebiscite will have to be conducted in the envisioned core territory of the new autonomous region to determine if the new Bangsamoro government is acceptable to the people. Elections for the new Bangsamoro government are planned in 2016.
The proposed Bangsamoro law is expected to be submitted to Congress by May for deliberations.