COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 18 October) – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body tasked by the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace (MCSOPP) signed Thursday afternoon a memorandum of agreement on the conduct of “public engagements and consultations from the drafting of the Basic Law up to its enactment.”
The partnership between the 15-member GPH-MILF BTC and the MCSOPP, a platform comprising at least 120 groups and networks, aims to “promote transparency, inclusiveness and active participation of the local stakeholders” to generate “massive public support and ownership of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The GPH and MILF peace panels signed on October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016, the end of the Aquino administration.
Four annexes to the FAB are needed to complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement: power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities. They should have been finished before December 31, 2012 but only two have been signed thus far: transitional arrangements in February and wealth-sharing in July.
The MOA provides that at least 128 consultations will be conducted at the district level in the proposed core areas of the Bangsamoro and in every municipality included in the target expanded areas, with the consultation design approved by both the BTC and the MCSOPP.
The MCSOPP will submit the results of the consultations to the BTC.
The MOA signing was done shortly before 3 p.m. at the BTC office along Magallanes St.
Address expectations and fears
BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent chair of the MILF peace panel and MILF information chief, said public consultation is “indispensable” in the writing of the BBL because the public “must be consulted on matters affecting them.”
Once done, the draft law will be submitted to Congress and certified urgent by the President. When passed, a plebiscite will be conducted to determine if residents in the proposed areas want to be part of the Bangsamoro.
Iqbal said consultations will ensure “greater chances of public ownership of the process and the basic law” and allow the BTC to know the “expectations and fears of the people” so they can address them in their drafting of the Basic Law.
“This engagement will not only be regional but also national in character. If possible, everyone, every household and every stakeholder will be reached out so that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission will have the widest support and reliable feedback mechanism in writing the Basic Law,” said Iqbal.
“ I must say here for the nth time that the issue of peace is more important than the issue of war. Peace-making is essentially more complex than war-making. It is very easy to destroy but it is very hard to construct. This is the reason why all of us should nurture peace carefully; because it is only through this that the future is bright. In war, all of us will suffer and this country will never ever progress. War is the mother of all forms of poverty,” Iqbal stressed.
Guiamel Alim, chair of the MCSOPP Steering Committee, described the MOA a “historic social contract that provides for the formal cooperation of CSOs and the BTC to give the public an opportunity to participate in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
Alim, also executive director of Kadtuntaya Foundation and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, said the BTC is deeply committed to the Bangsamoro but needs help because it is faced with 3 Ks: “kakulangan sa human resources; kakulangan sa financial resources; and kakulangan sa panahon” (lack of human resources, financial resources and time).
Aside from helping in the consultations, CSOs will also help in lobbying for the passage of the BBL in Congress, as well as help in the plebiscite and beyond 2016.
For Alim, “the real transformation of the Bangsamoro will be seen in 2016 and beyond.”
“In the end, the CSOS want to be part of a historical process of setting up a society where peace and development are felt not just by a few but by all. We are going to sign the MOA as part of this history for Change,” he said.
Julaida Juanday of the United Youth of the Philippines (Unyphil), said: “we want peace, we want change and we don’t want to suffer again from hardship and violence caused by armed conflict or war. As youth, we should support this because this is for us. This is for the new generation.”
The birthing of peace
Fr. Roberto Layson, parish priest of Datu Piang in Maguindanao who witnessed the signing, imagined peace in the womb of a mother about to give birth.
“Soon, the mother will give birth and all of us will be happy,” Layson said in Filipino. But everyone, he said, needs to help the mother to ensure the baby she delivers, lives.
“Yung sanggol na yun ay yung kapayaan na matagal na po nating hinihintay. Sana po sa tulong ni Allah, ang Panginoon nating lahat, makita natin na buhay siya pagdating ng panahon.” (The newborn child is the peace that we have long been waiting for. With the help of Allah, our God, we will see the baby live).
As parish priest of Pikit in North Cotabato and head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Layson experienced four wars in six years – 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 – in Pikit.
Laywer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus said they hope to achieve their “modest contribution” within a six-month time frame starting Thursday.
Even if the Kuala Lumpur talks did not yield positive results last week, “we already want to hit the ground so people will feel there is something going on already,” Arnado said of the consultations.
She explained that the participating CSOs are a mixed group of “Muslims, Christians, indigenous peoples, all wiling to accompany the Bangsamoro.”
Cotabato City Councilor Jojo Cortez said peace will benefit everyone in Mindanao, especially in his city.
Active peace builders
Kristian Herbolzheimer, Director of the Philippines and Colombia Programmes of Conciliation Resources, an NGO-member of the GPH-MILF peace process’ International Contact Group (ICG) said the challenge for the BTC is “really to make each and every person in the Bangsamoro feel they are part of this process, that they are not passive listeners to the armed actors taking decisions on behalf of them building peace (but) they are active peace builders because their voice and their opinion are being listened to and responded to and reflected in the new constitution which is what the basic law, at the end of the day, is all about.”
He said a momentum must be created where everyone in the Bangsmaoro feels “there is a better future for all of us and we will be part of it.”
Malaysia’s Maj. Gen. Dato Fadzil bin Mokhtar, head of mission of the International Monitoring Team, said the partnership between the BTC and the CSOs will “strengthen ownership” of the peace process and a “step towards realizing aspirations of parties to have inclusive peace, durable, lasting, acceptable to all.”
Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said the signing of the MOA is a “mere formalization of what has already been there.”
He recalled that CSOs have been doing public consultations in the past and submitting them to the panels for consideration but the MOA “formalized and institutionalized what we have been doing.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)