TPMT says vaccination vs violent extremism is ‘successful conclusion to peace process’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 February) – The failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under the Aquino administration has somehow eroded the confidence of the Moro people in the peace process and could make the younger generation – who may not even be associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – be more attracted to violent extremism, the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) of the Bangsamoro peace process said in its third public annual report.

But the TPMP report also said that “clear evidence of progress in the peace process, and of continued commitment to building a real autonomy, will offer the best possible safeguard against these risks, and the most effective vaccination against violent extremism.”

The five-member TPMT was set up by the government (GPH) and MILF peace panels following the October 2012 signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), to monitor, review and assess the implementation of all signed agreements.

In his opening statement at the press conference in Pasig City Friday morning, MacDonald, former EU Ambassador to the Philippines, said it is “encouraging” that there has been no violent reaction from the MILF to the non-passage of the BBL unlike what in the aftermath of the botched signing of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008 but it is possible that this setback “could increase the risk that some young people could become more attracted to violent extremism – a risk against which a successful conclusion to the peace process will be the most effective.”

In a statement signed by MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on February 18 or 15 days after Congress adjourned without passing the BBL, the MILF expressed “deep disappointment and grave dismay” over the non-passage of the BBL but said it will “continue to uphold the peace process and ensure that all the gains will be preserved.”

The 29-page TPMT report said that if doubts about the peace process continue, it may be possible that “some among the younger generation – not even persons associated with the MILF – may come to consider that the peace process has failed, and risk being attracted to more radical ideologies and violent extremism” and that a perception of failure “could act as fuel for those who might be tempted in this direction or those who might wish to encourage it.”

The report said the Philippines has not shown evidence of the same degree of individual radicalization that has been seen in Indonesia, Malaysia or in a number of Western countries but “certainly, clear evidence of progress in the peace process, and of continued commitment to building a real autonomy, will offer the best possible safeguard against these risks, and the most effective vaccination against violent extremism.”

MacDonald reiterated the need for a “Plan B” to help the next administration hit the ground running and to “work to sustain public confidence in the peace process during this period of uncertainty, and to reaffirm the commitment of all stakeholders to winning the prize of peace.”

It can be recalled that the TPMT, in a December 22, 2015 letter to the GPH and MILF peace panels expressed hope that the panels could “reach agreement on a ‘Plan B’ (or perhaps a ‘Plan A to B,’ which would help secure the transition from Plan A to Plan B)” given the concerns about the delays in the legislative process and the increasing likelihood that no BBL would be passed under the Aquino administration; concerns about the content of the BBL and the extent to it might be CAB-compliant (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro), acceptable to the MILF and acceptable to the broader Bangsamoro community;” and concerns about the continuity of the process, if indeed a BBL cannot be passed under the Aquino administration.

MacDonald last Friday said the TPMT noticed “that very little was said about the peace process at the recent Presidential debate, and it could be helpful if the candidates were to tell the public how the process might be carried forward to a successful conclusion.”

MacDonald expressed optimism that the prize of peace can be attained, no matter which administration takes over on June 30 because “no administration can afford to ignore the costs of conflict in Mindanao – the human costs, the development costs, the security costs, or the risk of worsening a climate conducive to the spread of violent extremism.”

“The CAB will necessarily remain the cornerstone of peace,” MacDonald said, adding the best guarantee of success lies in the commitment of both parties, “evident at the highest levels through this past year.”

The report acknowledged that 2015 was a “difficult year” because the January 25 Mamasapano tragedy “cast a dark shadow over the peace process throughout the year, impacted negatively on public and political attitudes towards the process, and significiantly delayed (and colored) Congressional deliberations on the draft BBL.”

Since Congress failed to pass the BBL, “the torch of peace will have to be taken up by a new Administration and Congress” starting June 30, 2016.

The report noted that the substitute bills of the House of Representatives and the Senate “were in a number of respects non-compliant with the CAB,” an issue that the next Congress has to address.

But it also acknowledged that progress was made in the other aspects of the peace process like the June 16, 2015 ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants; the December 9 submission of the report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), other aspects of normalization like preparing support for the decommissioned combatants and their communities, strengthening the footprint of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in its initial preparations ofr acting against private armed groups.

It said the ceasefire mechanisms continued to work smoothly “notwithstanding the fact that these mechanisms had been ignored and put at risk in Mamasapano.”

It also cited efforts to build a “greater inclusivity” continued “both between the MILF and the different groups within the MNLF, and with many of the Sultanates” and the “significant upwelling of both domestic and international support” for the peace process, such as the work done by the Citizens’ Peace Council and other civil society efforts, including the statement of resident Ambassadors in October. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)