DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /02 July) – President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. mentioned Ukraine twice in his 25-minute inaugural address on Thursday, but was mum on what his peace agenda is or how he would address the urgent issues in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Marawi rehabilitation and the communist insurgency — issues he did not also tackle during the campaign period or in post-election statements.
Marcos took his oath as President last Thursday but he has yet to name his Peace Adviser.
The Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process was among the first batch of proposed Cabinet members Rodrigo Duterte announced in mid-May 2016 when he was still presumptive President. He named his classmate and fellow Dabawenyo, Jesus Dureza, who had earlier served that post under the Arroyo administration.
Duterte’s inaugural address devoted three paragraphs to the peace process: that he was “committed to implement all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms” – referring to the agreements with the Moro liberation fronts and the National Democratic Front, that he was “elated by the expression of unity among our Moro brothers and leaders, and the response of everyone else to my call for peace” and that he was looking forward to the “participation of all other stakeholders, particularly our indigenous peoples, to ensure inclusivity in the peace process.”
Marcos did mention peace in his inaugural address but in general terms. “We all want peace in our land. You and your children want a good chance at a better life; in a safer, more prosperous country. All that is within reach of a hardworking, warm, and giving race. Your dreams are mine; pangarap niyo ay pangarap ko. How can we make them come true? How can we do it together?” he asked.
Marcos has yet to declare if his administration will reopen talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) which represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples’ Army in the peace negotiations with six administrations that succeeded the dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, the father and namesake of the new President. Under the Duterte administration, the peace negotiations with the NDF resumed but a year later, Duterte called it off. The Duterte administration later declared the NDF, CPP and NPA as “terrorists.”
Implementation of peace agreements
In the Bangsamoro peace processes, Marcos inherited two peace agreements that have yet to be fully implemented – the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema and the late Yusop Jikiri had joined forces with the MILF in pushing for the CAB and the implementation of the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF. The Sema-Jikiri faction of the MNLF was represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law and later the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body tasked to govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the transition period. The transition was supposed to end on June 30, 2022 but was extended until June 30, 2025.
The MNLF faction under founding chair Nur Misuari did not nominate representatives to the BTC and the BTA.
In his six years in office, Duterte met with his friend Misuari several times in Malacanang or in Davao City but whatever the two met about behind closed doors, details were not made public.
In mid-December 2019, Duterte appointed Misuari as Special Economic Envoy on Islamic Affairs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to “foster further lasting relationships with the leaders of the Islamic countries.”
Bangsamoro in transition
June 30, 2022, Day 1 of Marcos’ administration, was also Day 1 of the extended transition period in the BARMM, an autonomous region comprising the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi; the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato; and the Special Geographic Area comprising 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns that voted for inclusion in the BARMM.
In an open letter to Marcos on June 27, Mindanao’s civil society organizations dealing with the Bangsamoro peace processes said Marcos “will play a historic role” in the full implementation of the CAB because it is to be expected that by the end of the extended transition period in 2025, an Exit Agreement will be signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) to signify the full implementation of the peace agreement.
The signing of the Exit Agreement, the open letter said, “will be your Bangsamoro legacy as the Aquino administration’s legacy was the signing of the CAB and the Duterte administration’s was the passage of the enabling law that paved the way for the creation of the BARMM.”
The open letter was signed by Guiamel Alim, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society; Rev. Daniel Pantoja, Chief Executive Officer of the Peacebuilders Community; Bae Magdalena Suhat, chair of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus; Herbert Demos, regional coordinator of Sentro Soccsksargen; and 26 signatory-organizations.
“We in the civil society movement will accompany you in your six-year peace
journey,” they said, adding they hope Marcos will immediately appoint the 80 members of the BTA which, under the peace agreement, is to be led by the MILF.
Duterte appointed 80 members of the BTA, 41 nominated by the MILF and 39 nominated by government. The government nominees were recommended by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), now referred to as the Office of the Presidential adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).
The open letter also urged the fast-tracking of the normalization track of the peace agreement, particularly on the decommissioning of combatants and weapons, the transformation of former rebel camps and the allocation of adequate funds to implement the socio-economic package for the decommissioned combatants.
The signatories also urged the new President to implement the amnesty program, appoint members of the Amnesty Commissions in accordance with Proclamations 1090 and1091, and fast-track the grant of amnesty to members of the MILF and MNLF, respectively, who committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code and special penal laws in furtherance of their political beliefs.
The two proclamations were among four signed by President Duterte on February 5 this year. The two others with similar provisions are for members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayo Brigade and “former rebels of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) who have committed crimes punishable under the revised penal code and special penal laws in furtherance of their political beliefs.”
The open letter also called for the “immediate implementation of the recommendations in the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s report and the establishment and operationalization of national mechanisms for transitional justice as the main push for national unity and reconciliation.
The letter of the Mindanao CSOs also pushed for the immediate appointment of the nine-member Marawi Compensation Board, two of whom must represent non-governmental organizations as provided for by the newly-passed law, RA 11696 or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act of 2022.
The law provides for compensation for the loss or destruction of properties and loss of lives as a result of the 2017 Marawi Siege.
Marcos inherited not only the implementation of the compensation measure that President Duterte signed into law on April 13, 2022 but also the unfinished rehabilitation of Marawi’s ‘Ground Zero,’ the former main battleground between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies in the five-month war in 2017.
In his campaign rally at the provincial gym in Marawi City on March 31, Marcos spoke for 20 minutes, repeated his previous speeches on unity but said nothing about Marawi rehabilitation and compensation.
Before the rally, Marcos met with Lanao del Sur mayors and leaders at the Social Hall of the capitol. No one would have known what Marcos said inside but Balabagan Mayor Edna Ogka-Benito, who was in the meeting, posted a video of Marcos’ eight-and-a-half minute speech on her social media page.
The video clip shows Marcos talking for a minute about Marawi rehabilitation.
He said that as they were flying over Marawi that day, “mabuti naman nakita ko na meron na ring progress kasi marami tayong naririnig, maraming nagre-reklamo na wala daw nangyayari at kita naman na meron talagang recovery, may rehabilitation (it was good to see there is progress because we have heard about complaints that nothing is happening but we could see there is really recovery, there is rehabilitation) and I think that the government’s policy, both the local and national government’s policy na build back better is going to be good one and that is the way that we would do it.”
“Marawi will become better, will come back better and more vital and important to not only the local economy but to local culture and all of the political and non-political issues here in the province,” he said.
In an ‘ambush’ interview at the inauguration of the BBM-Sara UniTeam headquarters in Valencia City, Bukidnon hours after the Marawi rally, reporters asked Marcos if Marawi rehabilitation will be a priority in his administration should he win.
“Ginagawa na yun. (It’s being done). There’s no need … Tinatapos na ni Pangulong Duterte” (President Duterte is finishing that) was his quick reply.
Several public infrastructure have been constructed such as barangay halls, health centers, a lakeside stadium, a museum, school of living traditions, etc.. but where are the residents across what used to be home to 24 barangays?
According to the April 30, 2022 report of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, the inter-agency body overseeing the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi, out of 17,793 displaced families, only 95 families have returned to their ‘repaired/rebuilt’ homes in the least affected areas of ‘Ground Zero’ while 938 families have resettled in permanent housing units. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)