Former GPH peace panel chair on GPH-MILF peace process: “remain steadfast”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 July) – A former government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has urged the public to “remain steadfast, no matter how difficult or how long it takes, to achieve sustainable peace.”

This as a Catholic priest who once headed the Independent Fact Finding Team of the GPH-MILF peace process urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “give us the real score” when he delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 28.

In a statement issued July 22, Jesus Dureza, government peace panel chair in the talks with the MILF from 2001 to 2003 and who later served as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, listed five impressions he could glean from the July 21 statement issued by government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the status of the draft Bansgmaoro Basic Law (BBL).

Ferrer’s statement, he said, is “obviously intended to preempt or soften any fallout in anticipation of a possible non-submission of a mutually acceptable draft by the time Congress opens” on July 28.

But hopes that a mutually acceptable BBL would be submitted to Congress before President Benigno Simeon Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 28 have dimmed as both panels ended their four-day “workshop” in Manila last Monday with no major issue resolved, no joint statement and no schedule for a next meeting.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, former Notre Dame University president and now consultant at the Institute of Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City said it is time for the Aquino Presidency to “descend from Cloud 9 and buckle up to real challenge of what he wants to achieve in the peace process in Southern Philippines.”

Déjà vu

Mercado said Aquino was “bold to point to the ARMM as a ‘failed experiment,’ yet what appears now is he simply wants to reform the ARMM… If this would be the case, what else is new… We have seen this over and over again! Beyond the rhetoric and good press releases, the whole process appears going the usual way – a deja vu!”

Ferrer’s statement, issued hours after the end of the four-day Manila meeting said nothing about the four-day “workshop.”

The Manila “workshop” is supposed to be a follow-through of the July 8 to 11 “workshop” in Kuala Lumpur for both panels to work on a draft BBL that President Aquino said both sides will “fully support and endorse” to Congress.

The 15-member GPH-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the BBL had elevated their concerns about the fate of the BTC draft to the panels, hence the Kuala Lumpur and Manila “workshops.”

The BTC submitted its draft on April 22. Malacanang returned the draft with its comments and proposed revisions on June 21.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent BTC chair, aired their “concerns” over Malacanang’s proposed revisions to the draft during a meeting with President Aquino at the Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel on June 24 but no details were divulged.

New wine in old wineskin

On June 26, Iqbal in a speech in Istanbul, Turkey, said Malacanang’s proposed revisions had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and if followed, would render the future Bangramoro, less autonomous than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) it seeks to replace.

Dureza said he could also surmise from Ferrer’s July 21 statement that despite Malacanang’s earlier claims to the contrary, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed and the draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) jointly done by the GPH and MILF may not have been “constitutionally compliant” and the GPH is “not willing to take the unnecessary risks, taking lessons from the immediate past.”

Mercado likened the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which the GPH and MILF signed on March 27 this year, to a new wine. “It cannot be put inside an old wine skin. It will simply spoil the new wine and burst the old wine skin. Would the President embark on something bold – initiate a process of Constitutional Change to entrench CAB? Or simply produce a BBL akin to RA 9054 – according to the Constitution but would NEVER capture the letter and the spirit of the peace agreement?”

Within parameters of Constitution

Ferrer explained in her statement 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.

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.”

“Within flexibility of 1987 Constitution”

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.”

Dureza noted that the “onus rests on the MILF to re-adjust its position to make possible an acceptable draft for submission to Congress” but “failing in getting the MILF to make such adjustments, no BBL draft can be submitted to Congress unless amendments to the Constitution are first made.”

Draft has no proposed Constitutional amendments

MindaNews learned from BTC sources that the 97-page draft BBL did not include recommendations of the BTC’s Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

Iqbal confirmed to MindaNews on Tuesday that the draft BBL the BTC submitted to Malacanang on April 22 does not include recommendations of proposed Constitutional amendments from the Committee on Constitutional Amendments which he also chairs because “tingnan pa namin kung ano ang resulta ng BBL” (we will still see what will happen to the BBL).

He said most of the provisions of the BBL were “cut and pasted” from the CAB, the Framework Agreement and the annexes, as they had been repeatedly assured by government that the Bangsamoro could be set up “within the parameters” or “within the flexibility of the 1987 Constitution.”

Best option for peace

Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) said the “best option for peace” is a Bangsamoro Basic Law “that satisfies the aspiration of the Bangsamoro for self-governance. The BTC proposal is close to that reality. The GPH must have the flexibility to adapt it as it asks the Supreme Court for flexibility for the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program which has been declared unconstitutional in parts). Time is also running out.”

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) said they are “patiently waiting for positive developments but are very concerned” about the reports of a draft law from the Office of the President that reverses the gains from the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its accompanying four Annexes and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

“Everyone working on the draft now must bear in mind that the establishment of a Bangsamoro, after the law is passed, will correct centuries-old injustices committed against the Moro people and we shouldn’t let this golden opportunity pass, the only chance we may have to put in place the Bangsamoro,” Sarenas added.

Sarenas said members on the ground are apprehensive about the scenario in terms of the peace and order situation, not just in the core territory of the proposed Bangsamoro but also in other parts of Mindanao but added: “while we are finding out that it is not easy to ignore the restlessness and to stay calm, we continue to urge our members and our partner communities to stay the course of Peace and to continue committing to work for peace and development wherever we are in Mindanao – working for peace in the only way we know, in the ways of Peace.”

Justin Morgen, Oxfam’s Country Director said “we are deeply concerned about the reported delays and substantive changes made on the proposed BBL. We hope that the final draft of the BBL will truly reflect the community’s will and aspirations,” Oxfam supported numerous community-based consultations to generate proposals for the BBL that were submitted to the BTC. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/07/23/former-gph-peace-panel-chair-on-gph-milf-peace-process-remain-steadfast/

Related Posts

  • fernando mabini

    This is a long discourse. I suspect that what prompted this indecision and uncertainties is money. “Wealth Sharing”. The centrist government cannot still reconcile with the historical fact and injustice that Mindanao had been sidelined and ought to have a just share of the wealth of its resources. How can Mindanao, specifically the proposed Bangsamoro land peopled by Muslim and non-Muslim Filipinos, catch up with Metro Manila if the iniquitous distribution of wealth persists?