‘Reconciliation vital in achieving peace in Mindanao’
Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – With the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) believes that transitional justice and reconciliation will play a vital role in the country’s continued quest for peace and development in Mindanao.

While the basic law that would have established the Bangsamoro region has yet to be passed into law, TPMT chairman Alistair MacDonald said the peace process continued to score milestones that were essential in maintaining stability on the ground.

“There has been significant progress in a number of areas, including for example the successful completion of the first ceremonial stage of decommissioning on June 16, or the completion of the work of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC),” MacDonald told members of the media during the release of its third annual report on Friday.

MacDonald is joined by Huseyin Oruc from the Turkish non-government organization The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH); Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute; Rahib Kudto of the United Youth for Peace and Development; and Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation.

The TJRC finished drafting its report in December 2015.

It formally submitted its report to the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panels during their meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month.

“The early publication of that report will be invaluable. Putting that report into the public’s awareness is important,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald explained the TJRC’s report generated from various consultations across the country would be an important component in the country’s healing process from the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao and in dissipating prejudices between the majority Christian Filipinos and the Muslim minority in the south.

While suggesting that the curriculum of the Department of Education with regard the history of the Bangsamoro people would be worth revisiting, MacDonald said such plan would be for the long haul.

“In the meantime, there are a lot of provisions in the CAB that can be done now, especially in the normalization aspect, which can aid in that regard,” MacDonald said, referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the government and the MILF in 2014.

For her part, Tañada, stressed the importance of building one narrative of the Filipino people that would include the history of the Bangsamoro.

Referring to the recently concluded 30th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power revolt, Tañada said “the stories of the Bangsamoro people during Martial Law still have to be told.”

“That will be part of the TJRC’s recommendation and report. The Bangsamoro story is the Filipino story,” she said.

For her part, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer expressed the gratitude of the government peace panel to the TPMT for its invaluable role in ensuring that both the government and the MILF adhere to the agreement.

“The TPMT’s third annual report and the recommendations therein will be taken with utmost consideration in line with our shared desire to sustain and nurture the Bangsamoro peace process and finish in due time the implementation of the CAB, which includes the passage and ratification of a CAB-based Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Ferrer said.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said the failure to pass the BBL is not the end of the peace process.

Seguis also said the support of the international community is vital to sustain the Bangsamoro peace process amid Congress’ failure to pass the BBL.

He said the international community will provide the necessary fuel in preserving and sustaining the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process.

Seguis said the DFA would continue to talk to its counterparts in other countries.

“As diplomats, it is our duty to continue to engage and to talk to the international community in general and, in particular, our international partners and stakeholders in the peace process. This is how we can substantively contribute to the peace process here in the Philippines,” he said.

Seguis said several international actors have been involved in the negotiation and implementation phases of the CAB.

Aside from the presence of Malaysia as a third-party facilitator, international actors can also be found in the other mechanisms established through the agreement, including the TPMT.

Seguis explained the international facilitator has helped a lot in clarifying some of the differences between the negotiating panels and is instrumental in coming up with the comprehensive agreement.

“If we exclude Malaysia, it will be more of a problem. We needed somebody to listen if we encounter any issues during the discussions,” he said.

DFA Office of American Affairs executive director Louie Alvarez stressed that having supportive foreign countries would help generate public attention in the ongoing peace process.

“It is very apparent that it is important to have international partners that publicly support the peace process. It creates a public image that both parties are in good faith,” Alvarez said.



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