Civil society hails signing of Power-sharing annex

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/ 08 December) – Civil society leaders in Mindanao hailed Sunday’s signing of the Annex on Power-sharing by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a “breakthrough”  that would hasten the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of  Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Cotabato City and concurrent executive director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation, told MindaNews in a text message that the signing heralds how close the panels are to signing the Comprehensive Political Agreement, especially if they are able to fast-track the negotiations on the last of four annexes – the Annex on Normalization.”

“The panels must now revise, refine the timeframe and the next milestones till the end of 2014. Everything should wind up by 2014. This simply means they should rush up,” Alim said.

In their Joint Statement Sunday, the panels said they are confident they will “finish the Annex on Normalization and an addendum on the matter of Bangsamoro waters … in January 2014.”

In a statement signed by Patricia Sarenas, the Mindanao Coalition of Development Networks (MINCODE)  and the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO)  commended the Philippine government and the MILF for the “historic” document.

“Even as the country reels from the effects of the calamities that have unfortunately affected our people in many parts of the country in the recent months, we have never lost sight of the fact that the GPH-MILF peace process was an important matter that did not have to be sidelined or delayed any further because it is of utmost importance that the remaining  two Annexes will be needed to complete the work of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC),” Sarenas wrote.

She said the annexes will hasten the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which as to be completed “as soon as possible so that Congress can start the process of enacting the law. “

“As we celebrate the historic signing in Kuala Lumpur today of the Annex on Power Sharing, we renew our call for the completion of the last Annex on Normalization as soon as possible,” Sarenas said.

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus said that having settled power-sharing at the negotiating table, civil society organizations “can confidently proceed in the conduct of public engagements.”

Arnado’s group, as well as Sarenas’ and other civil society organizations are assisting the BTC, the joint GPH-MILF body drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the conduct of consultations with various sectors.

‘While we are of course happy with this breakthrough, we urge the peace panels to sustain the momentum by not losing time in finishing the remaining annex on Normalization at the soonest time possible, if possible before the year ends,” Arnado said, adding she hopes the peace panels would “walk the extra mile to deliver a comprehensive peace agreement before the end of 2013.”

Both panels, however, have agreed to meet again in January 2014 to finish the Annex on Normalization and the addendum of Bangsamoro Waters to the Annexes on Power-Sharing and Wealth-Sharing.

The two panels had earlier agreed to sign the Annex on Power-Sharing with the unresolved issue on Bangsamoro waters treated as an addendum  to the two annexes

“We call on our people especially the grassroots leaders to go out of our way and explain to the communities the content and spirit of the power-sharing agreement which spells the modalities on how the Bangsamoro people will exercise their right to self-determination,” Arnado said.

She called on civil society leaders to “unite and close ranks as we work hand in hand with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in reaching out and consulting the people for their inputs, proposals and recommendations for the BBL. Let us help one another and maximize our meager resources in order to generate a massive public support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)