Cha-Cha proposed for Mindanao peace

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2014 11:05 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2014 07:05 AM

MANILA -- An administration lawmaker said Monday that some provisions of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) might need charter change to be effective.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said Congress still needs to study if there is a need to amend the Constitution for the agreements to be effective.

“That’s what we need to study. Hopefully not,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte said Congress is supportive of the peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government peace panel.

“We are supportive of it,” Belmonte said, “provided it is an acceptable agreement, in the general welfare, Congress should approve it.”

Belmonte is espousing charter change to amend its economic provisions.

“We have to study iyung peace agreement and all annexes and make sure the bill is reflective of peace agreement, determine if pwedeng law ang kailangan or if it will require constitutional amendments. We have to make further steps, if and when it requires constitutional amendments, so be it,” he said.

House Majority leader Neptali Gonzales II, meanwhile, said: "(If it needs a constitutional) amendment, then we have to do that. Otherwise, hindi magiging final yung agreement."

Gonzales initially said there may be no time to pursue charter change under the current administration, with President Aquino two years away from stepping down.

He said that should the peace agreement require legislation to be effective, they will prioritize it.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, for his part said: “...marami pa tayong obstacles na ihu-hurdle especially if some of their demands will require constitutional amendment. There will be different levels of authority invoked.”

Biazon pointed out an example on the issue of amnesty and pardon.

"Pardon, pwede ibigay ng President that can only be granted after conviction. Yung di nako-convict, bigay diyan ay amnesty, and amnesty is a shared authority between the President and Congress. The President will issue a proclamation and Congress will have to concur,” he said.

Another contentious issue will be the creation of a Bangsamoro police force, Biazon said.

”Because the Constitution is very clear there shall be only one Philippine National Police, civilian in character and national in scope, matindi yun eh... we need to examine all contents and provisions... and find out and begin to study which of the provisions of annexes will require a deeper examination so we will know where traps will be,” he added.

Biazon says the “traps” are the demands of the MILF that will require constitutional amendments or enactment of new laws or amendment to existing laws, or repeal of existing laws effectively.

Biazon also hopes government will learn its lessons from the decommissioning of the firearms of the former MNLF, referring to the siege of Zamboanga City last year led by members of a breakaway MNLF faction.

Another provision Biazon noted is the issue of the redeployment of armed force units from the Bangsamoro.

“Except for the provision that states AFP can still be there to address problem of security. Ano ba ibig sabihin niyan? Hindi ibig sabihin niyan mawawala ang AFP sa Bangsamoro area," he said.

Biazon says international attention prevents the two negotiating panels from outmaneuvering each other.

”Pero to me the guiding principle that probably will be difficult to compromise is issue of constitutionality of provisions, constitutionality of new Bangsamoro Organic Act, doon tayo mahihirapan. Yung gusto natin, hindi gagawa ng batas na the whole of it or certain provisions of it will be ruled as unconstitutional. Ako, naniniwala na maraming pupunta sa SC to question not only the signed agreement but the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Organic Act,” he added.

MNLF Chair Muslimin Sema’s wife, Maguindanao-Cotabato Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, welcomed the latest developments.

“I’m happy because finally after the MNLF signed a peace agreement in 1996, we now have the MILF signing another agreement, the framework agreement. As a Moro, I'm happy. The most important thing is all would like to work for peace. My husband issued a statement that the MNLF under his faction isn’t opposed to this, they’d just like to remind government they need to implement agreements made before,” she said.

Earlier, AKBAYAN Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez said Congress will now wait for the bill creating the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will in effect amend the organic law of the ARMM. He said it is up to the executive to certify the bill as urgent, as it is expected within the 1st quarter of 2014.

Gutierrez doesn’t think the peace agreement will lead to a dismemberment of the Republic, as it is very clear that the new Bangsamoro will remain part of the Philippine state.

Batangas Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza also welcomed the recent developments in the Bangsamoro Peace Process and said he is looking forward to deliberating the bill creating the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress. He says all sides should take into account what will be beneficial to the whole nation.