We, Mindanao civil society groups, sighed with relief when the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally signed the Annex on the Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing Agreement last Sunday, July 14, 2013. Some would say it’s historic but not as euphoric as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsa-moro (FAB) . Some likened it to giving birth complete with labor pains and all, since after the FAB signing, it took almost nine months of conceiving, reviewing, and even changing the mode of negotiations midstream before it was delivered as one of the crucial consensus agreements in the GPH-MILF peace process .
That momentous midnight should be appreciated in the light of how the two Parties, H.E. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Chair Murad Ebrahim, their respective panels led by Chair Miriam Ferrer and Chair Mohagher Iqbal, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and their cohorts – rolled up their sleeves to hurdle the process and arrive at a breakthrough.
They deserve to be congratulated as they continue to offer the olive branch.
They deserve to be affirmed not only by our accolades. They deserve the Filipinos’ respect when they collectively exude as sincere peacemakers and shine the brightest at the darkest hour of the negotiations; when commitment to the peace writ large mattered most more than their respective interest and agenda – this is indeed, dialogue at its finest. They deserve our standing ovation in delivering for the Bangsamoro people and the country as a whole.
Negotiating for peace, after all, is a product of an incremental process – of standing by on agreed principles, maintaining the climate of trust, and widening the consensus agenda. Hence, the Annex on Wealth Sharing agreement is but one of the milestones to remind us of the cleared path behind us and the rugged road that lies before us while we search for solutions to the Bangsamoro question.
As we hold close to our hearts and ideals the significance of the month of July – in the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan, and the upcoming 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Aquino – we, the Mindanao CSOs and our partner stakeholders and communities, earnestly appeal to all key actors the following :
1. For President PNoy to consistently standby your Social Contract with the Filipino People and translate the specific provision on Peace and Order #14 into reality. (On Peace and Order : 14. From a disjointed, short-sighted Mindanao policy that merely reacts to events and incidents to one that seeks a broadly supported just peace and will redress decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao).
2. For the incoming 16th Congress to believe in the outcomes of the peace process and deliver for the Bangsamoro :
• internalize the urgency of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as a priority legislative agenda;
• appreciate that a politically-negotiated settlement will redound to an empowered region which will serve as an impetus for development, positively affecting the surrounding areas of the core territory of the Bangsamoro and beyond;
• convince their constituents to build on the ownership of ALL in this transformation happening in Philippine society- at the very heart of Mindanao;
3. For the public to engage in a constant dialogue to understand the essence of self-governance and its positive implications to the over-all nation-building of the country; that it’s not about the “other” getting what you have, but it’s about living together – sharing responsibility of building stable and resilient communities.
4. For the media to appreciate the primacy of “peace reportage” and mainstream the peace process in the public agenda. That media practitioners should be “agents of an informed public” in the peace process instead of “agents of misinformation”.
5. For the GPH and MILF peace panels and the mechanisms in the over-all peace architecture of the Bangsamoro to :
• Stay on course and maintain a time-bound peace table. Our direst plea is NOT to allow a “protracted negotiations” mode since this increases vulnerability of the process from negativity and consequently erodes trust and support.
• Continue to make the process inclusive and transparent. Only structured opportunities for public participation will ensure a more durable and lasting peace.
• Ensure that the bottom lines of civil society and the grassroots will be part of the agenda and consensus agreements of both Parties.
• Allow space for the voices of the un/underrepresented sectors within or adjacent to the core territory (i.e. indigenous peoples, women) to be heard and reflected in the upcoming signed agreements and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The health of a peace negotiations built on trust and consensus on the substantive agenda will always serve as basis of our “sense of urgency” battle cry which goes beyond the deadline issue. As you carry out agreeing on the remaining Annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization and the final agreement, our two-pronged essential project now is making the Bangsamoro an imperative in the public and policy agenda and encouraging the public to own and extend support to this transformative process.
We, the Mindanao CSOs, guarantee our steadfast commitment in seeing through the process even beyond the final agreement to be reached by both Parties – until the full establishment of the Bangsamoro government.
Thus, we pledge our share of olive branch.
Agong Peace Network
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
Lanao Peace Partners
Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (MINCODE)
Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW)
Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)
Peacebuilders Community, Inc
People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation (People’s CART)
SONA/July 22, 2013