GPH, MILF peace panels open doors to civil society reps; vow only option is peace  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 August) – For the first time in their 10-day meeting here, the peace panels of the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) opened their doors, albeit briefly, to representatives of civil society on Monday, Day 4, to work on the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

At least ten representatives of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), an umbrella organization of ten peace networks, visited the panels at the Waterfront Insular Hotel to hand over a two-page 13-paragraph statement titled “Reaffirming Our Solidarity for Peace in Mindanao and our Commitment to accompanying the Bangsamoro Peace Process.”

CSO VISIT. The government and MILF peace panels opened their doords, albeit briefly, to receive representatives of Mindanao's peace groups who handed them a statement of support. The reading of the statement and the responses from the panel chairs took half an hour. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

CSO VISIT. The government and MILF peace panels opened their doords, albeit briefly, to receive representatives of Mindanao’s peace groups who handed them a statement of support. The reading of the statement and the responses from the panel chairs took half an hour. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

At the end of the 30-minute exchange in the meeting venue itself, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal reiterated their commitment to finish the final text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law so it can be submitted to Congress soon.

“Masyado nang maraming inalay dito para makaabot sa punto na ito. Hindi naman siguro talaga ang solusyon lang ay bumalik kung saan tayo nag-umpisa kundi tapusin ang inumpisahan natin” (So much have been done to reach this point. I do not think the solution is to return to where we started but to finish what we started), Ferrer said.

Iqbal said that for the MILF, “we are not thinking of any other option. The only option is peace so that we are pouring everything here so that peace will be possible.”

Break-out, breakthrough

Before reading the statement, Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, the secretariat of MPW, said they hope the panels reach a breakthrough during the ten-day meeting. He suggested that the two “breakout” rooms be referred to as “breakthrough” rooms instead.

Civil society representatives have been hoping the ten-day meeting here would yield a breakthrough.

The ten-day meeting to work on a "mutually acceptable" draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is dubbed "workshop." MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

The ten-day meeting to work on a “mutually acceptable” draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is dubbed “OPAPP Workshop.” MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

 

The hotel, then named  “Insular Hotel,” was the same venue of the breakthrough agreement of the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in June 1996 that eventually led to the signing of the Final Peace Agreement on September 2 that year.

The GPH-MILF peace panels, along with representatives of the International Contact Group and the Third Party Monitoring Team, and members of the the Pool of Independent Lawyers, have been meeting since August 1 at the Kalaw Room for what is labeled on the signage outside as “OPAPP Workshop.”

Ferrer told MindaNews two lawyers from the office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel have joined them starting Monday.

Prayers

“We understand that some kinks have recently come up in the process of implementing the CAB, particularly in drafting a Basic Law that would give birth—when enacted by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite—to the Bangsamoro political entity. To some extent, the lack of adequate official information about this situation resulted to stirrings of restiveness in several areas,” the MPW noted in its statement read by Miclat.

The MPW said it is praying for the panel members’ “continued personal strength and fortitude as they carry on a task that is made formidable by its historic significance and the weight of expectations from stakeholders within the country and those in the international community,” and for President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, that they “maintain their unwavering stance for this peace process, and continue to keep and nurture the partnership they have built in pursuit of a just resolution of the Moro conflict.

 

It also urged the public to “stay calm and keep holding on to the aspiration for lasting peace” as this is the “effective way of maintaining sobriety in the communities amid these trying times.”

 

The panel chairs gave their respective statements as well.

 

MILF’s Iqbal said civil society organizations play an important role because they are “the voices of reason, voices of moderation and of course voice of urgency.”
He said the written statement given to them “is a very important document … that would encourage both parties to move forward and be determined to surmount all obstacles along the way.”

 

Iqbal said he has been asked several times about the prospects for peace, particularly at this stage, and if a breakthrough can be expected. He said he tells those who ask that what is important is that both parties are “focused and we do everything possible to make things possible.”
“Very informal”

Ferrer said the 10-day meeting, held behind closed doors, is “a big gathering but in a way very informal.”
The parties come to the venue wearing casual clothes unlike in Kuala Lumpur when they would come to the negotiating table in business attire.
She acknowledged the roadmap they are following – which is to set up the Bangsamoro political entity by June 30, 2016 — but noted there are developments that could not be anticipated such as what happened to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.
But Ferrer stressed, “we are very flexible and we have mechanisms.” She also cited civil society’s role in reminding them, watching them, demanding explanations from them and providing them moral support.

 

She also explained that while the Basic Law is a very important aspect of the peace process, other aspects such as transitional justice and normalization are “umaandar din” (also moving).
The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) led by a Swiss expert with members nominated by both GPH and MILF, met last month. The TJRC is mandated to undertake a study and recommend to the panels the “appropriate mechanisms to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations and marginalization through land dispossession, towards healing and reconciliation.”

 

11 days, 10 days
It is also tasked to recommend “programs and measures that will bring about the reconciliation of the different communities that have been affected by the conflict.”
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted its draft to Malacanang (Office of the President) on April 22. Malacanang returned the draft on June 21 with its comments and proposed revisions.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Mohahger Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel and BTC, raised their concerns on Malacanang’s proposed revisions in a meeting with President Aquino in Hiroshima on June 24, before the President delivered his keynote address at The Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao seminar. Two days later, Iqbal in a speech in Istanbul, Turkey said the reviewed draft had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and that if it were made the basis for the BBL, would render the future Bangsamoro political entity less autonomous than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it seeks to replace.

 

The BTC passed a resolution on July 3 elevating to the peace panels its concerns over the proposed revisions to the draft Basic law. The panels had spent a total of 11 days last month — July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur, 18 to 21 and 25 to 27 in Manila — but failed to come up with a “mutually acceptable” draft, hence the 10-day meeting here that started August 1. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/08/05/gph-milf-peace-panels-open-doors-to-civil-society-reps-vow-only-option-is-peace/

Related Posts