GPH, MILF end four-day “workshop” in Manila; major issues unresolved

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) — Hopes of crafting a “mutually acceptable” draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 28 have dimmed as the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels ended their four-day “workshop” in Manila on Monday with no major issues resolved, no joint press statement issued and no next meeting scheduled.

“Tapos na at maraming issues na hindi settled” (The meeting is over but many issues were not settled), MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said in a text message, in response to MindaNews’ query if the meeting was over and if they had accomplished anything.

He declined to say what issues were not settled.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer sent no reply to the same query but in a statement posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at 7:35 p.m. said “there continue to be significant points of differences between the Parties” in their review of the draft BBL.

Ferrer did not say what the “significant points of differences” were but said government “stands firm that we want a Bangsamoro Basic Law that can withstand political and legal scrutiny and be acceptable to various stakeholders, and the nation as a whole.”

“We will not and cannot move forward in the roadmap towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro unless we hurdle this crucial stage. We wish the MILF to understand the basis for the comments made as part of the review process by the Office of the President,” she said.

The MILF-led, 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the Basic Law submitted its 97-page draft to Malacanang on April 22. It took Malacanang two months to review the draft law that President Aquino would certify as “urgent,” handing over to the MILF a copy of the draft with its proposed revisions, on June 21.

“Fully support and endorse”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Iqbal raised their “concerns” on Malacanang’s proposed revisions in a meeting with President Aquino at the Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel in Hiroshima, minutes before the President delivered his keynote address at The Consolidation for Peace (COP-6) seminar on June 24.

Ebrahim and Murad kept mum about what the “concerns” were but two days later, Iqbal would break his silence during a forum in Istanbul, Turkey, where he revealed that Malacanang’s proposed revisions had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and, if that were to be the basis of the law, would be “worse than RA 9054,” the law governing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as it would render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.

“The position of the MILF on the proposed BBL is very simple and straight forward. All those explicitly expressed and provided for in the CAB will no longer be the subject of negotiations. They are finished and settled. It is therefore nonsensical to raise them anew. However, all those, which are not expressly provided but fleshed out by the BTC, as part of its mandate, could be the subjects of subsequent engagement between the Parties. If reasons and consistency prevail, there is no way this controversy cannot be settled,” Iqbal said.

In Iloilo on June 27, President Aquino told reporters that efforts are being undertaken to ensure that the draft BBL should be one that “both sides will fully support and endorse” to Congress.

Elevate to panels

The BTC on July 3 passed a resolution expressing “serious concerns over some major revisions, modifications and alterations that deviated from the significant contents of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” and elevated their concerns to the panels for “clarification, discussion and resolution” of the issues affected by the proposed revisions “… in the higher interest of finding a lasting solution to the conflict in Mindanao.”

The parties met on July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur for a “workshop” that Ferrer said in a statement before leaving for Kuala Lumpur on July 7, was meant to “thresh out the various substantive matters that have arisen from the BTC submission and the subsequent OP (Office of the President or Malacanang) review.

In her press statement on July 21, Ferrer acknowledged the need to submit the draft BBL to Congress as soon as possible but “we cannot substitute haste with prudence. Whatever delay we are experiencing now is intended to avoid further difficulties after the bill is submitted to Congress.”

“We understand the apprehensions of people who have long fought the government and now entering a new stage where they can actually participate in the government. But what we want is a mutually acceptable draft as the two panels have agreed to accomplish. We ask the MILF to reflect on how we can arrive at this. We believe with reason and goodwill, we will overcome this current difficulty,” she said.

Within parameters of Constitution

She explained that from the beginning, it was clear that the BBL would pass through Congress “and therefore must fall within the parameters of the Constitution.”

“We have been trying to stretch these parameters to accommodate the ideas that have been put in the BBL, in addition to what have been put in the signed documents.  But it is very clear we cannot overstep the boundaries of the Constitution,” she said.

Former GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen, now Supreme Court Associate Justice, under whose chairmanship the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed on October 15, 2012, had, at the time he was panel chair, repeatedly said that the asymmetrical relationship that the MILF had put forward for the future Bangsamoro can be worked out “within the flexibility of the 1987 Constitution.”

The Frequently Asked Questions on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro released by the OPAPP on October 11, 2012 also said that “in the spirit of accommodation and flexibility,” the Bangsamoro can be established without a Constitutional amendment because the terms of the Agreement “can be implemented without changing the present Constitution.”

Ferrer said the BBL “must necessarily be constitutional” but it does not mean that key features that will distinguish the ARMM from the Bangsamoro are not being put forward in the draft law “such as the parliamentary form of government, a parliament with more than 50 members made up of district, party list and reserved seats; an autonomous government that will enjoy high fiscal autonomy; a transition arrangement where the MILF’s brand of leadership will be tested.”

Ferrer also noted that the BTC “has been given the mandate to recommend changes in the Constitution all those ideas that could not be accommodated now under this Constitution. But the BBL must necessarily be constitutional.”

MindaNews learned from BTC sources that the 97-page draft BBL does not contain the recommendations of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments .

In letter and spirit

Iqbal declined to provide details on what provisions were “heavily diluted” but MindaNews sources who read the reviewed draft but requested not to be named said

the Malacanang-proposed revisions have substantially changed the “letter and spirit” of the agreement, among them, that what had previously been agreed upon such as the delineation of powers as exclusive, concurrent and reserved, have been stricken out; that the “core territory” listed in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro can no longer be found in the revised version as the list is reportedly just for the purpose of determining where the plebiscite would be held; and that the term “asymmetric” to describe the relationship between the central or national government and the Bangsamoro government has also been stricken out.

A public discussion or debate on the matter cannot be had because the text of the 97-page draft and the Malacanang-proposed revised draft have not been made public.

Walkout?

Word went around Monday afternoon that the government peace panel had “walked out” of the meeting, that Ferrer and her team did not return after their 10:45 a.m. break and the MILF reportedly waited until 1 p.m. for the GPH panel to return.

Ferrer sent no reply but Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told MindaNews, “of course not!”

“As previously agreed upon, meeting was only up to today. MILF panel has to go back na daw to Cotabato, GPH also has to go to Malacanang, so (the end of the session) was mutually agreed upon,” Deles said.

Ferrer on Saturday evening told MindaNews in a text message that they had “covered most parts of the draft BBL in review and are looking for best to address concerns of all sides. Trying our best to move this forward to the next stage” which is for the President to submit it to Congress.

“Here’s hoping submission is done within the week of the opening. This depends on how soon we get to that ‘mutually acceptable’ proposed BBL,” she said.

The two panels completed the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro – power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements and modalities — between February 2013 and January 2014 and signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27 in Malacanang. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/07/22/gph-milf-end-four-day-workshop-in-manila-major-issues-unresolved/

Related Posts

  • bagi bagi

    WAR NA LANG TAYO, MAHIRAP KAUSAP ANG TAONG LAHI NG MAPAGSAMANTALA AT MANG-AANKIN NG HINDI KANYA.

  • Almeer Usman

    If the Milf and Gph failed to address the Baangsamoro question in their peace talk, the bangsamoro people will continue its struggle for their legitimate right for self determination even if the struggle will take generation after generation. We will not wage unguided war as it will destroy what we have already achieved. We may refer the issue directly to the United Nation for it to directly supervise the referendum for independence Bangsamoro State…

    • badconscience

      i support you on not waging unguided war.
      peace is a process. and there is nothing much sweeter that
      than achieved after a long wait.
      peace will reign. development will finally be realized.

  • Citizen

    this is just show how insincere the government was from the very start. the gov’t let the creation of BTC in which it was tasked to draft the BBL through series of infinite consultations only to find out when the time comes for the Office of the President to submit it to Congress, the government defaulted and saying it’s “unconsitutional.”

    it just shows that the peace process in Mindanao does not stop.

    Now, I learned to appreciate the existence of BIFF. BIFF already predicted the result of “picture frame” agreement

    • badconscience

      maybe that is just the way you think it.
      maybe you never really want peace.
      peace is truly a process, just like everyone of us.
      we commit errors, we make good deeds, commit errors again and
      atone for them. these acts are repeated until we achieve our
      peace w/in. same thing with the on-going peace process. it cannot be
      done perfectly in an instant. consultations and all aspects of the
      peace deal must really be checked and double checked so that in the
      future problems would not be encountered.

      • Citizen

        my goodness.. how can you have peace when a signed agreement cannot be followed? better not sign a document at all and continue with the ceasefire, if that is the case.

        the situation with the gov’t and the milf is different. they signed a CAB and previously the govt is claiming all of it is within the frames of the constitution.

        also, in the framework agreement, it states there that if there’s need for charter change, then it should be consider. the gov’t now is not considering charter change.

        do you know how long the gov’t and the milf were negotiating? more than 10 years.

        so who is against peace deal?

        the example goes on like the ones making contracts in which when one of the party retracts what he/she signed. the only difference is to an individual is you can file a case before the court in the case of Bangsamoro there is nothing you can do with it unless it will be filed before the international court.

  • badconscience

    peace cannot be achieved overnight nor real peace be resolved by guns and bullets.
    think of the next generation, of your children and your children’s children. will it not
    be better for them to be living in harmony and developing their God-given talents
    instead of surrounding them with hating and fighting and deaths?

    • Citizen

      please be reminded on why the MILF was formed. also, kindly ask yourself why the gov’t is still negoatiating with them. why so many ambassadors are witnessing the signing of CAB.

      there is a reason why MILF existed. incidentally, it resorted to guns and bullets because during the Martial Law, Marcos tried to eliminate all muslims in Mindanao and seized/destroyed their properties.

      ah let me put this in simple term. if your family is being killed by powerful personalities and if justice is impossible, are you going to stand still or try to protect youself if they plan to return and kill you?

      families of every MILF members were killed during Martial Law. Moros have no choice during that time except to defend yourself.

  • Friend of Mindanao

    Ultimately the problem comes back to the same problem facing everyone trying to appease moslems in the world. Ultimately it is not in the core teachings of moslems to seek peace and coexist. The Koran commands them to “kill unbelievers until there are no unbeliever”. There is no original moslem homeland. They just killed all those who would not submit to islam in the lands they have invaded. Ultimately they don’t just want autonomy they want all of Mindanao. Just as moslem Palestinians want all of the original homeland of the Jews.