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After 17 years, GPH, MILF sign peace pact this month

by: March 13, 2014 10:12 am Category: Peace Process, Top Stories A+ / A-

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/12 March) —  The  Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  will celebrate two significant events in the history of the Bangsamoro this month: the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at a date the panels have yet to announce but will definitely be in March, and the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to President Aquino by March 31. 

The signing, coming nearly 17 years from the first negotiation, will not be in Mindanao as earlier proposed by the MILF, but in Metro Manila. Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews on Monday that the date and venue of the signing in Metro Manila would be announced soon as arrangements were still being finalized.  GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal have yet to announce the date and venue.

The date and venue of signing, however, was made known to those who attended the “Parangal sa Cardinal” testimonial dinner on Tuesday, March 11 at the South Seas Mall Convention Center in Cotabato City.

In his speech, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo,  thanked several individuals and groups, among them the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for sending representatives and Secretary Deles, who was the President’s representative during the dinner.

March 27 in Malacanang

The Cardinal said the President, who had earlier attended his thanksgiving mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, had invited him to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 in Malacanang.

Quevedo spoke of hope even as he acknowledged that there will be “many difficulties along the way” in the implementation of the peace agreement. But a peace agreement, he said, is “not something perfect. Like love, it has to be nurtured, nourished, to grow.”

In an earlier interview with MindaNews, Quevedo said he would like both government and the MILF to address the issues raised by the Indigenous Peoples in the proposed Bagnsamoro. He also said he hopes the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions and the MILF “can come together as brothers and take a look at what in the previous agreement in 1996 can be incorporated into the Bangamoro Basic Law.”

1996 and 2014 peace agreements 

The GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was signed in Malacanang’s Rizal Hall on October 15, 2012. The GPH and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed the Final Peace Agreement that would implement the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, on September 2, 1996 also in Malacanang.

MindaNews sources earlier said a bigger venue outside Malacanang was being considered, having learned lessons from the 2012 signing of the FAB. A day before the signing then,  Deles told MindaNews they were expecting some 800 guests. On the day of the signing, a number of guests, and even the government peace panel chair then, Marvic Leonen (now Supreme Court Associate Justice), and MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar, were seen standing at the start of the program because all seats had been taken.

Another “first”

The GPH-MILF peace process is likely to contribute another “first” in the world of peace negotiations this month:  the submission of a draft basic law of an autonomous government just days after signing a comprehensive peace agreement. (see sidebar)

The GPH and MILF began peace negotiations in 1997, interrupted by three major wars (2000, 2003 and 2008) and several deadlocks. In August 2011, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III sought a meeting with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to fast-track the peace process so that the agreement would be implemented within the second half of his six-year term.

The President will step down at noon of June 30, 2016,  on the same day the first set of elected officials of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are expected to begin Day One of their governance.

From FAB to CAB

All four Annexes to the FAB — Wealth-Sharing, Power-Sharing, Normalization and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities – that would complete what would be the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), have been signed, with the last annex, on Normalization, signed on January 25.

The parties are presently finishing the final text of what would go into the CAB. The FAB provides for the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that would draft the draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). President Aquino issued an Executive Order in December 2012 creating the BTC  and named the 15 members – eight from the MILF and seven from the government – in February 2013.

The BTC, headed by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, first met in April 2013 and by late last year said they would submit the draft basic law by April 2014. But the target date for submission was moved to March 31, following a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacanang on January 30.  After submission, the President will certify the bill as urgent to Congress.

In his State of the Nation Address on July 22 last year, the President urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of 2014, to allow enough time for the transition period, and election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro government by 2016.

“World’s showcase”

The GPH-MILF peace process has been described by Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohammad, as the Philippines’ second major contribution to the world, after People Power in 1986. “The Philippines gave the world People Power in 1986.This is another,” Tengku told MindaNews in Kuala Lumpur on January 24, a day before the Annex on Normalizaiton and Addendum on Bangsamoro waters were signed.

“Where in the world,” he asked, “can you find a country of 90% Catholics giving autonomy to Muslims?”

Within the context of a majority-minority population, the GPH-MILF peace pact is a “world’s showcase” in peace-building, he said.

The government and MILF peace panels have been meeting in the last three weeks to settle the remaining vital issues on the final text of the comprehensive agreement such as the conduct of the plebiscite and some other aspects on the transition phase.

The panels met in Manila in late February,  in Cotabato City on March 4 and in Marawi City on March 11.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

After 17 years, GPH, MILF sign peace pact this month Reviewed by on . COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/12 March) --  The  Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  will celebrate two significant events in the h COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/12 March) --  The  Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  will celebrate two significant events in the h Rating: