CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews /15 July) – The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is seeking clarification on the peace policy of the new administration following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement on July 8 that he will push for the shift to a federal system of government first, incorporating the provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), but move for the passage of the BBL if federalism is rejected by the Filipino people during the plebiscite on the proposed new Constitution.
“We were surprised kasi hindi naman ganon ang dating sinasabing position nya” (because that was not his previous stand),” Murad told MindaNews Thursday afternoon in the garden fronting the MILF’s Central Committee Convention Hall.
Duterte visited this camp on February 27 and told the MILF Central Committee that he would work for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to change the system of government from Presidential to federal but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”
At the Cotabato City plaza that afternoon, Duterte stressed the need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed to shift to federalism. ”Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).
He said he will also tell Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and his personal friend, that“kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that in Mindanao and in the rest of the Philippines”).
Duterte, who introduced himself in his campaign sorties as having a Maranao grandmother, declared in the rally that if he wins the Presidency, “yung isang paa ng Moro ay nasa Malacanang na” (one foot of the Moro is already in Malacanang).
New admin’s peace policy
Murad said that during his 20-minute “one-on-one” talk with Duterte in Hotel Elena in Davao City on June 17, “I emphasized to him importante mauna ang BBL” (It is important that the BBL comes first) because while federalism may address the entire problem of the nation, “it may not adequately address the Bangsamoro problem.”
Murad also said it the shift to federalism may take longer than what presumptive House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez envisions: by mid-term election of 2019.
He also cited Duterte’s campaign promise to make the Bangsamoro a template for federalism as the shift to federal might take long.
Murad said they are “trying to communicate with the President or the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)” to express their concern about the pronouncement, about “what is the real policy of the administration.”
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) had touched base with the MILF in a meeting in Davao City last July 12 on cooperation and coordination in the campaign against illegal drugs in “MILF-affected areas” but as of July 14, the OPAPP had yet to engage with the MILF on how to move forward in the peace process under the Duterte administration.
After Monday evening
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews on Thursday that he will be presenting the peace roadmap to Duterte on Monday evening (July 18).
He said they will engage with the MILF “pag ma-OK ni President ang roadmap Monday evening.”
Earlier, Muslimin Sema, MNLF secretary-general when it signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) and now chair of one of the factions of the MNLF, told MindaNews that their expectation of the Duterte administration was that it would implement first the peace agreements signed with the Moro fronts.
“That’s the reason we initiated with the MILF the convergence and harmonization of the peace tracks so it would be easy for the new administration to move on. The background and result of the peace agreement the Moro fronts signed with the government is far different from merely decentralizing administration. So implementing this agreement ahead of the federalization plan might be better part of wisdom rather than let it wait until federalization is decided,” Sema explained.
“So many people had been involved in finding peaceful solution to the century-old problem in Mindanao and we found it at last. The compromises accepted by the Moro fronts must be honored and respected,” he said.
Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari, said “ok sa federalism” but if it is rejected in the plebiscite, “asa na FPA?” (what about the FPA)?
Parcasio was referring to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) the MNLF signed with government in 1996 which has not been fully implemented.
Murad told MindaNews on June 25 that the draft BBL submitted to Congress in 2014 will be “improved” through a convergence of the 2014 CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) between the GPH and the MILF and the 1996 FPA between the GPH and the MNLF before it is presented to the 17th Congress.
He expects the “convergence” to be done through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) that the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initiated in 2010 and which OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani strengthened during his visit in Davao City in April last year.
Ready to concede
Duterte, the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, announced before hundreds of Moro religious and political leaders attending the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on July 8 that he hopes to have his federalism framework in place by the end of the year, apparently with the proposal to incorporate the provisions of the proposed BBL into the new Constitution of a federal Philippines but vowed that if the Filipino nation rejects the shift to federalism during the plebiscite, “then I am ready to concede whatever is there in the (proposed) BBL.”
“We will see to it that it will pass,” he promised.
Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 has been filed in the 17th Congress calling for a Constitutional Convention whose members shall be elected by January 2017.
He said if he succeeds in convincing the MILF and the MNLF to agree to federalism, “there will be a reconfiguration of the territory and most of them will occupy the regional or state positions.”
If federalism is rejected, he will push for the passage of the BBL and “what you give to the MI, must be given to MN kasi pareho lang eh” (because theyre the same.
He also said that in fairness to Nur (Misuari), “we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation.”
“Then, we will have new boundaries and these boundaries do not really intend to separate our brother Moro from the Christian” but is intended only to “delineate territories” and “not keep us apart from being Mindanawons,” Duterte said, adding that most of the Christians in Mindanao “are supporting the federalism and the BBL.”
In a press release Friday, Alvarez said “once a federal system of government is in place, there would be no need for a Bangsamoro Basic Law because Muslim Mindanao will already have its own autonomous region co-existing with other autonomous regions.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)