Mind da News: Bridging the GAP

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 14, 2014 Luwaran is the official publication of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Central Committee. This was the brainchild of Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Vice Chairman for Information, who concurrently heads the MILF Peace Panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. We consider the Luwaran editorials as reflective of the official position of the MILF.

In its many statements in the past, in Luwaran and other publications, MILF expressed its impatience on the slow pace of the peace negotiation and its misgiving of the probable adverse consequences. The mood has apparently changed.

In the latest Luwaran editorial, Trustworthiness counts much in peace talks (January 8, 2014), it appreciates that the current Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiation is travelling fast and is covering much of the ground in the peace journey” and, while noting forthright that “[n]othing is sure yet as far as the final closure of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation” is concerned, it foresees that “on the basis of the issues or agenda settled … the peace negotiation is in the final stretch” and “the chance of signing the comprehensive peace Agreement (CPA) very soon is very possible”.

On this premise, it appeals again “to our brothers from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to come to grip with reality that during the current Aquino administration, the only viable and pursued peace track is the one with the MILF”. Part of the reality is that the “track with the MNLF had its time before” – meaning that the MNLF had the opportunity to settle the Bangsamoro Problem but fell short of success.

What should be done now? “The MNLF and MILF leaders [must] work together to pluck out what are good in the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (GRP-MNLF FPA) in 1996 and incorporate them into the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is currently being crafted by the MILF-led 15-man Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The BBL should contain the best from the FPA and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, which will be signed into one document called CPA.”

This proposition is addressed in “Part Four.4” of the Annex on Power Sharing, the “Powers Already Devolved” to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The proposals are:

First: “All other powers granted to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which are relevant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro Government.

Second: “As part of the Philippine Government commitment in other peace agreements involving the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro Basic Law may adopt specific powers contained in these agreements and in the ARMM Basic Organic Law, as amended.

Third: “The Bangsamoro Transition Commission shall undertake an inventory of the powers and consider the proposed recommendations from the review process of the 1996 Final peace Agreement between the Government and the Moro National Liberation Front for possible incorporation into the Bangsamoro Basic Law.  It shall also take into account the proposed amendments of the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly to R.A. No. 9054”.

This is the most reasonable, practical and appropriate response to the repeated appeals of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation, nee Conference) for “the integration of peace gains achieved in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the Bangsamoro Basic Law” – the latest, during the 40th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held on December 9 to 11” last year in Conakry, Guinea.

In a resolution, the CFM urged the OIC Secretary General “to exert his efforts to find common grounds between the Parties to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 1996 Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement and develop a mechanism  to ensure” this integration. (OPAPP Website, December 13, 2013: OIC backs implementation of GPH-MILF framework deal, urges integration of MNLF peace pact gains in basic law).

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, head of the Philippine delegation invited to the CFM meeting and the last Government peace panel chair under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo quoted the third part of “Part Four.4” when he remarked at the meeting: “The Annex on Power-Sharing recently signed already opens up the possibility of converging the achievements of both GPH-MNLF and GPH-MILF peace processes, setting a path for a coordinated implementation of both peace agreements for the benefit of the entire Bangsamoro”.

In their consensus with OIC, Government and MILF have built the bridge to span the chasm between MNLF and MILF to unite them in Bangsamoro. The bridge, as seen in “Part Four”, will merge in the BBL all the agreements of the MNLF with the government from 1976 (Tripoli Agreement) to 1996 (FPA) with Government-MILF CPA.

In the Luwaran editorial, MILF appeals: We ask our brothers from the MNLF not to take the issue as personal or [think that] one group has the monopoly of good knowledge; or worse, to assume that the MNLF or MILF has the sole franchise to solve the Bangsamoro Question. Neither the FPA nor FAB is a perfect agreement. The only real and desirable thing now is that we produce the best BBL for the future Bangsamoro Government. This law is not for the MILF; it is for our people as a whole.”

Will MNLF founding chairman, Nur Misuari, and the leaders of the other MNLF factions take the bridge? If they balk, OIC must prod, or better, whip them. That is OIC’s commitment in the tri-party consensus.

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is specifically an opinion on current news. [email protected]]