DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 May) – Returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza vowed in a statement sent to the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels that the Duterte administration will “continue with the gains” of the Bangsamoro peace process and “build on those already done and achieved.”
Dureza’s statement was read during the May 29 to 30 Special Meeting of the GPH and MILF peace panels in Kuala Lumpur where they signed on Monday a “Declaration of Continuity” to “ensure the full implementation” of the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
The peace panels also congratulated President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and expressed optimism that roadmap provided for in the CAB “will be fully accomplished under his term.”
Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte chats with returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a press conference at Hotel Elena in Davao City Saturday night, May 28, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
Duterte, Davao City mayor for 20 years who will serve as President from June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2022 is the 16th Philippine President and the first Mindanawon elected to the highest post of the land.
In his campaign sorties, he vowed to “correct the historical injustices” committed against the Bangsamoro and promised to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) while working on the country’s shift from Presidential to Federal system of government.
The panels also expressed their appreciation to Dureza, who issued a statement read during the meeting, welcoming the forging of a “Declaration of Continuity.”
The “Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership of the GPH and MILF in the Bangsamoro Peace Process” was signed by GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal
Also signed were the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund (BNTF), a multi-donor trust fund envisioned in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 2012 and the Annex on Normalization signed in January 2014, and the TOR for the Project Board of the Mindanao Trust Fund for the Six Previously Acknowledged MILF Camps (MTF-RDP Camps Project).
Dureza told MindaNews on Monday evening that outgoing Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles had invited him to a dinner meeting on May 25 where she also invited him to attend the Special Meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
But Dureza said he could not go to KL because of prior commitments scheduled on those dates so he sent a two-paragraph statement to the panels through Deles.
The statement was read during the meeting facilitated by Malaysia.
“In my capacity as Presidential Peace Adviser-Nominee to President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte, allow me to welcome with positive note the forging of the declaration on the continuity of the search for sustainable peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. We also take positive note of the formation of the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund,” read Dureza’s statement, a copy of which he sent MindaNews early Tuesday morning.
“We intend to continue with the gains and build on those already done and achieved,” Dureza said, adding that the peace “roadmap that we will traverse hereon will take policy guidance and direction from the new President when he assumes office on June 30, 2016.”
In the interview Monday night, Dureza reiterated he will conduct consultations with various sectors on the Bangsamoro peace roadmap. “It will have to be inclusive of all Moro fronts,” Dureza said, referring to the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which signed with the government the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) in 1996.
He said he is optimistic of the outcome of the unity talks brokered by the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Then OIC Secretary General Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu initiated on May 18, 2010 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan a meeting between MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim that eventually led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF).
In April last year, OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani met separately with leaders MNLF and MILF at the Abreeza Hotel here and later, jointly, to discuss, through the BCF, on how best to move forward in harmonizing the tracks of the peace agreements they signed separately with the Philippine government
Dureza said that the peace processes with the two Moro fronts are both on their implementation phases – the MNLF on its 20th year since the signing of the FPA and with three still unresolved major issues and the MILF on its third year since the CAB signing.
He said the unresolved issues of the FPA and the provisions of the CAB may be merged and consolidated so they can be “harmonized and only one law will come out of it.”
The 16th Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would have paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would have replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The BBL’s passage is crucial in the peace process as it is tied up with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants, as well as the gradual redeployment of the military from the “former conflict areas” during the normalization phase.
A ceremonial turnover of 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDP) and the decommissioning of 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, was done on June 16, 2015 in the presence of President Benigno Aquino and MILF chair Murad.
But the symbolic decommissioning was only the first of four phases, agreed upon by the GPH and the MILF under the Annex on Normalization signed in January 2015.
The first phase involves only a small number of weapons and forces decommissioned — “bonus” as MILF peace panel chair Iqbal told reporters but the second phase, which ends with the ratification of the BBL, involves the decommissioning of thousands of weapons and combatants.
The Annex provides that when the BBL is ratified, 30% of the forces and weapons would be decommissioned, 35% more in the third phase and the last 35% in the fourth phase.
The MILF’s BIAF has an estimated 10,000-strong armed force.
From Deles to Dureza (again)
Dureza was government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF from January 2001 to May 2003. He was the first civilian and first Mindanawon peace panel chair after a succession of retired military generals from outside Mindanao.
Dureza was also the first Mindanawon who was appointed as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. He succeeded Deles as PAPP in 2005 when the latter resigned, along with nine other members of the Arroyo Cabinet, on July 8 that year in the midst of the “Hello Garci” controversy on the alleged cheating of Arroyo in the 2004 Presidential elections.
Dureza served as PAPP until June 2008 when he was appointed Presidential spokesperson and was replaced by then newly-retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon, who served until December 2008.
The parties had agreed under the FAB and the Annex on Normalization that a Bangsamoro Trust Fund for the normalization process shall be established “through which urgent support, recurrent and investment budget cost will be released with efficiency, transparency and accountability.”
They also agreed to adopt criteria for eligible financing schemes, such as “priority areas of capacity building, institutional strengthening, impact programs to address imbalances in development and infrastructure, and economic facilitation for return to normal life affecting combatant and non-combatant elements of the MILF, Indigenous Peoples, women, children, and internally displaced persons.“ (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)