POSTSCRIPT / July 17, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Noy’s other problem: Delayed Bangsamoro

FOUL WEATHER: Do not cross President Noynoy Aquino. He seems to be in a foul mood lately.

That may be because many things high on his agenda are not proceeding according to his imperial wishes — and time is fast running out on him.

Aside from the Supreme Court rejection of his Disbursement Acceleration Program meant to bankroll special operations, there is the big delay in the creation of the Bangsamoro that could earn him at least a nomination as a Nobel peace laureate.

These twin setbacks, taken in the context of his waning popularity and the continued fumbling of his handlers, are enough to make any Chief Executive lose his equanimity.

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DAP DAMMED: By threatening the Supreme Court in his DAP speech, instead of putting forward new legal arguments to overturn the unanimous SC decision, the President has virtually assured the rejection of his announced motion for reconsideration.

That final blow can set back the administration party’s access to funds for the election spending for 2016. Mr. Aquino needs a successor who is ready to cover his tracks after he steps out of the Palace or to pardon him in case he lands in jail.

The damming of the flow of DAP billions will also cripple his costly quest for a “legacy” as a memorial to his presidency. Legacies, like Nobel awards, can be quite expensive.

The timetable is getting tighter. Mr. Aquino has only the rest of this year plus next year (2015) to cram. His final year (2016) can be written off, it being the election period when politics swallows everything having to do with government.

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BBL REVAMPED: The Bangsamoro Basic Law that was to be certified as urgent and submitted to the Congress last month yet is still being kicked around between Malacañang and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The final BBL draft written by the MILF-dominated Bangsamoro Transition Commission (based on the comprehensive agreement signed between Malacañang and the rebel group) was revamped by a Palace legal team after a month-long review.

Mahagher Iqbal, chair of the transition commission and the MILF peace panel, has groused that the Palace revamped some 60 percent of the supposedly final document.

Icbal and MILF chair Al haj Murad Ebrahim expressed impatience over what they said was the watering down of the agreement already negotiated in detail and formally signed before a watching world.

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RIGHT MOVE: We think President Aquino did the right thing ordering another review of the BBL that will serve as the enabling act for creating the Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

After all, the President will have to defend before the nation – as well as before the Supreme Court on constitutionality issues — the carving out of a new federal state in Mindanao.

The attempt in Kuala Lumpur last July 8-11 of Palace and MILF negotiators to resolve the editorial “mess” created by the massive rewriting of the BBL draft failed. The fate of the draft hangs while the Congress and the Nobel clocks tick on.

(In Oslo, the secret Nobel screening for the short list of nominees goes on. The strict rules prohibit for 50 years the disclosure of the list.)

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MOA-AD: The BBL idea recalls the junking of a similar attempt of then President Gloria Arroyo to form a Bangsamoro sub-state under a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). When challenged, however, she dropped the unconstitutional plan.

This time around, if the SC junks the projected Bangsamoro under Mr. Aquino, that may yet clinch the impeachment case poised by his detractors for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution.

The creation of a Bangsamoro despite constitutional objections – coming on the heels of the trashing of DAP for being unconstitutional in its main parts – may just build up a more convincing complaint for unseating the President.

Even with the Palace rewriting, the BBL is still expected to meet searing questioning in both chambers of the Congress. It could be substantially amended when it goes through the legislative mill.

And even after all that “refinement”, a challenge before the Supreme Court is still probable.

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MINIMAL CONSULTATIONS:  A sidebar being watched is the reaction of MILF leaders and their foreign patrons.

The more pessimistic observers are saying that any failure to hammer out a politically and legally air-tight Bangsamoro enabling act and to carry it past the SC may send the MILF back to fighting mode.

If this happens, Malacañang must take the blame. As in many other things it does, the Palace is in the habit of rushing into the process often neglecting to first lay the basis.

On the Bangsamoro question, one of its lapses was rushing headlong into talks with the MILF without ascertaining if it is the authentic sole voice of Muslim Filipinos and without prior consultations with other stakeholders in the affected areas.

It was only after the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed that Malacañang, sensing some negative undercurrents, went to the local communities and political, religious and academic leaders outside the MILF.

Although it knew that it needed congressional approval of its ambitious Bangsamoro plan, there was minimal prior consultation with legislative leaders.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 17, 2014)

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