Editorial & Opinion

Asymmetric

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The signing last Sunday of the Annex on Power Sharing, the third of four annexes that will complete the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, is a welcome milestone. It not only reminds us how far down the road to peace the negotiators have traveled, it also brings us closer to the destination.

Much remains to be done, of course; there is one more annex to hammer into shape. But the work ahead also includes the challenge of explanation.

What, exactly, is the agreement on power sharing?

The joint statement of the negotiating panels and the moving, metaphor-driven closing statement of the chief government negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, allow us a glimpse behind the scenes—but they do not really explain the 12-page document.

Many might remember that the Framework Agreement defined “the relationship of the Central Government with the Bangsamoro Government” as “asymmetric”—a concept dear to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but one burdened with some mystery. It is possible to argue that the third annex as signed dispels most of that mystery.

First, it makes a straightforward declaration, in the first paragraph of the first part, that clearly places the status of the proposed Bangsamoro in the context of the Philippines’ political subdivisions. “The relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government is asymmetric. This relation is reflective of the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity and their aspiration for self-governance. This makes it distinct from the regions and other local governments.”

Second, and in fine detail, it enumerates first the powers that are exclusive to the Bangsamoro, second those that are reserved for the Central Government, and finally those that are concurrent—that is, shared between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro.

 

Coronel-Ferrer’s closing statement summarizes the listing of powers: 58 exclusive, nine reserved and 14 concurrent, “not to mention four items relating to jurisdiction in a section on ‘Other Matters.’”

The nine reserved powers include defense, foreign policy, monetary policy and citizenship—among the sovereign powers already identified in the Framework Agreement, devolution of which would have doomed the annex and the Framework Agreement itself—and add two more to the original list of seven, namely customs and tariff and intellectual property rights.

The concurrent powers cover specialized areas, such as pollution control, disaster risk reduction and management, and even social security and pensions. (This last is one of those provisions which need to be explained, to prevent any sort of dangerous speculation.)

The exclusive powers range broadly, from agriculture to “barter trade and countertrade with Asean countries” to free ports to the “registration of business names.” It also contains provisions which need to be explained or clarified immediately, such as “financial and banking systems … without prejudice to the power of supervision” of the Bangko Sentral.

In organizational terms, the seeds of a future bureaucracy are being sown. There are at least eight references to offices that may or should be established, such as a land registration agency and a civil service, from scratch (necessary) and a human rights office, government-owned and -controlled corporations, and libraries and museums (if conditions require). There are also references to a Council of Leaders which will include all heads of the political units within the Bangsamoro, and a forum to coordinate relations between the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the Philippine Congress.

 

These provisions, and especially the listing of powers, allow us to discern the asymmetrical shape of what is essentially a new relationship between the national government and a new political subdivision. But it is still only an outline. It is the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which must pass the Senate housed in Pasay City and the House of Representatives holding office in Quezon City, that will flesh out its provisions. Inquirer.net

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