Gov’t, MILF sign final annex
Jose Rodel Clapano, Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - It has been a difficult road for the Aquino administration but the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is almost complete after the two panels signed the Annex on Normalization in Malaysia yesterday afternoon.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles made the announcement from Kuala Lumpur, saying the next step would be the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by Congress.

“In a world looking for peaceful solutions to all troubles, we are grateful that we have found ours. Let us all seal it – and nurture it. The best is yet to come,” Deles said in a statement.

The Annex on Normalization was the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed on Oct. 15, 2012.

The annex deals with decommissioning the armed wing of the MILF and outlines steps to disarm private armies in the proposed Bangsamoro area.

Both panels also signed the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, which outlines the delineation of territorial waters that will be governed by the Bangsamoro entity as well as arrangements outside the region’s maritime limits.

The signing of the last annex during the 43rd formal exploratory talks held in Kuala Lumpur would pave the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The Framework Agreement envisioned the creation of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2016.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is currently being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, a body created by the government and the MILF.

Once Congress approves the basic law, it will be ratified through a plebiscite by the people in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer had explained the topic of normalization itself was a contentious issue because of socio-economic, transitional justice, reconciliation and security aspects.

She said the security aspect alone is made up of disbandment of private armed groups, the decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons, and redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from or within the Bangsamoro region as the security situation improves.

Ferrer said they have to consider the transitional security arrangements that will see the AFP, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) collaboratively keeping the peace in the region.

Ferrer was full of emotion when she announced the signing of the agreements yesterday.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, for his part, said the 43rd exploratory talks with the Philippine government were the most difficult so far.

“This is indeed a long-awaited moment that is a gift to our people at the start of a new year of renewed hope and commitment,” Deles added.

“It has been a very difficult road arriving at this major milestone of the peace process. The crafting of each of the four annexes, together with the additional Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, underwent painstaking deliberation by the two parties, backed up by thorough discussion and internal consensus-building on each side of the negotiating table, and grounded on extensive consultations with concerned local government units, religious and civil society leaders, and communities, especially in the conflict-affected areas,” Deles said.

On the side of the government, Deles said the work of the negotiating panel always included rigorous study and due diligence undertaken with concerned Cabinet members and agency heads who pushed and pulled to extend the limits of possibilities for good and democratic governance in the area of autonomy.

In crafting the annexes, Deles said the government panel sought at every point to abide by President Aquino’s instructions that all peace agreements to be signed must be consistent with the Constitution, taking note of the hard lessons learned from past peacemaking efforts.

“It has been a difficult road getting to here and we know that the path ahead will continue to be fraught with challenges. As we celebrate this moment, we also affirm our readiness to undertake the tasks that shall ensure the full and satisfactory implementation of this agreement, together with the MILF, other partners and stakeholders,” Deles said.

In moving forward, Deles said lawmakers would take on the crucial role of enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is drafting.

“There will be new arrangements and mechanisms set up for the government and the MILF, assisted by selected third parties and independent bodies, to work together on the multiple tracks that will ensure the transformation of MILF forces and conflict-affected communities,” Deles said.

 

Peace within reach

The AFP said peace and sustainable development in Mindanao is within reach with yesterday’s signing.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military can now focus on other threat groups out to spoil peace in Mindanao.

“The AFP is optimistic that lasting peace and sustainable development for Mindanao is now in our reach as the government is in near realization of forging a final peace agreement with the MILF,” Zagala said.

With this development, Zagala said the military will continue to implement development programs by bridging stakeholders and communities to inspire them to support the Bangsamoro region.

“Rest assured that our focused military operations will continue, to ensure that the peace process is not hampered or disrupted by spoilers and other threats,” Zagala said.

Local executives in Mindanao also hailed the signing of the last annex.

“The ARMM leadership hails the completion and signing by the two panels of the normalization annex, which is the last piece of the jigsaw of lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao,” ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said.

Hataman said he and members of his regional Cabinet are ready to step down before their tenure ends in 2016 if the transition from the ARMM to a Bangsamoro political entity so requires.

“We are ready to make a sacrifice for the sake of peace and development in the Moro areas in Mindanao,” Hataman said.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, for her part, said she is convinced that the final peace agreement with the MILF will propel peace and development in Moro communities in the south.

“We have always been supportive of the peace process. We shall support all peaceful means of resolving the so-called Mindanao Moro issue. This is an opportune time for us to renew our commitment to the peace process and our perseverance in strengthening collaboration on peace and development initiatives among Mindanao’s Bangsamoro, Christian and indigenous communities,” Mendoza said.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led local executives in the province are hailing the signing of the agreements.

Mangudadatu said they welcome the agreements as a positive development.

“It is an indication of the sincerity of the government and the MILF to find lasting solution to the decades-old Moro uprising via diplomatic means. The political leadership of Maguindanao supports the efforts of both panels. We want lasting peace to reign in the province,” he said.

 

MNLF says MILF will disintegrate

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), on the other hand, said they are seeing the disintegration of their rival group in the signing of the annex on normalization with the government.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said the concurrence by both the MILF and government panel of the disarmament annex and addendum in the wealth-sharing clause in the peace accord would result in realignment of forces in Mindanao.

“Eventually, the strength of the MILF will slowly diminish as majority of its fighters would be transferring to the ranks of the BIFF under Amirel Umbra Kato led by Commander Samsudin, a former top MILF commander, who defected to the MNLF,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza said it would be doubtful for MILF fighters to surrender their arms under the agreement.

“I doubt if the MILF fighters would just turn over their firearms based on the Muslim culture and tradition,” he said.

Cerveza said creating another autonomous region in Mindanao will further complicate matters, affecting mostly the cultures and tradition of different inhabitants and groups in Southern Philippines.

“Mindanao is a complex issue having three major cultural (groups),” Cerveza said, referring to the Muslims, Christians and the lumads.” 

The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996, paving for the creation of the ARMM.

Once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is enacted, it will replace the ARMM through a plebiscite.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari has opposed the talks with MILF, believing this would sideline the 1996 peace agreement with the Philippine government. – With Jaime Laude, John Unson

 

 

AGREEMENT BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO TRANSITION COMMISSION CERVEZA DELES GOVERNMENT MILF MINDANAO PEACE
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