Understanding the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

Dean Tony La Viu00f1a

The second installment will focus on the provisons on territory, basic rights, transition and implementation, and normalization (the code for laying down arms).

Nature of agreement. The 2012 Framework Agreement is characterized as the “mother agreement,” a roadmap containing a set of principles and values that would guide the process for the final political settlement with the MILF. As such the details will be worked out in future negotiations between the GPH and the MILF and the resulting agreements will then be attached as annexes to form integral parts of this agreement.  

Essentially, the parties have agreed to establish a new autonomous political entity to be known as the Bangsamoro. The term Bangsamoro – of recent vintage having been coined by Nur Misuari in the 70s – is but a reflection of the Muslim people’s desire to reaffirm their own separate identity as a people. While some might entertain serious misgivings about the use of the term “nation of the Moros” since it may mean a tacit refusal to relinquish aspirations for independence, the adoption of the term must be seen, not as assertion of independence or secession, but as a response to the desire of the Bangsamoro people for just peace, freedom founded on parity of esteem and equal treatment for their identity, ethos, and aspirations. 

The Bangsamoro. In the Agreement, the Bangsamoro will adopt a ministerial form of government (Art. I, sec. 2 of the Framework Agreement). Under this set-up, representatives will be elected to the assembly, which will then elect its leader called the “chief minister.” This arrangement is touted to reduce the overdependence of the Bangsamoro government to the central government and avoid the problems that befall the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM may have been a big opportunity for Muslim Mindanao to achieve self-determination and self-governance, but it has been increasingly seen as a haven of corrupt officials. Development funds became another source of corruption to the detriment of the real beneficiaries. The failure of the ARMM to deliver basic services is attributed to its overdependence on the central government for budgetary support. This is why the negotiating parties decided to replace it altogether with the Bangsamoro.  

The Bangsamoro is also asymmetrical, that is, it takes a different form from the existing relationship between the central government and other local government units. Although the national and Bangsamoro government is asymmetrical in character, the government insists that the establishment of the Bangsamoro will not require constitutional amendment, arguing that while the Constitution calls for an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (as well as in the Cordilleras), it does not specify the kind of autonomous government that can be established. This means it is broad enough to include a ministerial form. 

Basic law and powers of the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro will be governed by a Basic Law to be passed by Congress and ratified by qualified voters of the affected areas in a plebiscite. Again, this emphasizes that the creation of the Bangsamoro shall follow the processes provided in the existing Constitution.

We recall that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) of the MOA-Ad was adjudged a sub-state, and contemplated to have an associative relationship with the central government – a strange animal insofar as the present Constitution is concerned. The legality of the whole concept of the proposed sub-state however becomes tenuous because what is specified in the 1987 Constitution is an autonomous region, not a sub-state or a juridical entity. It requires a significant overhaul of the Constitution which must be amended and ratified by the Filipino people since it envisions a federal system of government.

The Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will function well within the strictures of the 1987 Constitution. It shall be governed by a statute to be passed by Congress, not independent from the national government which shall continue to exercise non-negotiable specified powers such as foreign policy, defense and external security, coinage, citizenship etc.

The list of powers to be exercised by the central government is not exclusive since, as provided, the parties may in the future agree on additional powers should they find the need for them. Nonetheless as envisioned, the State shall continue to determine the policy directions on certain critical areas of administration which the Bangsamoro legislative assembly cannot encroach upon.

As provided under art. III, secs. 3-6, the Bangsamoro will have competence over the Shari’ah justice system. The supremacy of Shari’ah and its application shall only be over Muslims. The Basic law shall also take into consideration the customary rights and traditions of indigenous peoples in the formation of the Bangsamoro’s justice system. 

This is in recognition of the multi-ethnic character of the region comprised of the Lumad communities, the Islamized Moros or Bangsamoro, and the settler communities and their descendants. The first two are largely the indigenous inhabitants of the region; the latter are largely 20th century migrants from Luzon and the Visayas. 

According to the 2000 census, the Lumad, made up of more than 30 ethno-linguistic groups, comprise about 8.9% of the total Mindanao population, while the combined Bangsamoros’ 13 Islamized ethno-linguistic groups is approximately 18.5% of the region’s inhabitants. Thus the Sharia justice system and integration of customary laws are essential components of indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms. The adoption of a culture-sensitive educational environment will be responsive to the unique demographics of the area.

Based on existing laws, the Shari’a courts, created specifically for the effective administration and enforcement of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, have limited jurisdiction which, according to both parties, needs to be expanded. It must be stressed that the Shari’a courts are subject to the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and shall remain part and parcel of the judicial system of the country.

Revenue generation, wealth sharing. The successful implementation of this provision is critical for two reasons.

First – to avoid a repeat of the ARMM which failed because of the inability of local governance to generate significant income from local sources that would redound to the benefit of its inhabitants. According to some estimates, the ARMM was able to generate only about 5% of its income from local sources while its remaining income comes from the national government. This overdependence on the central government is the reason why – despite being granted much evolved powers – the ARMM continues to be plagued by the ills of a patronage system.   

Second – to rectify the historical wrongs which engender land disputes in the south. After everything has been said and done, ultimately, the basic problem that underlies the conflict in Mindanao is control of the land, and by extension, the rich natural resources found therein. To the Bangsamoro, an acceptable political solution is to rectify what they perceive as historical wrongs committed against them by Christian-dominated colonial and post-colonial governments and restore to them the lands which are theirs by historical right.

In the Framework Agreement, the Bangsamoro will have the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges, subject to limitations as may be mutually agreed upon by the parties. Moreover, it shall have the authority to receive grants and donations from domestic and foreign sources, and block grants and subsidies from the Central Government. It shall also have a just and equitable share in the revenues generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural resources obtaining in all the areas/territories, land or water, covered by and within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, in accordance with the formula agreed upon by the parties.

Remember that these very same powers are also granted to local government units under the Local Government Code; although insofar as the Bangsamoro is concerned, the details, such as the formula for revenue sharing, will be threshed out by the parties themselves, subject to the limitations set by the Constitution and existing laws.

For accountability, the Bangsamoro may create its own auditing body and procedures for accountability over revenues and other funds generated within or by the region from external sources. This local system of accountability may be adopted over and above the exercise by the Commission on Audit of its power, authority and duty to examine, audit and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenues and the use of funds and property owned and held in trust by any government instrumentality, including GOCCs (or government-owned and controlled corporations).

The principal objective of this article is to achieve full fiscal autonomy defined therein as the generation and budgeting of the Bangsamoro’s own sources of revenue, its share of the internal revenue taxes, and block grants and subsidies remitted to it by the central government or any donor. (To be concluded) - Rappler.com


Read the full text of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

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