Incomplete Bangsamoro draft law sent to Aquino

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to Malacañang a draft law for the proposed Bangsamoro political entity on Monday afternoon, April 14, but it's incomplete.

In an ambush interview at Mendiola before his scheduled meeting with Undersecretary Mike Musngi in Malacañang, BTC chairman Mohagher Iqbal admitted that the partial draft has yet to incorporate details on: 

These documents would be submitted afterwards, Iqbal said. 

Malacañang received the partial draft before 7:00 pm Monday. 

The draft law will be reviewed by the Office of the President before it is transmitted to Congress and certified as urgent by the President.

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This sets the stage for the second phase of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is an equally difficult one: congressional approval of a planned political structure that aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and a plebiscite after to determine which towns or provinces would be under its control.

The first phase was last month's signing of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF, which aims to end more than 4 decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

But the process continues to face challenges.

Friction within BTC?

A source privy to BTC matters said some commissioners nominated by the government were not satisfied with how the affairs of the MILF-dominated BTC were being conducted.

Some commissioners were complaining that some protocols set by the commission in the drafting of the law were not being followed, the same source said.

For instance, the partial draft submitted to Malacañang had yet to be signed by all members of the commission since it is not yet complete. 

In a Mindanews report, Iqbal, who also served as the chief negotiator of the MILF during the peace talks, denied that the Bangsamoro Basic Law was being railroaded. 

“Hindi naman (No). Do you think the commissioners will agree to a railroad?” he told MindaNews.

Iqbal did not respond to Rappler's text asking whether the initial draft of the basic law will be released to the public. 

Upon missing its self-imposed deadline to submit the draft on March 31 - just 4 days after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – the BTC released a statement saying it has "established a working arrangement with the Office of the President" on the submission of the draft.

On Tuesday, April 15, Malacañang confirmed the BTC "presented" before Undersecretary Mike Musngi a "working draft" of the proposed law for its "initial review and evaluation."

"The submission of this initial draft of the BBL marks the commencement of formal collaborative and coordinative efforts between BTC and the OP to undertake the appropiate review and evaluation of the same for its inclusion to the President's legislative agenda," said a text message to Malacañang reporters from the Office of the Executive Secretary as relayed to Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. 

On proposals to amend Constitution

Under the final peace pact and Executive Order 120, the BTC is allowed to recommend amendments to the 1987 Constitution "whenever necessary."

Iqbal said the BTC has agreed to submit a separate document for provisions that would require constitutional amendments. 

"There is now a consensus among the commission of the BTC that there would a separate paper for those that would require amending the constitution but the draft would be a separate document," Iqbal said. 

It remains to be seen how the proposed amendments will be incorporated in the draft law to be submitted to Congress. Already, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago considers the peace agreement illegal.

Malacañang said it hopes to finish evaluating the draft law when Congress resumes session by May. 

Both the government and the MILF hope to install the new Bangsamoro government by 2016, before the President steps down. - Rappler.com