Aquino signs EO on Bangsamoro Transition Commission; talks reach 'impasse'

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 120 creating the 15-member Transition Commission that will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Monday, December 17, a day after the latest round of peace talks ended in a "technical impasse."

The 34th Exploratory Talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front concluded Sunday, December 16, with a "technical impasse" over the issue on whether the MILF should lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that would lead the transition toward a Bangsamoro political identity. 

But government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the tasks of the Transition Commission were separate from the process involving the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and any delays in the drafting of annexes will not have a significant impact on the peace process. 

"The rest of the roadmap is to release the executive order to form the Transition Commission even if the panel is still finalizing the annex. That was the whole idea, to finish the Framework Agreement first in order to get the next mechanisms in place," Ferrer said in an interview before the EO was released. 

As indicated in the Framework Agreement, both sides committed to finish drafting the annexes before the end of the year but this deadline has always been flexible, Ferrer said. 

"That was the target but we are always flexible. Let's not rush. It's the better part of prudence to really go through the documents and the issues to really study this and to really agree. We can mutually adjust the target," Ferrer said. 

With around two weeks left before 2012 ends, the MILF said that both sides have managed to accomplish 95% of the work on power-sharing; 60% on wealth-sharing; 99% on modalities and arrangement; and 30% on normalization.

Members of the Transition Commission will be selected by the MILF and the government -- MILF will choose 8 while the government will choose 7. 

Both parties have met twice since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15 to draft the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalizations that will complete the Comprehensive Agreement. 

Technical impasse

In a statement posted on www.luwaran.net, the MILF said the the 34th round of talks was adjourned without a joint statement, as the issue on who should lead the BTA was not resolved. 

The government peace panel, according to the MILF, wanted the Bangsamoro to lead the BTA, but the MILF said this would be a "menu" for "the struggle of the fittest and chaos" as indicate that the position for the BTA chairman was "up for grabs."

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal also said that he did not believe that the government peace panel's position reflected that of the President's.

Ferrer however downplayed the alleged deadlock, saying that the "technical impasse" revolved around formulating the right language to use in certain provisions of the BTA in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. 

"The government, of course, acknowledges that the MILF is our main partner in this. But we are also balancing that with the government's policy of inclusivity," Ferrer said. 

The technical working group (TWG) on the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities was only convened in the last round of talks. But Ferrer said that despite this and the deadlock, the TWG was able to come up with a complete draft except for some "sticky points" that needed to be ironed out. 

There are 6 remaining issues left in all 4 annexes, Ferrer said, and one of these is the issue on who would lead the BTA. 

On the failure to release a joint statement after the talks, Ferrer said that they just lacked the time to do so.

"We ended on a good note. The good note is that we have accomplished so much. It's really time to go back to our principals to review the next steps and at the same time to address a few issues," she said. 

Presidential Spokesperson said the government believes the technical impasse is "not insurmountable." 

"In fact, there has been progress made so we don’t see any reason why the annexes will not be signed. But, as to the schedule, as to the date, that is something that we would leave with the government panel. We don’t have any specific schedule on that," he said. 

EO 120

To know the full details of the Transition Commission, read the document below: