The GPH-MILF Peace Agreement : Can the Means Justify Its Ends?

CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
8 October 2012

After over three decades of peace agreements dating from the Tripoli Agreement in 1977 and the 1996 FVR-Misuari deal setting up the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), Pnoy announced yesterday, a Sunday, and he didn’t wait for Monday to break the news, that his Government has finally agreed on a Framework Agreement with the MILF that should hopefully put an end to the conflict in Mindanao.

Reading through the text of an unsigned GPH copy of the Framework Agreement, downloaded through the Philippine Daily Inquirer, one is reminded of what came before it, the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (BJE MOA-AD) and expects that this time, the negotiators should have incorporated the lessons they would have learned from the Supreme Court trashing of the BJE-MOA-AD back in 2008.

Given the various ways the text may be examined, we will just confine for now our review on how the Framework Agreement will proceed to implement the goals it has set itself to do, and from the way it is laid out in the text of the Agreement, this appears to be the steps that will happen next before the Bangsamoro Government, envisioned as the end-goal of the Agreement, becomes a reality :

1. There will be an Executive Order issued by Pnoy and supported by Congressional Resolutions that will establish a Transition Commission.
2. The Transition Commission will work on drafting a proposed legislation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
3. The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law will be certified as an urgent bill by the President.
4. The Transition Commission will also work on proposals to amend the Constitution.
5. The electoral system shall be implemented through legislation enacted by the Bangsamoro Government.

Of course, there will be other transitional arrangements and committees that will be set up to fully prepare the Parties for the realization of the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government, but what one gets from all these is that, finally, Pnoy is acquiescing to a Charter Change process now contrary to what he has been saying that this is not a priority of his administration.

We should be reminded that what the Framework Agreement calls for is, only an amendment, meaning, only a change of some specific provisions of the Constitution mind you, not a revision, or a wholesale change of significant portions of the Constitution, so as to, as the Framework Agreement puts it, “for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements.”

Question : does this refer to the 1987 Constitution? Obviously, because the first part of the sentence where that paragraph comes from refer to the Philippine Constitution, and there is no other Philippine Constitution in effect at the moment, on which our current government is based, except the said 1987 Constitution.

So, one of the first means to achieve the end of setting up the Bangsamoro Government is the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

What is the means through which these changes to the Constitution may be effected?

This is where the phrase “entrenching and accommodating” comes in which is further qualified by the phrase “whenever necessary”.

It appears the words “whenever necessary” was inserted so as to limit the number of specific amendments that may be thought up by the Transition Commission accommodating and entrenching the agreements of the Parties. So not all provisions of the Agreement by the Parties will find its way in the Constitution.

“Accommodating and entrenching” should mean not a change in the existing provisions in the 1987 Constitution, it becomes more of a process of making way or giving room for what is provided for in this Framework Agreement. This can be in the areas of, among others, in the :
1. Elaboration of the “asymmetric” relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government; which also includes clarification of the reserved powers of the Central Government, the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government and the concurrent powers which the two governments will separately exercise on their own
2. Elaboration of basic individual rights
3. Elaboration of the extent of the territory of the Bangsamoro
4. Natural resources and their exploitation

If this becomes the sole means of fostering amendments to the Constitution, will the President allow other interests to ride in this vehicle of “accommodating and entrenching” the agreements of the Parties in the 1987 Constitution?

These interests refer to groups advocating changes in the economic provisions in the Constitution such as the nationality requirements in key sectors of the economy, giving clear land ownership rights to foreigners, among others.

It is possible that Congress, which may constitute itself as a Constituent Assembly to put into effect these aims, may limit the kinds of amendments it will allow to be inserted in the Constitution, which is outside or in addition to what the Transition Commission will come up with.

Before exploring in-depth later the detailed provisions on the preliminary agreement, the question need to be asked : is it worth the risk and effort to undergo Charter Change to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao? Having grown up as a boy when we had to move out of Cotabato City because of shelling from mortars of areas near our house which was near a military installation; having feared but later becoming fond of military knickknacks like bullets being turned into cross or dextrose hoses being turned into decorative items in our toys, it’s about time we go about building something concrete and towards the future so that the threat of war, the language of war and its artifacts will truly become a thing of the past.

Going through Charter Change to put into effect the agreement announced by Pnoy is one of the manifestation of the sincerity of the Philippine Government to realize the goals of the Framework Agreement and truly achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
oOo

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