DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 March) – The seven-member Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) that will conduct studies and produce a set of recommendations on the appropriate policing for the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016, is expected to submit its final report to the chairs of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels “within six months from first meeting.”
The four-page Terms of Reference on the ICP, signed by the panel chairs in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday night, provides that the first meeting is to take place “as soon as possible and no later than one month after the negotiating panels receive the letters of acceptance of all the appointed members.”
The ICP members have yet to be appointed.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012 in Malacanang, under Provision VIII Section 3 on “Normalization,” states that as a matter of principle, “it is essential that policing structure and arrangement are such that the police service is professional and free from partisan political control,” that the police system “shall be civilian in character so that it is effective and efficient in law enforcement, fair and impartial as well as accountable under the law for its action, and responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, and to the communities it serves.”
The ICP’s recommendations on the Bangsamoro police force are crucial because the FAB envisions demilitarizing the Bangsamoro of state and non-state forces — the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces as well as private armies and other armed groups.
The ICP, according to the TOR, will be composed of seven members with each party selecting one local expert, appointing one representative, and nominating one international expert who should be “mutually acceptable to and agreed upon by the parties.”
The chair will be selected by both parties.
The ICP report is expected to be based on a “needs assessment that will reflect public’s perception of the police, the needs and demands of communities in the Bnagsamoro; the human rights situation, and other indicators of performance.”
The TOR also provides that the ICP should “consult widely” with various sectors.
It is mandated to consult the Department of Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, National Police Commission, Department of National Defense, and other relevant government agencies “as well as with Bangamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) communities in the Bangsamoaor, including women, NGOs and other people and organizations.”
It is also expected to “conduct and receive visits to learn from similar processes in other international contexts.”
The ICP is also tasked to “identify other aspects of the criminal justice system relevant to its work on policing including the role of the police in prosecution.”
The ICP’s recommendations will include, among other aspects, the police force’s “name, structures, forms, functions , educational and professional development, recruitment relationships, budget, and a road map for implementation.”
The final report will be submitted to the chairs of the peace panels but it will be up to the negotiating panels to determine when the report will be made public
The panels may require the ICP to submit periodic updates or reports before it submits the final report.
The TOR also provides that “all efforts shall be applied to reach consensus in all reports and recommendations” of the body and that in case of disagreement, “reservations of eventually diverging opninons will be noted.”
Operations funding for the ICP is expected to be “independently sourced” but “jointly determined by the parties in coordination with the ICP.”
The issue on policing is just one of many issues under “Normalization,” the term the MILF prefers over the usual DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) in post-conflict situation.
“Normalization” is one of four Annexes to the FAB that the GPH and MILF panels are supposed to finish, to complete their comprehensive peace pact.
Only one Annex has so far been finished – the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities while only the TOR on policing has been finished under “Normalization.” The other Annexes are on powe-sharing and wealth-sharing.
The FAB provides that the aim of “normalization” is to “ensure human security in the Bangsamoro.” Normalization also “helps build a society that is committed to basic human rights, where individuals are free from fear of violence or crime and where long-held traditions and value continue to be honored.”
The FAB also states that “human insecurity embraces a wide range of issues that would include violation of human and civil rights, social and political injustice and impunity,”
Section 5 under “Normalization” provides that the MILF “shall undertake a graduated program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use” while Section 6 provides that in a “phased and gradual manner, all law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the police force for the Bangsamoro.”
Government peace panel member Senen Bacani explained in a forum with civil society in Davao City on October 11 that because of the failure of the police in the area, the military has been doing law enforcement functions in the Moro areas.
“I know police function is not the function of the military but de facto this is happening that’s why the section (on gradual phasing) because of the failure of police, for one reason or the other. That’s why gradually, the military will go back to its core mandate,” he said.
Bacani said that on the question of reduction of arms on the part of both parties, the control of firearms, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups – these have to be done simultaneously because the issue would be “why will one group put their forces beyond use while other groups still have their own?”
“This is tough both for the military and police and everybody else. Even timetables here will have to be decided upon. This needs to be done simultaneously because I won’t give up my arms if my neighbor still has his,” he said, adding “this will need a lot of work and political will” especially because “we know it is not peculiar to the area that there are many loose firearms.”
“This is tough but hopefully there is a solution here. I don’t’ think it will be overnight. It may take longer. But I think there is a need for a time frame and some significant events triggering specific things. Many of these will require confidence-building. This is important. Why do people have firearms in the first place? Much of this is due to the justice issue. If you can really get justice in a normal way. .. although there are some peculiarities like rido.. we have to work on all those fine details. This will be a very tough issue,” Bacani added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)