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'Increasing uncertainties' in passage of Bangsamoro law: indie monitor

TPMT Chairman Alistair MacDonald
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the independent body that tracks the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), recently expressed the "ongoing, indeed increasing, uncertainties regarding the possible outcome of the legislative process" concerning the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). 

In a letter to peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the Government of the Philippines and Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), TPMT chairman Alistair MacDonald noted stakeholders' "concerns about the delays in the legislative process," the "content of any BBL which might be adopted by Congress" as well as about the "continuity of the process, if indeed a BBL cannot be passed under this administration."

MacDonald, the former ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines, said the observations of the TPMT arose from its December meetings with MILF members led by Chair Murad Ebrahim, the MILF Central Committee, peace panel and mechanisms; the multinational International Monitoring Team and Independent Decommissioning Body; the Bangsamoro Development Authority and civil society representatives.

On the side of government, the peace monitors also met with the GPH panel, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, and members of the House of Representatives and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

They also held meetings with the chair of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, members of the International Contact Group and the people behind Fastrac, a joint initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank providing support to the Bangsamoro peace process.

MacDonald described as “encouraging” the meeting last December 8 called by President Benigno Aquino III with "a large number of members of the House, and that thereafter the House was able to at least close the period of interpellation in the final days of its December session" despite its inability to establish a quorum over the past several months.

However, he noted that there has been no significant progress in the Senate.   

“It is difficult to look forward, at a time when there are so many uncertainties as to whether a BBL will be passed, whether if passed the BBL will be compliant with the CAB, and whether if not passed the next administration will be committed to carry forward the process,” MacDonald said.

As such, MacDonald noted the recommendations of the TPMT for an intensified effort from both peace panels to promote the passage of a CAB-compliant BBL; manage public expectations in the event that Congress is not able to complete its legislative work on the proposed law; and reach an agreement on a Plan B.

Positive developments

Despite delays on the passage of the BBL, the TPMT lauded the progress in the normalization aspect of the CAB.

“[T]he BBL is only one element (though a crucial element) in the peace process, and developments in the area of normalization should not be overlooked. Here there have been some positive developments -- for example the ongoing implementation of large-scale Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) training, the work of the Joint Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) and Task Force Camps Transformation (TFCT), the completion of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-MILF (DSWD-MILF) profiling of the 145 former combatants, and the strengthening of the organizational coherence and footprint on the ground of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB),” MacDonald said.

He also pointed to the submission of the TJRC report as "an ‎important contribution to drawing public and political attention to the issues underlying the peace process."

MacDonald also noted ‎the progress "being made in promoting a coming-together of the different stakeholder groups in the Bangsamoro.”

He cited the fact that apart from the “Unified Declaration of the MILF and the Sema faction of the MNLF in October, further efforts have been made to confirm support of the BBL from other factions of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), most notably that led by Abdulkhayr Alonto, but reaching out also to Nur Misuari."