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Next step in peace deal with MILF: Normalization

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A “return to normalization” is the next hurdle facing the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after their signing of the annex on power sharing in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday, President Aquino said yesterday.

“This may not be a big obstacle, but the specifics of having this actualized will be a bit tedious and contentious,” Aquino said when asked what he thought would be the next challenge that the two sides would have to face.

“Of course the normalization. It is not that simple because in this case they will really have to demonstrate their whole trust in the government. The normalization is a return of sorts to what we call the folds of the law,” Aquino explained.

It is in this phase of the negotiations that weapons would be “safeguarded,” he said.

“And of course, this is heavy and will be a contentious issue for them, because if they finally do this act, then that will be the end of how they demonstrate the trust they will be giving our government and our nation,” he added.

In Davao City, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresa Deles expressed confidence the signing of the power sharing annex would set the stage for a final peace deal with the MILF.

“It has been a very difficult round but we were able to overcome a lot of obstacles, showing the parties’ shared commitment to finish and deliver on our peoples’ desire for peace,” she said.

“We consider the signing of the annex on power sharing as a special gift of the season for the Filipino people, an indication of the collective hopes and dreams of our people for just and lasting peace,” Deles said in a statement yesterday.

New Year’s gift

In her closing statement in the government and MILF’s 42nd formal exploratory talks in the Malaysian capital, peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer lauded the development but stressed more challenges lie ahead.

“We know that and we are ready for that even as we remain focused on the immediate task at hand, which is to finish once and for all the annex on normalization and an addendum on Bangsamoro waters and put in place the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro. These will be our New Year’s gift to each other,” Ferrer said.

“Today the annex on power sharing is born. It has four major parts; 3,807 words; a set of principles of intergovernmental relations; a section that provides a level of detail on the structure of government of the future BMG; and three lists of powers, nine reserved to central government, 14 concurrent or joint powers of the central government and the Bangsamoro government, and 58 exclusive or devolved powers to the Bangsamoro, not to mention four items relating to jurisdiction in a section on other matters,” Ferrer said.

She said the latest agreement was a product of many minds.

“Certainly it was not a result of immaculate conception,” she said in jest, referring to the Catholic holiday celebrated last Sunday or on the day the agreement was signed.

“There are, of course, the negotiating panels and their principals and the constituents behind them,” Ferrer said.

“After the labor pains, we have heaved our big, collective sigh of relief. After all, we carried this draft in our wombs for 16 months,” Ferrer said.

She said she hopes the international community would welcome the deal.

“We expect that a good number out there would be eager to see it, scrutinize its different parts and get to know about it more. We of course tried our damnedest best to ensure that it will be a healthy baby, with all the parts in the right places, with the complete sets of toes and fingers, and not an unnecessary piece less or more,” Ferrer said, referring to the agreement.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza also welcomed the development.

“It is a much welcome development and an early Christmas gift to the peace loving people of Mindanao. With the recent man-made and natural calamities that hit Zamboanga and the Visayas, the execution of the power sharing agreement comes at a most appropriate time to tell us that we can still hope to achieve peace or hope for a solution for lasting peace as we all rebuild from the devastations that were brought to us through all these years of conflict,” Mendoza said.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who has political jurisdiction over 36 towns with strong MILF presence, also lauded the signing of the power sharing annex.

“The provincial government and the league of mayors in Maguindanao remained supportive of the talks through the years and have never stopped wishing for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the ‘Moro issue’ that has been hounding us for some 40 years now,” Mangudadatu said.

He said the provincial government of Maguindanao has been supporting the peace talks through its livelihood, education and health projects in impoverished communities.

“Many of the more than 4,000 beneficiaries of our provincial scholarship program are children or dependents of MILF members,” he said.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the signing of the power sharing annex is a step closer to the attainment of an acceptable settlement of the decades-old “Moro problem.” 

“We in the ARMM welcome this latest major breakthrough in the peace negotiation between the government and the MILF,” Hataman said in a text message.

He reiterated his readiness to vacate his post even before his term ends in 2016 if a final peace deal so requires.

Military satisfied

The military also expressed approval for the signing of the power-sharing agreement between the government and the MILF.

“We can now concentrate on other matters such as territorial defense, which is very relevant, the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

“We’re headed towards peace already in the region and with that, we can put closure to one segment of our internal security operations through peaceful means,” he added.

“We are optimistic that all those who have tasted life of peace will want this to continue,” Zagala said. 

In Zamboanga City, soldiers have been reaching out to dependents of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Misuari faction killed in the bloody siege of the city in September.

Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the army’s 104th Brigade based in Basilan, said the effort is aimed at fostering peace and averting new violence.

Galvez said his brigade, in partnership with peace advocates and local government units of Basilan, initiated a dialogue and healing session with the MNLF dependents in Barangay Parangbasak, Lamitan City, Basilan last week.

“The families with great resentment against the military are beginning to open up and approach and embrace the military and police as a sign of their gesture of appreciation to the dialogue and healing activity,” Galvez added.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is keenly awaiting the draft basic law of the proposed Bangsamoro homeland for review, leaders of the chamber said yesterday.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, chairman of the House committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, welcomed the signing of the annex on power sharing.

“The very element of coming to an accord is, of course, a give and take. As long as we don’t reach anything violating our Constitution,” Belmonte told reporters.

Hataman described the signing of the annex as “a positive development,” considering the issue of power sharing is one of the most contentious in the negotiations.

“Everybody’s hopeful that we could take off. The success of the peace process is not in the signing or the forming of the new (Bangsamoro government) but on the long-term effect on the people,” Hataman told The STAR.

He said the committee is waiting for the draft basic law for review. The panel, he said, would make recommendations based on the submission of the government and present the same to the plenary for deliberations.

“I strongly urge those drafting the basic law to speed up their work so Congress can check it for any possible inconsistencies so they can be clarified or corrected as soon as possible,” Hataman said.

He called on all stakeholders to protect the peace process now that the negotiations have reached a critical stage. – With Paolo Romero, Roel Pareño, Alexis Romero, Rodel Clapano, John Unson, Edith Regalado

 

ANNEX BANGSAMORO BASILAN GOVERNMENT HATAMAN NEW YEAR PEACE POWER SHARING SIGNING
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