GPH, MILF implementing peace panels sign new terms of reference

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 March) – A new terms of reference on how the implementing panels of the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would proceed with the implementation of the signed agreements has been signed by the two parties during their special meeting in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

In a joint GPH-MILF statement, the two panels said the five-page TOR contains, among others, a set of guidelines for both implementing panels how they would conduct meetings, their mandates, and guiding principles.

Under Section 1, Art II, it states that “implementing panels resolve to build on the gains of the peace process in the implementation of the signed agreements including all existing mechanisms of the peace process. The implementing stage shall be primarily an internal process to the Parties, with due consideration to the agreed international participation, and when necessary, with third party facilitation and/or special advice as provided for in this Terms of Reference.”

Under Section 2, for the GPH-MILF panels to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and other signed agreements.

It states the GPH implementing panel “shall work for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress while the MILF implementing panel shall monitor the progress of the legislative process.”

It added that the implementing panels, if necessary, “will review the mechanisms of the peace process on the ground to align them in accordance with the implementation phase of the GPH-MILF peace process, provided that any amendment shall be agreed upon by the parties in the presence of the Third Party Facilitator.”

The panels will also “carry out the phasing and sequencing of the programs for implementation under the normalization process, including decommissioning which shall be parallel and commensurate to the movement of the legislative track, specifically, the BBL as provided for in the Annex on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities.”

New third party facilitator

The parties welcomed Dato’ Kamarudin bin Mustafa, who has been named the new third party facilitator and special adviser for the GPH-MILF peace talks.

He replaced the late Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed who passed away September 2 last year.

A career diplomat, the new third party facilitator has over 37 years of experience in diplomacy, having served the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in various capacities in Pakistan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Brunei, United States, Ghana, Russia and Sweden.

He was also Malaysian ambassador to Russia from 2000 to 2005, and Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland from 2007 to 2011.

Also, the parties signed a “certification extending the respective mandates of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for another year until March 2018 in recognition of the important roles that these mechanisms play in the GPH-MILF peace process.”

The GPH-MILF also expressed appreciation to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for reopening the peace table with the Bangsamoro and to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his support to the GPH-MILF peace process.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is composed of 11 members from the MILF and 10 members from the GPH. They were named only last February 10.

The BTC is an independent body tasked to consolidate all peace agreements and legislation into one enabling law on the Bangsamoro, call for an inclusive Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly to discuss the new draft of the enabling law, and submit to Congress the new version of the enabling law not alter than July 27, 2017.

Last November 7, 2016, President Duterte signed an executive order (EO) reconstituting members of the BTC who will create the draft of the enabling law to implement CAB.

One Bangsamoro state

During the Public Consultation on the Constitutional Reform at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) last March 4, Davao City 1st District Rep. and Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Alexei Nograles said members of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments are considering to make the Bangsamoro as one federal state under a new federal form of government.

“We are taking into consideration that the Bangsamoro territory will be one federal state. So they belong to a state,” said Nograles, who is a member of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

He said that there are no discussions yet on the possible number of federal states and what regions will compose it.

Nograles added the expanded BTC must work on a draft of an enabling law without tackling provisions that have something to do with amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The enabling law, once passed, will pave the way for the creation of a new Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“So, right now this administration does not want that mistake to happen, kaya nga very strict ang instructions na ang BTC will propose amendments to strengthen the ARMM but without necessarily tackling or hitting the provisions that have to do with amending the Constitution,” he said.

Nograles, a representative for three terms, recounted how the BBL failed to pass in the previous Congress as there were a lot of contentions raised in some of its provisions.

“The problem with BBL during the last Aquino administration, a lot of constitutionalists, a lot of legal luminaries, a lot of lawyers were already beginning to question how can we move forward with BBL when it runs counter to our Constitution. The fear was, if we had passed the BBL, it might have been struck down by Supreme Court for being unconstitutional,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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