Dealing with the Past: TJRC submits report to GPH, MILF peace panels

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 December) – The five-member Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) has handed over to the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels its report on dealing with the past in the Bangsamoro and ensuring accountability, serving justice, and achieving reconciliation.

Under the Annex on Normalization, the GPH and MILF peace panels mandated the TJRC to undertake a study and to propose appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro People; correct historical injustices; address human rights violation; and address marginalization through land dispossession.

The TJRC was given a year from its formal launch to submit its final report which, according to a December 11 press release from the TJRC, was submitted to the GPH and MILF peace panels on December 9.

TJRC submits final report to the government peace panel in Pasig City. Photo courtesy of TJRC TJRC chair Mo Bleeker, accompanied by TJRC members, submits final report to the government through peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in Pasig City on December 9, in the presence of Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.  Photo courtesy of TJRC

The panels are to jointly determine when the report will be made public.

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews on Saturday that they have yet to agree on the date. “No agreement yet between panels. Just got it.” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said, “after the GPH agrees.”

Launched on October 4, 2014, the TJRC is chaired by Mô Bleeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Head of the “Task Force for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities”.

Its members are Atty. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (GPH Designate to the TJRC), Atty. Ishak Mastura (MILF Designate to the TJRC), Atty. Adbdul Rashid Kalim (Alternate MILF designate to the TJRC) and Mr. Jonathan Sisson (Senior Adviser to the TJRC), the TJRC was launched on October 4, 2014.

It handed over its report to GPH peace panel chair Ferrer in the presence of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles in Pasig City and to MILF peace panel chair Iqbal in Cotabato City.

Transitional Justice

Transitional justice is part of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on March 27, 2014.

The UN Secretary General in its 2004 report defines ‘transitional justice’ as the “full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale abuses committed in the past” , in order to achieve accountability, serve justice, and achieve reconciliation.”

The UN report also describes the mechanisms of transitional justice in more specific terms; it employs “both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, including individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, vetting and dismissals, or a combination thereof.”

Transitional Justice ensures the need to deal with the past in order to build the future, to address historical injustices in order to make new history.

In the words of eminent Mindanao historian Rudy Rodil, immediately after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012, the FAB is “an agreement acknowledging history but not living in history.”
“History is history. It had its pains. We must rise above it. We now live a new life. We can now design a new future. As one,” Rodil wrote.

Dealing with the Past

In pursuit of its mandate, the TJRC conducted in-depth consultation processes to develop recommendations, to promote healing and reconciliation among the communities in the Bangsamoro through the Listening Process; Study Groups; Key Policy Informant Interviews; and Dealing with the Past Assessment.

According to its December 11 press release, the “Listening Process” was conducted in at least 200 communities in the conflict-affected areas while four Study Groups compiled and synthesized existing studies, reports and recommendations affecting the key issues of the TJRC mandate.

It added that the “Dealing with the Past Assessment” allowed an in-depth understanding of prior and existing ‘dealing with the past’ initiatives in the Philippines; while key policy interviews “allowed validation of the findings and the recommendations with experts and public servants.”

The press release said the TJRC recommendations “are meant to be meaningful, realistic and feasible in a short, mid and long term.”

The TJRC report aims to provide recommendations and suggest ways to ensure accountability, serve justice, and achieve reconciliation in the areas affected by the armed conflict.

It also aims to address the root causes of the conflict so that the communities can be assured that there will be no repetition of past abuses and violations.

“From brokenness to wholeness”

For the party that negotiated peace with the Philippine government on behalf of the Bangsamoro people, the launching on October 4, 2014 of the TJRC was, according to MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, the beginning of “a journey from brokenness to wholeness, from oppression to liberation.”

TJRC submits final report to MILF peace panel in Cotabato City. Photo courtesy of TJRC.
TJRC chair Mo Bleeker, accompanied by TJRC members,  submits final report to MILF through peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in Cotabato City on December 9. Photo courtesy of TJRC.

“That the history of the Bangsamoro People is a history of human right violations cannot be denied. We, the Bangsamoro People suffered and suffered a lot. We lost many of our brothers and sisters. We lost our lands. We lost our freedom to practice our way of life. Injustice does that to a people. It robs everyone dignity, power and a sense of being fully human,” Iqbal said at the launch.

Injustice, he said, “breaks a people and continuing injustice breaks a people permanently until one day it finds that it cannot stand up anymore on its own, that all hope, all dignity and all confidence are lost. We cannot stand idly and let this happen to the Bangsamoro People. This is the reason why we fought back. We fought back to regain our dignity, our freedom, our humanity. War became a consequence of our defense of our right to be fully human.”

“Today is about making whole what has been broken, about giving back to the Bangsamoro People their dignity and freedom after years of repression and injustice. This is (what) transitional justice is all about – the process of putting back what has been broken, making clean what has been soiled, connecting what has been torn apart,” he said.

For the Bangsamoro, Iqbal said, Transitional Justice “is not about revenge or getting even. It is about reconciliation and a firm resolve not to let these atrocities happen again to any people – Bangsamoro or not.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. That is still no excuse for muslims taking over all the farms around Don Carlos and declaring the land to be theirs which is what is happening right now. People have been killed and the fighting continues. The victims are the poor workers who have no means to support themselves and are at the middle of this conflict.

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