DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 August ) — The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) announced Friday noon after a three-day exchange of papers and conversations here between Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, that they have “concluded discussions” on the “various issues” involving the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and that the resolutions arrived at would be incorporated into the final draft “that will be prepared and submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino.”
“Finished na,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told MindaNews in a text message at 12:38 noon.
Deles said the final draft will be submitted to President Aquino “before end of next week” and to Congress “by end of August.”
Who will prepare and submit the final draft to the President, the two-paragraph, nine-line Joint Statement did not indicate. Deles and Iqbal had not replied to the query as of 5:30 p.m.
The noontime announcement on the conclusion of the discussions came three days before the self-imposed deadline of the peace panels. The panels on August 10 reiterated at the end of their ten-day “workshop” that they were committed to “finish an agreed draft Bangsamoro Basic Law by August 18, 2014, in sha Allah (God-willing).”
The panels held a series of four “workshops” totaling 21 days — July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur, 18 to 21 and 25 to 27 in Manila and August 1 to 10 in Davao City – but failed to craft a “mutually acceptable” draft BBL.
In the morning of August 10, the panels continued their meeting at the Kalaw Room of the Waterfront Insular Hotel with neither party knowing if there would be a press conference at all. Although both sides would reportedly issue a press statement, what to say in that statement was still a problem in the morning.
Ochoa takes over
From a morning of “no direction” on August 10, it became an afternoon of action when Ochoa arrived at noon and practically took over the helm of the negotiations on behalf of government, meeting separately with the panel chairs.
Ochoa and Iqbal met twice that afternoon, the first to discuss “immediate ways forward” and the second, for the MILF to hand over a list of still unresolved issues that Ochoa would bring to the President’s attention.
Ochoa and Iqbal signed the August 15 Joint Statement, with Iqbal signing as chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The statement said that after a “series of productive meetings involving the GPH and MILF Peace Panels, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, the Office of the Executive Secretary, and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, we have concluded discussions on the various issues involving the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law(BBL) originally drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and submitted to the President last April.”
In both paragraphs, the statement referred to a “Basic Bangsamoro Law” instead of “Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
“That’s an oversight because of the rush,” Deles said.
From Malagos to Marco Polo
The GPH and MILF peace panels initially met at the Malagos Garden Resort in Calinan at the outskirts of the city on Wednesday, August 13 but venue of the discussions were moved to Marco Polo hotel downtown by Thursday.
Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed arrived also on August 13 while members of the International Contact Group arrived on Thursday.
Both panels were under strict instructions not to divulge the venue of the meeting.
MindaNews learned there was not a single panel to panel meeting although the GPH peace panel led by chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was in the same venue.
Three meetings were held between Ochoa and Iqbal – in Malagos on Wednesday afternoon, Marco Polo on Thursday afternoon and shortly before noon Friday.
Ochoa was accompanied to the meetings by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)