DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/27 October) — Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is optimistic that the next President will be as supportive as President Benigno Simeon Aquino in ensuring the implementation of a peace agreement that is intended to “solve the Bangsamoro problem.”
He said the two contenders eyeing the Presidency in 2016 — Vice President Jejomar Binay and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas – “have officially pronounced that they are supportive of the framework agreement … so we are optimistic that even if… the implementation of the agreement will not be completed before the end of the term of the President , we are hoping that the next administration will continue.”
Murad made this declaration in a press conference held under a couple of colorful tents in Camp Darapanan, his first after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) at the Malacanan Palace on October 15.
President Aquino had repeatedly said he could only promise what he can implement within his term which ends at noon of June 30, 2016.
Defying protocol, Aquino met with Murad in Japan on August 4 last year and in their two-hour talk, the two leaders agreed to fast-track the peace process so that a peace agreement can be forged within the first half of his term and implementation can be done before he bows out of office.
“I think that is the very reason why the present administration seems to be trying to hurry because they want to make sure that before the term of the President will end, then the comprehensive agreement will be in place, and an exit document will be signed, signaling that everything is already implemented.”
Murad said that in the event that the next administration will not be as supportive as President Aquino, “then what is important to us is the legitimate process will be completed because once the legitimate process legalizing the agreement will be implemented, then I think the next administration has no choice but to implement the agreement.”
He was apparently referring to the processes that would set in place the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016. These include an executive order, congressional resolutions, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and possibly a Constitutional amendment although government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen had earlier repeatedly said there is no need for such.
The FAB provides for a Transition Commission (TransCom) that will, among others, draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. As soon as it is drafted, the President is supposed to certify to Congress that the bill is urgent and upon promulgation and ratification, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) shall have been deemed abolished and its functions taken over by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The BTA, however, will cease to function as soon as the elected officials of the Bangamoro shall have been elected and have taken their oaths of office in 2016.
The two panels have yet to finish the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization but Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the target is to finish these by December.
Deles also said President Aquino will issue the Executive Order creating the 15-member TransCom shortly after the undas holidays in November.
Murad acknowledged that everybody wants to finish the details of the FAB as soon as possible.
He said government wants the annexes done by December. “That is why they proposed a meeting in mid-November and maybe continue in December. Hopefully, their optimism will come true,” Murad added.
“We are almost complete on the power sharing. On the wealth sharing also, we have substantive progress on this. The more contentious issues that are still not being started are the intergovernmental relationship and normalization,” he explained.
If there’s a will…
But Murad is convinced that the targets can be met if both parties have the political will and motivation to finish the work. “But then, if such possibility will not happen, then what is important is for the MILF, we are assuring that we will find all means in order that this peace process will succeed and move forward (no matter) how long it will take.”
What is important, he stressed, “is we have the will, political will to move forward on the peace process.
Murad began the press conference by reading a three-page statement at 9:30 a.m
MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and some members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) from Malaysia, Norway and Brunei were also present.
Murad said the signing of the FAB does not mean that the struggle is over. He said the task ahead is “bigger and more complex and complicated” since it requires “translating the agreement into reality on the ground.”
The success of the Agreement, he said, “hinges on its implementation and the ultimate realization of what it envisions.” (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)