GPH, MILF sign one of 4 annexes; Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be ‘MILF-led’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 February) –  The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels ended their three-day talks in Kuala Lumpur at 9:49 p.m. Wednesday  with the panels signing only one of four annexes needed to complete their  comprehensive peace pact.

The panels signed the six-page “Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities” which specifies, among others, that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) would be “MILF-led”

According to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which the panels signed in Malacanang on October 15 last year, the  BTA, which would take over from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as soon as the  Basic Law of the new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” is promulgated and ratified, will govern the area until the elected officials of the new Bangsamoro government take over on June 30, 2016.

Also signed was the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), the body that would submit recommendations to the peace panels on the police force for the Bangsamoro.

The four-page TOR on the ICP was prepared by the technical working group on Normalization. Policing is just one of many issues the TWG on Normalization is discussing.

Wednesday night’s signing of the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and the TOR on the ICP,  Monday’s announcement of the 15-member GPH-MILF Transition Commission (TransCom) and the February 11 launch of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro socio-economic program, are indicators that government and the MILF are ready for transition.

Transition to what?

The two sides, however, have yet to agree on the substantial aspects of the government they want to transition to, as they have yet to agree on the annexes on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing and Normalization.

According to the FAB, the Bangsamoro will have a ministerial form of government.

It also provides that upon the promulgation and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the abolition of the ARMM, all devolved authorities shall be vested in the BTA during the interim period and “the Ministerial form and Cabinet system of government shall commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place.”

Last month, the panels issued a Joint Statement claiming the talks “successfully ended” with both parties “achieving a milestone” with the signing of the TOR for the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the body that will “review, assess, evaluate and monitor” the implementation of the FAB  “and its Annexes.”

As of February 27, three more Annexes need to be signed to complete the comprehensive peace pact.

In her opening statement on Monday, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer  referred to the peace process design of implementing a component even as they are still completing the comprehensive agreement as “unique.”

“We all know that we launched the Sajahatra not because it will take the place of our bigger political goal of putting in place a new political entity and the blessings of a peaceful and normal life for all. Not at all. Rather, such is the unique design of our process. That even as we are still completing the comprehensive agreement, we are beginning to implement. One component does not diminish the other. It builds on and supports one another,” she said.

The eight-paragraph Joint Statement on February 27 said the parties “continued discussions on the Annexes on Wealth Sharing and Power Sharing and resolved most of the remaining issues” but was silent on what these “remaining issues” were .

While MindaNews sources from both sides said they would meet again next month, the Joint Statement was silent on when the next meeting would be, unlike previous Joint Statements.

Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities completed. The GPH and the MILF peace panels capped the last day of the 36th round of Formal Exploratory Talks with the signing of the first annex as well as the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing. Photo shows GPH Chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and MILF Chair Mohagher Iqbal signing the documents with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, as the members of the respective peace panels and David Gorman of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a member of the ICG look on. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities completed. The GPH and the MILF peace panels capped the last day of the 36th round of Formal Exploratory Talks with the signing of the first annex as well as the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing. Photo shows GPH Chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and MILF Chair Mohagher Iqbal signing the documents with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, as the members of the respective peace panels and David Gorman of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a member of the ICG look on. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

Sabah standoff

Malaysia, which has been facilitating the talks since 2001 and which is presently facing criticisms over its handling of  the nearly three-week standoff with a group of armed men led by the brother of the Sultan of Sulu, is preparing for national elections likely in April. The Philippines is preparing for national mid-term elections on May 13.

GPH panel chair Ferrer  last week said the issue on the Sultanate of Sulu’s unsettled  claims over Sabah is “a foreign policy matter that is outside the purview of the (GPH-MILF) talks.”

Ferrer said the FAB  provides for “ respect for customs, and recognition of identities and narratives as part of transitional justice” and “takes into account the plurality of groups and histories in the Bangsamoro.”

She said the Sultanate of Sulu “remains a traditional authority that is respected in Tausug society” and that the GPH peace panel “accorded them that respect when we met in 2011 with the Sultan Jamalul III, Esmail, and Abjimmudin Kiram brothers, a branch of the descendants of the Sultanate, and identified ways to acknowledge their historical and societal roles.”

But the issue on the unsettled  historic claims over Sabah, Ferrer said, “is a foreign policy matter that is outside the purview of the talks” and “won’t unhinge the momentum of the peace process as inclusivity of all stakeholders in the Bangsamoro has always marked our approach.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, was also confident that the standoff in Sabah would not affect the talks

In his opening statement on Monday, Iqbal said “frankly, there is really need to outpace potential spoilers who are expected to be more active after the May polls.”

He referred to the move of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu as “sour-graping.”

“The sour-graping of the so-called heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu that they were not consulted in the ongoing peace talks is a kind of spoilage. They were consulted on many occasions. But the big question is: Why only make this noise now when for more than 40 years of conflict in Mindanao they have been silent? This brings out into the fore a pertinent  observation: Is it not obvious that in the current controversy the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu have focused on their personal interest alone that precludes the interest and welfare of the entire Bangsamoro people? “ Iqbal said.

Ferrer’s opening statement focused on the Sajahatra Bangsamoro and the TransCom.

“MILF-led”

The Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was “99% complete” as early as December but the  parties were deadlocked on a major issue that MILF peace panel chair Iqbal said was “non-negotiable:” the leadership of the BTA.

The FAB provides for the  creation of  an MILF-chaired 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom)  — seven from the GPH and eight from the MILF.

Iqbal told MindaNews in December that they were not amenable to the GPH proposal for a Bangamoro-led BTA instead of an MILF-led BTA. He maintained that the TransCom is MILF-led and the BTA should be MILF-led as well.

On Monday, the same day the GPH-MILF talks resumed in Kuala Lumpur, Malacanang announced the names of the TransCom. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also announced that  it would be chaired by Iqbal .

Iqbal is not  resigning as MILF peace panel chair. He will serve the TransCom on a concurrent capacity. He is also the MILF’s Information Chief.

In fact, all eight members of the MILF in the Transcom are panel members, consultants and technical working group members.

MindaNews sources said the panels watched the announcement streamed live from Malacanang into the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel, the venue of the talks in Kuala Lumpur on Monday noon.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2013/02/28/gph-milf-sign-one-of-4-annexes-bangsamoro-transition-authority-will-be-milf-led/


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