Peace has been quite elusive in the Southern Philippines.
Bangsamoro Political Entity
Previous administrations have labored towards finding a final solution to the conflict. The most recent effort is towards creating a Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the ARMM. It began with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and culminated with a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The comprehensive agreement was set to become law during the last Congress but was tabled for several reasons.
President Duterte made his intentions clear even before he came to power. Peace in the South is a priority to him. He further made this commitment evident as he signed Executive Order No. 8 last November 7, 2016. The order effectively created the Bangsamoro Transition Commission anew. Its membership expanded from 15 to 21 members. Eleven of which are nominees of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The commission’s mandate is to submit another draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 24. In view of this lofty goal, Chairman Ghazali B, Jaafar of the new commission announced it is the intention of the commission to finish the draft by May 18 to give ample time for the President to review it.
The commission’s constitution while anew is not starting without a foundation. It is building on the efforts achieved in the past administration. It has recently adopted House Bill No. 4994, as its official working document. The bill embodies a Bangsamoro Basic Law draft filed with the 16th Congress.
It is not only the government that is committed to achieving peace in the Bangsamoro. The MILF has time and again expressed and showed its support for the peace process and the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Just this 21st of March, the MILF and the government signed a Terms of Reference. The agreement extends the term of the International Monitoring Team and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group until March 2018. Both parties see the wisdom of keeping the mechanisms in place to ensure that the terms of the agreement are being implemented while everyone awaits the law’s passage.
Bangsamoro Federal State
Notable authors on the Bangsamoro conflict primarily trace it to issues on access to funds, power sharing and the authority of self-determination. The constitution of a Bangsamoro political entity addresses these issues in part. However, to further ensure that these issues would be fully resolved, a highly self-governing Bangsamoro is needed, a federal state.
With a Federal system government, the Bangsamoro federal state would for instance have increased legislative and taxing power. It could easily attract direct investments, use their natural resources for its benefit and in turn create jobs.
In addition, state leaders would be placed in a position where their decisions and policies would result in the betterment and failure of the state government. These leaders would have more direct power with increased accountability. The increased in power and autonomy of these leaders would also increase their responsibilities and put an end to blaming the national government for failures. State leaders would be placed in a position where their decisions and policies would result in the betterment and failure of the state government.
Lastly, the Bangsamoro territory is a multi-stakeholder area where other minorities also live. The peace process between the MILF and the government resulting to the Bangsamoro political entity focused on the Moros and the government. Thus, there is a need to include other minorities into the fold to give them an equal opportunity to have a say in their governance.