DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 August) – How soon will the Duterte administration set up the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB), a body the Aquino administration failed to set up?
“ASAP” (as soon as possible), Irene Santiago, chair of the Government (GPH) Implementing Panel told representatives of civil society during the “Briefing on the Peace and Development Roadmap for Civil Society Organizations” at the Apo View Hotel last Monday.
“It’s a recommendation so right now we have not yet acted on that. But be sure that consistent with the position of the president where he says we would like to address the historical injustice suffered by the Bangsamoro, then that Commission can be very well be the mechanism. But am not saying it now because we have yet to look at it very closely,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a press conference Tuesday.
As recommended by the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), the NTJRCB shall be composed of seven members appointed by the President, five of whom are voting members — the Chairperson and the four Commissioners, who are responsible for convening the Sub-Commissions – while two representatives of Bangsamoro civil society “are members of the NTJCRB with a status of ex officio, non-voting members.”
The NTJRC shall operate for six years “with the possibility of extending its mandate for another three years” and shall have four sub-commissions: Historical Memory; Against Impunity, for the Promotion of Accountability, and Rule of Law; Land Dispossession; and Healing and Reconciliation.
TJRC chair Mo Bleeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and head of its Task Force for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities, had earlier said “more than 90” recommendations emerged from the consultation process that they conducted and added that these “can be implemented immediately by existing institutions as part of an ongoing agenda of a State that takes its responsibility” but noted that while this is not a solution by itself, “this is a good ‘must have’ first step.”
But the creation of the NTJRCB is “absolutely necessary,” Bleeker said, “to address the systemic forms of violence, impunity, and neglect that currently prevail,” and 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.”
The TJRC is an independent body set up by the Philippine government (GPH) and the MILF in 2014 “to undertake a study and to make recommendations with a view to promoting healing and reconciliation among the different communities affected by the conflict in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.”
It was mandated to propose appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, address human rights violations, including marginalization through land dispossession, and make recommendations with a view to promote healing and reconciliation of the different communities that have been affected by the conflict.
The TJRC submitted its report separately to the peace panels on December 9 last year and to both panels on February 10 this year and finally made it public in launches in Cotabato City on March 15 and Manila on March 16 this year.
The report concluded that the Bangsamoro narrative of historical injustice is “based on an experience of grievances that extends over generations” and is a result of three interlocking phenomena – violence, impunity, and neglect- which in turn are rooted in the imposition “by force” of a monolithic Filipino identity and Philippine State “on multiple ethnic groups in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago that saw themselves as already pre-existing nations and nation-states.”
During his sorties as candidate and even now as the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, President Rodrigo Duterte, whose grandmother was a Maranao, would invite his audience to travel back to 1521 with his lecture on Philippine history from the viewpoint of Mindanao, to help them understand what happened to the Bangsamoro.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that the government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014 provides not only for the passage of the basic law that would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, but also for other steps in correcting the historical injustices, among them the creation of the TJRC, which recommended the creation of the seven-member NTJRCB.
Ways forward for the Bangsamoro peace process
But the six-point “Way forward for the Bangsamoro Peace Process” under the Duterte administration does not specify Transitional Justice.
The six ways are: the August 13-14 meeting of the GPH and MILF Implementing Panels in Kuala Lumpur to discuss how to move the roadmap, the finalization of the composition of the panels and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the issuance of an EO to amend the mandate of the BTC, organization of the recasted BTC, planning and conduct of conversations and listening sessions on the Roadmap and the enabling law, and preparation for the conduct of the all-Moro Assembly.
Responding to a query why Transitional Justice has not been specified, Undersecretary Diosita Andot of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said Transitional Justice is incorporated within the promotion of the culture of peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
“Promotion of the culture of peace and conflict sensitivity in peace building and development” is the sixth of the six-point Peace and Development Agenda of the OPAPP.
Andot said, they are “seriously looking into (the TJRC) recommendations so that we can somehow have the right approach.”
“So papasok doon sa culture of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Gusto natin ang mangyari, ang ating communities on the ground are not just happy being given water system or livelihood na after a few months mawawala rin. We want to make sure that they are really able to continue the peacebuilding effort even beyond the life of the project hey were given,” she said.
She assured civil society leaders that “this is something we hope we can give equal focus as the other aspects in the Peace and Development Agenda because meron kaming sense na mukhang naiwanan na po ito for sometime,” she added.
“Very good report”
Santiago described the TJRC report as “a very good report” and that it is the intention of government “to make sure that we do establish the (NTJRC), one of the major recommendations of the report.”
Santiago also noted that in the OPAPP now, “there is a lot of rethinking about the kind of activities that lead to peace, because we are in fact the peacebuilding office under the Office of the President so you know, does a solar panel lead to peace? Does a water system do that?”
With the TJRC report, “we are starting to run our analysis … that people can’t go on being hateful, being angry, being resentful and so far there really have not been any purposive programs that take care of that.”
“Thank you for the TJRC report. It is really something we are really committed to ensuring (they are acted upon),” Santiago said, adding that after all, the TJRC’s mandate was “to address the grievances of the Bangsamoro people, to address dispossession of land, to address human rights violations, to address what the President has to say (about correcting) historical injustices.”
“We can’t gloss over these things with solar panels. We need an even broader understanding of what we want to do,” Santiago said.
In her address at the public launches, TJRC chair Mo Bleeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and head of its Task Force for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities, said “more than 90” recommendations emerged from the consultation process that they conducted and added that these “can be implemented immediately by existing institutions as part of an ongoing agenda of a State that takes its responsibility.”
But the creation of the NTJRCB “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,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)