PH govt, MILF reach peace deal

(UPDATED) Framework Agreement reached; A new autonomous political entity called 'Bangsamoro' could soon be part of the Philippine political map

KD Suarez
Published 12:24 PM, October 07, 2012
Updated 2:00 PM, October 16, 2012

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A new autonomous political entity (NAPE) called "Bangsamoro" will soon be part of the Philippine political map, as the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) concluded negotiations on a Framework Agreement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday, October 7.

"We have forged an agreement that seeks to correct... problems. It defines our parameters and our objectives, while upholding the integrity and sovereignty of our nation," President Benigno Aquino III said in a speech aired live nationwide Sunday afternoon, announcing the milestone in the peace talks.

"This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro," he said.

With the framework now in place, Aquino said a basic law will be drafted by a transition commission, and will "go through the full process of legislation in Congress."

The Associated Press reports that the Transition Commission will be composed of 15 members. Rebel troops, AP said, will undergo a "graduated program" that will eventually dissolve the guerilla units.

The law that will result from the framework will then undergo ratification through a plebiscite, and once approved, elections for the officials of the Bangsamoro will be held.

"My administration has pledged to supporting a law that will truly embody the values and aspirations of the people of Bangsamoro," he said.

'Final, enduring peace'

The Framework Agreement sets the path for "final, enduring peace" in Mindanao, Aquino said, bringing together all former separatist groups into the fold.

The MILF has also ceased to aspire for a separate state.

The national government, Aquino said, will continue to handle matters related to national defense, monetary policy, citizenship and naturalization, and foreign affairs.

"The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro, and this agreement will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal."

"The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony. They will enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice," he said.

Aquino said that the initial Organic Act the formed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was "flawed," and was not able to solve problems in the region.

"The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform," he said.

"This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved," the President said.

President Aquino delivers his nationally televised speech on the preliminary peace deal with MILF in Malacañan Palace. Cabinet members join him. Malacaãng Photo bureau.

President Aquino delivers his nationally televised speech on the preliminary peace deal with MILF in Malacañan Palace. Cabinet members join him. Malacaãng Photo bureau.

'Happy, hopeful, historic day'

MindaNews first broke news that the two sides were able to finish working on the Framework Agreement that would pave the way for the NAPE.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles was also the first to confirm that the two sides have reached an agreement.

"This is happy, hopeful, historic day that marks the start of more difficult steps ahead. Please continue to be with us as we pursue just & sustainable peace," Deles said in a text message.

The agreement is set to be signed in Manila next week, but no exact date and place has been set yet. The Framework Agreement will be signed in the presence of Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ibrahim.

It was a result of the latest round of talks between the two sides, which started last October 2 and ended Saturday evening.

The current round of talks is the 32nd since 2003, and the 13th under the current administration. It was supposedly scheduled October 2-5, but was first extended to October 6, then October 7.

Talks reportedly finished at 10:40 pm on Saturday, October 6, for a total of 13 hours of negotiations and discussions that day. Both sides aimed to finish the talks and have an agreement by the end of the round.

"We will not go home until we finish," both sides earlier told MindaNews.

Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal, chairs of the Philippine and MILF panels, respectively, were initially silent on the deal, MindaNews said.

The talks were concluded Sunday morning at the Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur.

Present at the concluding ceremony were Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya; Brig. Gen. Leo Ferrer, Senior Military Adviser; and Supt. Noel dells Reyes, Sr. Police Adviser. A joint communique was set to be signed before noon.

Next steps

Details of the Framework Agreement were kept under wraps prior to the announcement by the Palace.

The Framework Agreement wil be published first before being signed to avoid a scenario similar to the problematic GPH-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) back in 2008.

The 2008 MOA-AD was not signed. Petitioners asked the Supreme Court to stop its signing, saying the document was kept under wraps, and was later declared unconstitutional.

The Framework Agreement will be published in newspapers and at the Official Gazette, and Aquino invited Filipinos to join the discussion on the issue.

"Nakalahad po ang lahat, at wala kaming tangkang magkubli o maglihim" (Everything will be published, and we will not hide anything) he said.

Aquino thanked the two negotiating panels, as well as the government of Malaysia, which stood as facilitators in the peace talks, and several international groups that supported the talks.

"[The Framework Agreement] about acknowledging that trust has to be earned–it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, good will, and hard work," he said.

There are roughly four million Muslims in Mindanao, which they see as their ancestral homeland dating back to Islamic sultanates established before Spanish Christians arrived in the 1500s.

The MILF and other Muslim rebel groups have been fighting for independence or autonomy in Mindanao since the early 1970s.

The rebellion has claimed more than 150,000 lives, most in the 1970s when all-out war raged, and left large parts of Mindanao in deep poverty.

The MILF is the biggest and most important rebel group left, after the Moro National Liberation Front signed a peace pact with the government in 1996. - Rappler.com, with the Agence France-Presse

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