GPH-MILF peace process: only 1,092 days to the end of PNoy’s term

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 July 2013) – With only 1,092 days left to the end of the Aquino administration, the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks on Thursday called on both government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to “sign the peace agreement now” because “time is running out.”

“Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,” leaders and members of peace groups chanted at the end of their summit at the Apo View Hotel as they posed for the cameras carrying clocks to signify the urgency of their call.

"Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,"  was the call of the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks at the end of their two-day conference on July 4, 2013 in Davao City. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
“Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,” was the call of the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks at the end of their two-day conference on July 4, 2013 in Davao City. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“Based on their original timeframe, the parties should have concluded a comprehensive pace end of December 2012. We are therefore alarmed at this six-month delay. We are concerned that if crucial time is allowed to further tick away without anything happening at the negotiating table, the viability of the peace roadmap may be called into question,” the peace groups said in a two-page, 13-paragraph statement bearing the same theme of their Summit: “Urgency for peace in Mindanao: Sign and Implement a Comprehensive Agreement Now!”

The GPH and MILF peace panels signed on October 15, 2013 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity, the “Bangsamoro,” to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM was set up in 1990 under the administration of then President Corazon Aquino, mother of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. In 2012, the son would refer to the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”

Under the FAB, the parties agreed to work on the four annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace pact by yearend. But six months after their supposed December 31, 2012 deadline, only one annex has been signed – the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

In the 15-step “Roadmap to the Bangsamoro,” the panels have accomplished only 3.25 steps: Step 1 which is the signing of the FAB; a fourth of Step 2 on the adoption of the annexes; Step 3 which is the creation of the Transition Commission by Executive Order and Step 4 with Congress passing resolutions supporting the EO.

The Annex on Transitional Arrangements was signed on February 27. On the same day, the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was initialed but in the next talks in April, government asked for more time to review the initialed agreement.

The panels are set to resume negotiations on July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur.

The statement noted that the delay in the signing of all four annexes “has already stymied the substantive work of the Transition Commission (TransCom) in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law and identifying possible processes for the legalization of the upcoming political settlement.”

It acknowledged the panels’ “strong sense of urgency to achieve peace” and said they “expect them to bring home a breakthrough for the Bangsamoro through the signed Annexes.”

The CSO Summit also called on President Aquino and MILF chair Murad to reassure the public that they continue to stand strong behind the peace process “by seeing through the immediate signing of a comprehensive agreement,” which it described as “the best antidote to calm the stirrings of restiveness and bring sobriety to the communities.”

In a press conference, Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), explained the urgency of their calls amid the restiveness in some communities. He said progress in the adoption of the annexes “would prevent any further hostile events that may overtake the peace process.”

Pendatun Pangadil of the People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation (PCART) said their appeal is “very urgent” as the consequences could be negative.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs reads the CSO Summit's two-page Statement at the end of their two-day conference on July 4 in Davao City, urging the panels to sign the peace agreement now because "time is running out." MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs reads the CSO Summit’s two-page Statement at the end of their two-day conference on July 4 in Davao City, urging the panels to sign the peace agreement now because “time is running out.” MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

On the issue of wealth-sharing, Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) called on “elements in government who do not want to give more, who are not as benevolent,” to remember that a major aim of the peace process is to correct historical injustices.

“Just go the extra mile… in the hope that this land will finally, finally have peace, just peace,” she said.

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) explained that what the Bangsamoro is asking from the Philippine government is a share of wealth within their own area. As an example, she said most areas in Mindanao benefit from the power generated by the Maria Cristina Falls in Lanao but the Maranaos do not get a share of this wealth.

Arnado stressed that signing of the comprehensive agreement is just “one small part” of the peace process. “The bigger task is implementation,” she said, adding that if there is a signing next week, there are other steps that need to be accomplished “and we have 1,092 days to do all of that.”

Nearly two years ago, at the first meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan on August 4, 2011, the two leaders agreed to fast-track the peace process so that a peace agreement could be signed within the first half of the Aquino administration’s six year term and the next half – 2013 to 2016 – would be spent on the implementation.

The Aquino administration has only 36 months left until 30 June 2016 and 11.75 steps more to accomplish before the Bangsamoro is set up.

The “Roadmap to the Creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity” prepared by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office in time for the signing of the FAB on October 15, 2012, listed 15 steps to 2016. These are: 1. Signing of the FAB by both parties; 2. Parties adopt Annex on the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities (the illustrated roadmap does not mention the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization but they should be on this Step); 3. Transition Commission (TransCom) is formed via Executive Order (EO); 4. Congress passes resolutions supporting the EO; 5. TransCom drafts Bangsamoro Basic Law bill; 6. Bill is submitted to Congress; 7. Bill is certified urgent by the President; 8. Congressional action on the bill; 9. Bill submitted to the President for approval; 10. President signs the bill into law; 11. Plebiscite is held for the ratification of the law; 12. Promulgation and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law; 13. Bangsamoro Transition Authority is created. ARMM is deemed abolished; all devolved authorities are vested in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority; 14. Ministerial form and Cabinet system of government will commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place; and 15. Bangsamoro Transition Authority is replaced upon the election and assumption of the members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the formation of the Bangsamoro government. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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