Two years after the signing of the CAB, what is there to celebrate?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) says he does not know what to celebrate two years after the March 27, 2014 signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“I don’t know what to celebrate. I would have thought of celebrating the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Am afraid celebrating would give false impression that everything is alright,” he told MindaNews late Saturday.

Alim says he hopes to “join the celebration of the CAB within the next two years when we are sure things are alright.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal acknowledges that there is “nothing” to celebrate on the second anniversary but there would be a “commemoration” that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) initiated, which would be held at the Notre Dame University gym in Cotabato City on March 28.

The OPAPP activity’s theme is “Stand up for Peace! Long live the CAB!”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had repeatedly said that in the even the BBL is not passed, the CAB is still there.

“What is important is nandyan yung agreement (CAB), we protect that agreement because if it cannot be implemented within our lifetime, then the struggle will continue and the next generation will always demand for the implementation of this agreement,” he said.

The OPAPP press release said there would be a photo exhibit, a film showing and presentation of plaques of appreciation. A C-130 cargo aircraft will ferry OPAPP staff, guests and journalists from Manila.

Robert Maulana Alonto, a member of the MILF peace panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), notes that two years after the signing of the CAB, the agreement “remains on paper. “

“There’s uncertainty as to whether the next regime will implement it or not. In any case, until its full implementation by the GPH, the Bangsamoro struggle for the right to self-determination continues,” Alonto said.

“We’re not losing hope because our hope lies not on whether any Philippine regime will implement it or not but in the collective indomitable determination of the Bangsamoro Nation to pursue this struggle to the end come hell or high water!” he told MindaNews.

UP Political Science Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH peace panel chair, reckons the end of the negotiation phase and the beginning of the implementation phase to January 25, 2014 when both parties signed the 10-page Annex on Normalization and the three-page “On the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation” addendum to the annexes on Wealth- and Power-sharing.

The Annex on Normalization is the last of four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that forms part of the CAB.

At the joint press conference in Kuala Lumpur then, Ferrer said the signing “marks the end of a process which is the formal negotiations — the effective end, of course with some more finishing touches here and there that will be necessary — but it also marks the beginning of a bigger challenge ahead, which is implementation.”

The 15-member joint BTC which drafted the BBL submitted it to Congress on September 10, 2014 after months of meetings with the GPH peace panel and vetting by the Office of the President and agencies concerned.

The draft BBL, however, was replaced by the Senate and House of Representatives with their own versions of what they renamed as the “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” (BLBAR).

Both versions were criticized for offering a Bangsamoro that is “less than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.”

In the end, Congress adjourned on February 3, 2016 without passing the basic law.

Lack of time, lack of interest, biases and prejudices that resurfaced after the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano Tragedy, as well as chronic absenteeism in the House of Representatives that repeatedly failed to muster a quorum, and the absence of a certification of urgency from the President were among the reasons cited for the non-passage of an acceptable basic law.

Lack of time was also the reason cited why the proposed National Transition Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB), an independent body recommended by the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was not set up before March 8, 2016, the last day for the President to sign appointments before the Constitutional ban.

The TJRC, set up by the government and MILF peace panels in 2014, was mandated to undertake a study and to make recommendations ”with a view to promote healing and reconciliation among the communities affected by the conflict.”

The TJRC was tasked to propose appropriate mechanisms to “address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro People; correct historical injustices; address human rights violations; and address marginalization through land dispossession.

It submitted its report to the peace panels separately on December 9 in Cotabato City and Manila and jointly on February 10 in Kuala Lumpur. Its findings were made public only on March 15 and 16 in launchings held in Cotabato City and Manila.

Among its recommendations was for the President to create a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB), an independent body that shall oversee and support the operations of four Sub-Commissions, ensure the implementation of the ‘dealing with the past’ framework, and promote healing and reconciliation

The four Sub-Commissions are: on Historical Memory; against Impunity, for the Promotion of Accountability, and Rule of Law; on Land Dispossession; and on Healing and Reconciliation.

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews in a phone conversation on March 16 that while they were preparing the proposed Executive Order (EO) creating the proposed NTJRCB, they were told an independent body cannot be set up by an EO but would require the passage of a law.

In lieu of the supposed EO, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa issued a Memorandum of Instructions directing Deles to endorse the TJRC Report to the relevant agencies, “for the agencies’ review and assessment;” convene and coordinate with the agencies to work towards the adoption and implementation of the recommendations; identify and mobilize resources to support the programs that may be implemented; and encourage and initiate activities toward the mainstreaming and popularization of the framework for transitional justice and reconciliation.”

Ochoa also directed Deles to present a report on her compliance with the instructions.

In her message at the public launchings of the report, TJRC chair Mo Bleeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, said the creation of an independent body is “absolutely necessary in order to address the systemic forms of violence, impunity, and neglect that currently prevail. Its independence is crucial; so that, it can become a real contribution to the promotion of a new societal contract, the creation of conditions for reconciliation, and to prevent the recurrence of the conflict.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)