The provincial governments of the island provinces of ARMM (Sulu, Basilan, Tawitawi) lament of what they perceive as very minimal and hasty consultation process which the proponents of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) conducted especially among the leadership structure and the constituents of the islands. Allegedly, their legitimate voices, especially those of the officially installed leadership, have not been heard and their opinions muffled in the consultation processes leading to the legislative review of the draft BBL. Furthermore, they complain of being deliberately sidelined and ignored during the previous rounds of consultations, which both the OPAPP and the MILF undertook in BASULTA. Said sentiments were repeatedly expressed during the Pro PolitiCS for Peace series of courtesy visits and forums held in Zamboanga City on 29 April 2015 and also in Jolo on 12-13 May 2015. This grumbling resonates with the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) complain of being left out in the whole peace process. BASULTA area is the known bailiwick of MNLF under the leadership of Nur Misuari.
The political leaders of BASULTA presented their issues during the launching of the Pro PolitiCS for Peace project back-to-back with the forum “Politics and Governance for Peace: Opportunities and Challenges” on April 29, 2015 in Zamboanga City. These are as follows:
- The proposed creation of regional waters, at the expense of changing and slicing-off of the Sulu Sea, and the attached historic reference to it.
- The proposal to appoint a Wali as the titular head of the Bangsamoro Government, and historical reference for such a position, when the fact remains that Wali was never mentioned in the Annals, at least as far as Sulu is concerned. In a parliamentary system, (i.e.Malaysia), … the head of the state is the Sultan and the head of the government is the Chief Minister.
- Sulu is predominantly composed of the Tausug ethnic group. The other provinces of the ARMM are composed as well of other ethnic groups. Each with its own strengths and unique characteristics. The Maranaos are predominant in Lanao Del Sur, the Maguindanaos in Maguindanao, the Samas in Tawi-Tawi, and the Yakans in Basilan. Should not the ethnic groups be adequately and fairly represented in the peace process rather than focus only on the Maranaos or the Maguindanaoans? This way other ethnic groups will appear excluded. Exclusion could only bank future dissent from excluded groups that would lead to recourse outside of the peace process. Should not the Proposed BBL envision a region that unites the multi-ethnic groups? There can be unity in diversity. More importantly because the ethnic differences are manifest in the provincial level, should not the proposed BBL allow ethnic autonomy in the provincial level?
- One other cause of concern of the local government officials of the LGUs of the region is what powers and privileges shall remain with the constituent LGUs of the proposed Bangsamoro government? Because under Section 7, Article VI of the Proposed BBL, the authority to regulate the affairs of the local government units is guaranteed only within the limits of the Basic Law. On the other hand, the privileges that the LGUs now enjoy maybe altered, modified or reformed by the Bangsamoro Parliament. Even the shares of the constituent LGUs in the 75% of the share of the Bangsamoro Government in the taxes, fees, and charges collected in their jurisdiction by the Central Government are to be determined by the Bangsamoro Parliament. The power of the Bangsamoro Parliament to alter, modify or fix could be exercised to unduly limit the privileges and thus defeat the principle of autonomy on the parts of the constituent LGUs.
- Another concern is, how are the Governor, the Mayors, and other local officials of the constituent LGUs be elected under the Bangsamoro Government? Even the relationship between the Bangsamoro Government and the constituent LGUs appears to be undefined in the Proposed BBL.
- Is the matter of the Philippines’ claim to Sabah not deserving the attention of the BBL and negotiators?
Likewise, the presenters repeatedly emphasized that the BASULTA provincial governments are not against the BBL. Nonetheless, they say, there are fundamental issues which have to be clearly articulated and seriously considered in the proposed law before it is approved. In addition it was also emphasized that the BBL should be able to improve the delivery of basic services, better than the performance of agencies under the ARMM. Otherwise, it will just be another version of the same political arrangement.
In another forum, Vice-Governor Abdusakur Tan raised additional issues pertaining to the depth and scope of the proposed normalization process. (READ: Presentation of Vice Governor Abdusakur M. Tan). Specific issue was also raised about Article VI, section 7 of the proposed BBL with reference to the ‘exception phrase’. (READ: Transcript of Jolo, Mayor Hussin Amin raising issues during the forum in Zamboanga City on April 29, 2015).
In emphatic tone, Tan expressed: “We in Sulu support the passage of the law that will restore our dignity as a people, honor the struggles of our forebears, and guarantees the fact that Muslims are Filipinos”.