GPH-MILF peace deal: “Let it be the real final peace agreement”

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/26 January) –  Local and international communities  hailed Saturday’s signing of the last annex that would complete the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), with a Sulu-based professor saying, “let this be the real final peace agreement.”

A day earlier, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, described to MindaNews the GPH-MILF peace deal that was shaping up  as a “world’s showcase” and the second major contribution of the Philippines to the world, after People Power in 1986.

Prof. Octavio Dinampo of Sulu,  chief executive officer of Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc. who attended the talks as an observer, told MindaNews that the Bangsamoro peoples welcome the agreement “not only because we are tired of war and decades of destructions in the homeland but also because of the blessing in the reintegration of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement in the CAB after its years of selfish implementation by its tripartite parties.”

“Indeed, let the CAB be the real Final Peace Agreement and the last vehicle, too, towards finding the Bangsamoro’s rightful place in the Philippines,” he said.

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement, brokered by the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (then Conference)  was signed by the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to fully implement the Tripoli Agreement that they signed in 1976 and which the OIC also brokered.

The signatories to both 1976 and 1996 peace agreements for the MNLF was Nur Misuari. His vice chair in 1976, Salamat Hashim, broke away from the MNLF in the late 1970s to set up the “new MNLF” which was later renamed into “MILF.”

Last month’s Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers called on the OIC Secretary-General to exert efforts to “find common grounds” between the peace agreements entered into by the Philippine government with the MNLF in 1976 and 1996 and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) with the MILF on October 15, 2012 and to “integrate the gains achieved in the peace agreements into the Bangsamoro Basic Law” that is presently being drafted by the 15-member GPH-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

CFM Resolution No. 2/40-MM On Question Of Muslims In Southern Philippines, passed on December 11 in Conakry, Republic of Guinea,  also urged the Secretary-General to develop a mechanism “to ensure the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

In a statement, Kristian Herbolzheimer, Director of the Philippines Programme at Conciliation Resources, said the signing that marked the end of the negotiations phase of the 17-year old peace process “settles one of the most protracted armed conflicts in the world..”

Herbolzheimer, whose London-based organization  works with people in conflict “to prevent violence and build peace,said the GPH-MILF peace deal “is the most significant peace agreement since the Nepal agreement in 2006” and  has become a reference in the world of  peace-making.

He said the peace agreement “brings a closure to a conflict that is rooted in centuries old resistance against colonisation and assimilation” and that both GPH and the MILF are proving that “unity in diversity is not only possible, but a cornerstone for a healthy democracy.”

Inspiration

Emma Leslie, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies  in Siem Reap, Cambodia  and Philippines Programme Associate also at Conciliation Resources, said other peace processes in Asia such as Myanmar and Kashmir “have sourced many lessons and much inspiration from the Mindanao peace process. It is indeed a significant milestone for the long journey to peace for the Southern Philippines.”

Herbolzheimer and Leslie are both members of the International Contact Group (ICG) which accompanies the GPH-MILF peace process. The ICG, composed of representatives from states and international NGOs was set up in 2009 when the GPH and MILF resumed talks after about a year following the botched signing of the already initialled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008.

Normalization,  Leslie said, is a “significant term for peace theorists and practitioners” as it moves the emphasis from the simple removal of guns, to a “holistic understanding that the whole community craves ‘a relative normal’ life and requires a range of inputs and actions to achieve it.”

“This,” she said,  is the contribution of the GPH – MILF peace process to global thinking of post armed conflict processes.

Monitoring the implementation

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), formally established in 2013 as part of the GPH-MILF peace process, to observe and report on the implementation of  all signed agreements, also welcomed the agreement.

In a statement, Alistair MacDonald, TPMT chair, congratulated the parties but acknowledged there is still “much hard work ahead.”

“There will certainly be many challenges to be faced in implementing the Framework Agreement and its Annexes. But the commitment of both Parties is clear, and the path to peace is well sign-posted.”

The GPH and MILF peace panels have yet to decide on the date and venue in the Philippines of the signing of the CAB although GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews on Friday that it would be in February or March.

MacDonald said the TPMT “will now be able to carry forward fully its efforts to monitor the implementation of the signed agreements, through towards the election of the Bangsamoro Assembly and creation of the Bangsamoro Government in 2016, consulting with all stakeholders to identify the gains achieved and obstacles encountered, and reporting to the Parties and to the public.”

Pastor Reu Montecillo of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, an observer like Dinampo,  said he hopes that when the CAB is finally singed, “it will address the more than 40 years problem (war ) in Mindanao that has badly affected our peoples.”

Another observer, Datu Hussayin Arpa, President of the Philippine Council for Sama and Bajau, said the panels “really tried to provide equal representation of the peoples of Mindanao.” He views his being invited as an observer as ensuring they will be properly informed.

He refered to the peace deal as “very accommodating” but acknowledges he is still not sure if the Badjaos can benefit from it.”  He said he hopes they will.

Resuscitating hope

Johaira Wahab, the youngest commissioner at the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that is drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, said: “Back when we set on this work to continue the peace negotiations with the MILF under PNoy (President Aquino), most sectors were not only critical of the task, but were also skeptical of its chances. They said we had nothing to go on with. This wasn’t exactly true. We had hope and we held on to it, if nothing else.”

“Now, less than four years later, we have been able to create something more than we’d have imagined back then. We don’t just have a peace agreement, we have a partnership. We have been able to resuscitate hope,” said Wahab, who was chief legal counsel of the GPH peace panel under then chair Marvic Leonen (now Associate Supreme Court Justice) until she was named BTC commissioner early last year.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland said the signing is a “momentous milestone towards a long-lasting peace in the southern Philippines” and signals the “end of a lengthy and complex negotiation process and demonstrates the parties’ commitment to achieve peace through this historic agreement.”

It also welcomed the “MILF’s pledge as a signatory to the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning antipersonnel mines, and that it has agreed to work with Geneva Call on the prohibition of sexual violence and the protection of women.”

Patricia Sarenas of the Mindanao Coalition of Development Network wrote: “Great blessings today! With the signing of the Normalization annex, last annex to the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro, we move closer to the creation of the Bangsamoro!”

ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman, whose three-year term from 2013 will be cut short when the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over after the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, commended the panels for “persevering and braving the needed sacrifices and heeding the clamor of the great majority of Filipinos for a peaceful resolution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.”

“As we promised, we are more than willing to sacrifice while we prepare the bureaucracy for a smooth transition of power towards the new political set-up,” Hataman said.

Under the FAB, the ARMM shall be deemed abolished once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over.

Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., in an e-mail to MindaNews said he hopes “that whatever it is that the government and the MILF are signing will truly address all the concerns of all the Moro sectors — the MNLF, the Sultanate of Sulu, other rebel bands, etc. — and recognize the concerns of the Lumads, e.g. their ancestral domains, and the non-Muslims, i.e., the other tribal groups and the Christians living in the area covered by their agreement. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/01/26/gph-milf-peace-deal-let-it-be-the-real-final-peace-agreement/

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