By Eliseo Mercado, Jr.
THE two versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would undergo a Bicam Conference to reconcile the differences. There are few things to know about the Bicameral Conference…
First, it is not the third house of Congress. It consolidates convergences in the two versions and it offers a formula solution to the differences or simply to adopt the formulation House or the Senate formulation of the said provisions where the two diverge.
Second, the Bicam cannot go beyond the levels set by the two versions. People should not raise expectations, because it would simply raise the frustrations.
Third, the limit of the present BBL is set by the 1987 Constitution meaning it cannot go beyond the limits set by it. The more pragmatic approach and adopting the famous or infamous “incremental” move towards the realization of goal is to accept whatever comes out of the Bicam as the first phase of the implementation of the peace Agreements and the second phase would be when the 1987 Constitution is finally amended.
Fourth, is the more radical option of rejecting whatever the Bicam version is that is not compliant to the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB)… This should be taken with caution!
Fifth, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) should go back to work… recommend constitutional changes (it is their mandate to do so…) and submit these recommendations to the Office of the President ASAP that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte would, in turn, “certify” these recommendations to the Constituent Assembly (Conass).
Once these changes have been incorporated into the new constitution, then write anew the BBL compliant to all the peace agreements signed.
(Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, is senior policy adviser of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance and a Professor at the San Beda University Graduate School of Laws. As president of the Notre Dame University in the 1990s, he was actively involved in the peace processes between government and the Moro National Liberation Front and later with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.)