PEACETALK: The MILF is very hopeful that under President Duterte, Congress would pass BBL

(Keynote address of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at the Global Autonomy, Governance and Federalism Forum on 19 October 2016 at Dusit Thani hotel in Makati City. Mr. Murad could not make it as he was in Uzbekistan on invitation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation during its International Conference of Foreign Ministers. This speech was read for him by Ahmad Amel, Secretary of the MILF Central Committee)

Foremost, allow me to express my personal as well as the collective gratitude of the MILF for the kind invitation of the IAG , the organizer of this first ever Global Autonomy, Governance and Federalism Forum

Specifically, our thanks goes to Atty. Benedicto Bacani who chairs this very important event, as well as to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Australian as well as United Kingdom governments for the assistance that make this international gathering a reality.

We take this occasion as an opportunity for the MILF to present and expound its unified position on the issue of federalism. Like anybody else here in the Philippines, or perhaps more than anybody else, the MILF is keenly monitoring all developments in this field, particularly the proposed shift to a federal form of government from the current unitary system. This profound monitoring and studious observation is driven by our desire to preserve the 2014 CAB which has not yet been translated into a legal document.

Initially, let me stress that we in the MILF welcome and support His Excellency President Rodrigo Duterte in his plan to make the Philippines a federal country. If one reads carefully through the pages of the CAB, then one cannot but reach the conclusion that powers between central and Bangsamoro governments are meaningfully shared and delineated properly – a feature which is very prominent in already established federal governments.

But since the Bangsamoro people has a separate identity, historical experience and narrative from the rest of the Filipinos, the negotiated political settlement that took almost 18 years of long, protracted negotiations must necessarily lead to a unique solution which we simply referred to as the CAB.

The implementation of the CAB, particularly its political track, which means the passage of the stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), must precede the shift from unitary to federal form of government.

We cling to the CAB as the solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro Problem and any legislation that discards it, or simply selects provisions out of it, is to us mutually disadvantageous.

While federalism is generally good for the entire Philippines, we should not lose sight of the uniqueness of the Bangsamoro situation. It is only this region, and I do not mean it to be just the administrative one, that continuously asserted and fought for its right to self-determination. Historical injustice against the Bangsamoro is also an unenviable yet defining phenomenon committed against us and which cannot be said of other regions in the Philippines.

Thus, the MILF holds on to the pronounced commitment of President Duterte to implement the CAB first with the passage of the BBL, and then the prospective Bangsamoro Government shall serve as template of a Philippines federal state.

Likewise, we also take is as a policy directive the relevant statement of the President and as defined in the peace roadmap submitted to the MILF by OPAPP that the implementation of the CAB shall be ahead of federalism and that once the federal system would be in place, it will strengthen the Bangsamoro Government.

The MILF also holds on to the implication of the President’s statement that any provision of the CAB that will be declared unconstitutional shall be included in the charter change for federalism in order for it to be implemented.

Looking back to the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III, we have seen how the peace process was accelerated when the former president met me and members of our Central Committee in Tokyo in August 2011. The following year thereafter we signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. In 2013 we saw the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission or BTC even as the four Annexes and the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation were painstakingly crafted by the Negotiating Panels of the GPH and MILF. The culmination of all these agreements was the March 27, 2014 CAB.

From September 10, 2014 up to January 2015, everything seemed to be moving finely until the Mamasapano incident resurrected age-old biases against the Bangsamoro and made the BBL as its biggest casualty.

With subdued emotions, our legislators can now take a more objective look at the BBL and realized that the establishment of the Bangsamoro is not only for the good of the Moros but for the entire Philippines as well. Ending the armed conflict is our biggest incentive in this undertaking.

Aside from the biases and the politicking in the run-up to the May 2016 elections, one perennial issue lodged against the BBL, even for the entirety of the CAB itself, is its alleged unconstitutionality.

Despite all the processes of review by legal personalities to ensure that both the CAB and the BBL will not violate the Philippine Constitution, this issue keeps on surfacing. It seems that it is being used as a last recourse of the spoilers to obstruct the implementation of the agreement. No less than the living framers of the current Constitution have already spoken tin support of the CAB and BBL.

At any rate, the position of the MILF is to leave the matter to the Supreme Court, which is actually the final interpreter of laws. If the Supreme Court declares any provision unconstitutional, amendment to the Constitution shall be worked out either through normal process or be inclined in the proposed charter change for federalism.

On the issue of convergence of the peace agreements, the MILF proposes that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) thru the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF) shall be the main mechanism to address this issue. The OIC being the main entity that facilitated the agreements between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government is the rightful body to initiate and undertake the process of convergence.

On the issue of inclusivity, we proposed that the more inclusive Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), whose reconstitution via an executive order is already being awaited by the Bangsamoro shall include among its tasks the engagement and possible convergence of the Bangsamoro and other stakeholders in the area.

The GPH-MILF peace process has now entered the stage of implementation. There is no more substantial issue to be negotiated since the almost 18 years of peace talks have already covered all the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro. This is reflected by the change of nomenclature from Negotiating Peace Panel to Implementing Peace Panel for both GPH and MILF.

During the August 13, 2016 formal launching of the implementation phase in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia it was agreed to expand the membership of the BTC from 15 to 21 to make it more inclusive. It is just our hope that the executive order of the reconstituted BTC would come out soon so that the task of refining and possibly enhancing the draft BBL can commence.

The MILF is very hopeful that under President Duterte the BBL would pass Congress. As a fellow Mindanawon, he understands deeply the struggle of the Bangsamoro against historic injustices. In his veins still run the blood of a Moro, and so we have no doubt that he would be instrumental in finally putting a closure to the age-old conflict in the Bangsamoro.

In closing, it is my fervent hope that this Global Autonomy, Governance and Federalism Forum would enlighten policy-makers to think out-of-the-box in solving political problems. I believe there are successful modes of conflict resolution involving system overhaul that entrenches minority rights. This is what we the Bangsamoro, as a minority group in the Philippines, would want to explore in this forum. Help us in that direction.

Thank you. 

 

 

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