Bangsamoro peace process back to separate tracks; Congress to “converge”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 November) — Members of civil society are worried and confused at the direction the Bangsamoro peace process is headed with the retention of parallel tracks for the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the GPH-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) although only with the faction under founding chair Nur Misuari.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on Saturday announced before reporters attending a training-workshop on Reporting the Peace Process that the MNLF faction under Misuari will have a separate five-member panel while the MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema will have three seats in the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that will draft the Bangamoro Basic Law (BBL).

President Rodrigo Duterte will sign in Malacanang on Monday (Nov. 7) the Executive Order on the BTC, in the presence of MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and members of the GPH and MILF peace implementing panels chaired by Irene Santiago and Mohagher Iqbal, respectively. The panels have five members each.

NEVER-ENDING. Sisters Saria Namayo (left) and Cartiquia Cartin (right) of Barangay Elian, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, have lived a life of never-endng evacuations. The sisters hope peacewould come so they can return home. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
NEVER-ENDING. Sisters Saria Namayo (left) and Cartiquia Cartin (right) of Barangay Elian, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, have lived a life of never-ending evacuations.  In this photo taken in March 2015, they said they said they could no longer recall how many times they have had to evacuate. Also in the school compound which doubled as evacuation center, were their children and grandchildren.   MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

“In that case where is the convergence point? Is the GPH moving out of the peace architecture?  Will the GPH now shuttle between the MNLF and MILF? Marami akong tanong. (I have so many questions). Is the government going to converge two proposals without the two fronts talking in one peace table?” Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and Executive Director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation, asked.

For lawyer Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, “the mechanism for convergence in the implementation of peace agreements will have to be agreed upon in the same peace table by all stakeholders. Parallel tracks hoping some convergence in the future have proven to be a fruitless exercise many times over in the past. Congress doing the convergence is the worst that can happen.”

Convergence in Congress

Dureza told MindaNews in a text message Thursday night, hours after Misuari was received by Duterte in Malacanang the the GPH-MILF and GPH-MNLF (Misuari) tracks “will somehow converge in Congress without converging in the process.”

He said the GPH-MILF track will pursue the BTC mode of drafting the Bangsamoro law for submission to Congress while the GPH-MNLF-Misuari track will work for the “amendment/expansion/enhancement” of RA 9054, the law that amended RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM.

Congress will then consolidate the bills to come up with the final draft of the Bangsamoro law.

As these two tracks are moving, however, Congress will also convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution to push for the shift to a federal form of government.

BBL before federalism

In a speech read for him at the Global Autonomy and Governance Forum on October 19, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said that while they welcome and support the President’s campaign to shift to a federal form of government for the country, “the implementation of the CAB, particularly its political track, which means the passage of the stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law, must precede the shift from unitary to federal form of government.”

He explained that the Bangsamoro people have a “separate identity, historical experience and narrative from the rest of the Filipinos” and that the political settlement negotiated from 1997 to 2014 “must necessarily lead to a unique solution which we simply referred to as the CAB.”

“We cling to the CAB as the solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro Problem and any legislation that discards it, or simply selects provisions out of it, is to us mutually disadvantageous,” he said. 

Misuari panel

Dureza said he asked Misuari to “also organize a five-person panel” that government will engage with because “hindi mo naman puwede silang isama dito sa MILF na umbrella kasi may sarili rin siyang panindigan.”

“I know whereof he speaks ..  because he doesn’t want to get involved with the MILF at all,” Dureza said adding Misuari “doesn’t want to be subsumed in the BTC and I did not even suggest that at all to him because the BTC is a mechanism out of the MILF peace agreement.”

Misuari’s panel will deal with the government’s panel to work on the completion of the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) signed by the two parties on September 2, 1996.

The 77-year old Moro leader signed the 1976 Tripoli Agreement whose failed implementation led to the birth of the “New MNLF” in the late 1970s which was later renamed MILF. Misuari also signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement whose slow implementation and leadership problems triggered yet another split in the organization, with the Executive Council of 15 (including Sema), ousting him as chair in 2001 and elevating him to the status of Chairman Emeritus, a move Misuari detested.

MNLF-Sema and MILF

Under the Bangsamoro peace and development roadmap of the Duterte administration, the BTC’s membership was increased from 15 to 21 supposedly to make it “more inclusive.” The roadmap planners expected the MNLF factions will be included in the new BTC to make for only one track – the Bangsamoro track – instead of the pre-Duterte days of GPH-MNLF and GPH-MILF tracks.

The MNLF under Sema has agreed to take part in the BTC. But even without membership in the BTC, the MNLF-Sema faction had already supported the draft BBL the MILF pushed for under the Aquino administration, with the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 FPA incorporated into the draft law.

On the creation of a separate panel for Misuari’s MNLF, Sema told MindaNews: “No comment. It’s government’s prerogative and judgment.”

He said they had already “decided to converge and harmonize” the MNLF peace track with the MILF’s.
Amina Rasul, president of the Philippine Council on Peace and Democracy said

“it is the prerogative of government to initiate another round of talks with MNLF Chair Misuari, since both MNLF and MILF do not agree to be together in one panel.”

Simultaneous implementation, not convergence

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo of the Cotabato City-based Bangsamoro Study Group told MindaNews “there is an imperative to consciously converge the implementation of the peace agreements not only in terms of the enabling law but also the other aspects of the peace agreements.”

“We cannot just therefore leave the convergence of the enabling law by accident to the hands of Congress, or leave the convergence of program implementation also by accident to the hands of the different agencies of government and international donor agencies. There has to be a conscious effort by all stakeholders, Moros and government to design structures, programs and processes to achieve the declared policy of convergence otherwise, it will no longer be convergence but just simultaneous implementation of different peace agreements.”

Sema said it is “ironic that people seem to recognize only violence” but “those who act to preserve the peace are often sidelined.”

“The greatest challenge to genuine truth is the emergence of false prophets disguised as harbingers of peace. A true freedom fighter does not fight for fame or power, which naturally comes in the course of his war, but when fame and power come his way, he employs them to improve his people’s lot.”

Sema’s son, Omar Yasser, a lawyer said there is no need for a new panel for Misuari “because Bong Parcasio already submitted to Sec. Dureza the draft amendatory law” (in relation to the 1996 FPA).

Parcasio is Misuari’s spokesperson and representative in the meetings of the Tripartite Review with the government and Organization of the Islamic Cooperation  (OIC) and the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF).

The OIC brokered the peace negotiations between government and the MNLF that led to the signing of the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements.

The BCF was set up in May 2010 when the OIC Secretary-General met with Misuari and Murad in Tajikistan, where both agreed that “unity is indispensable to the success of the Bangsamoro struggle and that there are no basic differences between their Fronts as both are seeking to achieve peace, justice and a fair solution to the problems of the Bangsamoro people.”


At the 43rd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on 18-19 October this year, the OIC expressed its “support and expectation” for the passage of the BBL under the Duterte administration “and welcomes the decision of the GPH to proceed with the implementation of the enabling law for the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region without tying it to the process of changing the constitution.”

It also called on the government to work with both the MILF and MNLF “to incorporate the most outstanding features” of the peace agreements into the enabling law that would govern the Bangsamoro.

It also called upon Misuari and Murad “and all other leaders of the Moro people to close ranks and narrow the gap between them for the purpose of finding common grounds to preserve the gains of the previous agreements in order to incorporate these gains in the enabling law and utilizing the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum as the main venue for that purpose.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)