Negotiations over; GPH, MILF initial Bangsamoro pact

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/22 March) – After 17 years, the Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally ended peace negotiations on Saturday, March 22, with the initialing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at 3:45 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, five days before the March 27 formal signing rites in Malacanang.

“It was like coming home after a long, difficult journey when there were times you almost forgot what home looked like. I’m home – we made it! But, yes, can’t ever forget there’s lots more hard work ahead,” Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles described to MindaNews in a text message how she felt when she was informed by phone that the CAB had been initialled.

READY FOR MARCH 27. An artist prepares a silkscreen for printing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front flaglet at his shop along the national highway in Cotabato City on March 22, 2014. He sells the  flaglets for thirty pesos in preparation for the March 27 formal signing in Malacanang of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the MILF.  The CAB was initialed in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon, March 22. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

READY FOR MARCH 27. An artist prepares a silkscreen for printing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front flaglet at his shop along the national highway in Cotabato City on March 22, 2014. He sells the flaglets for thirty pesos in preparation for the March 27 formal signing in Malacanang of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the MILF. The CAB was initialed in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon, March 22. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

The panels were actually expected to initial the document on Friday, March 21 but the supposed one-day meeting was extended until Saturday.

March 21 was exactly 14 years to the day then President Joseph Estrada declared in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, his administration’s “all-out war” against the MILF.

“Done,” said GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a text message to MindaNews from KL. “Wala nang urungan ito” (There’s no backing out), Ferrer said of the March 27 formal signing.

“Everything is settled. Signed all TORs (Terms of Reference) and CAB initialled,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal’s text message to MindaNews read.

TORs

Iqbal was referring to the TORs for the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

The JNC is tasked to undertake the primary function of coordinating the processes of normalization while the IDB is tasked to oversee the process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

The IDB shall be composed of three foreign experts, including the chair, and local experts jointly nominated by the GPH and MILF. The parties shall invite three states to provide the foreign experts.

The TJRC is tasked to undertake a study and recommend to the panels the appropriate mechanisms for transitional justice and reconciliation.

Under the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012, the Parties agreed to “work out a program for transitional justice to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations.”
Initialled

Only a few members of the peace panels were in Kuala Lumpur for the initialing. The GPH had panel chair Ferrer, members Senen Bacani and Bai Yasmin Lao, and chief legal counsel Anna Tarhata Basman while the MILF had Iqbal, head of secretariat Jun Mantawil and Bangsamoro Transition Commission executive director Mike Pasigan.

All eight members of the International Contact Group (ICG) composed of four states and four international non-governmental organizations were also present.

The last time the panels met in Kuala Lumpur was in January where they signed the Annex on Normalization, the last of the four annexes to the FAB on January 25. Also signed that day was the Addendum on Bangsamoro waters.

It was during the January meeting when the two panels agreed to refer to the final document as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro or CAB instead of the “comprehensive peace agreement.’

Under the FAB which was signed on October 15, 2012, the panels agreed that the status quo is unacceptable and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), by June 30, 2016.

The ARMM’s three-year term (2013 to 2016) will be cut short to give way to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will take over from the ARMM when the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified.

March 31 deadline

The 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which is drafting the
Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is scheduled to submit the draft law to President Aquino on March 31, just four days after the signing of the CAB.

WELCOME BANGSAMORO GOVERNMENT. A vendor staples a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) flaglet to its barbecue stick pole in a shop in Cotabato City on March 22, 2014. He sells the flaglets for thirty pesos in preparation for the March 27 formal signing in Malacanang of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the MILF.  The CAB was initialed in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon, March 22. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

WELCOME BANGSAMORO GOVERNMENT. A vendor staples a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) flaglet to its barbecue stick pole in a shop in Cotabato City on March 22, 2014. He sells the flaglets for thirty pesos in preparation for the March 27 formal signing in Malacanang of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the MILF. The CAB was initialed in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday afternoon, March 22. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Based on the FAB, the BTC was created through an executive order in December 2012. Its members were named on February 25, 2013 and work began in April that year. The BTC targeted April 2014 for submission of the draft but changed its target date to March 31 following a courtesy call on President Aquino on January 30, 2014.

The FAB provides for four annexes that both parties committed to complete by yearend 2012. But they were unable to follow their timeline. Aside from the Annex on Normalization, the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was signed in February; the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing in July; the Annex on Power-Sharing in December with both parties agreeing to tackle the contentious Bangsamoro Waters issue as an addendum to the annexes on power- and wealth-sharing; and the Annex on Normalization in January. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/03/23/negotiations-over-gph-milf-initial-bangsamoro-pact/

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