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MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – More than a year after a framework agreement was signed in October 2012, the Bangsamoro region moves a step closer to reality.
It’s been a 16-year journey.
In 1996, the Ramos government held the first exploratory talks with the MILF, culminating in the signing of a “general cessation of hostilities” between the two parties in July 1997.
But the road to peace before 2010, when President Benigno Aquino III assumed power, was marked by deadlocks, conflicts and persistent efforts by other armed groups to derail it.
Former president Joseph Estrada mobilized the entire armed forces to crush the MILF and bring down its seat of power in Camp Abubakar, central Mindanao, in 2000.
His successor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo resumed negotiations with the group, taking a bold step in crafting a draft agreement that triggered widespread opposition from lawmakers and various sectors and which the Supreme Court later on declared as unconstitutional.
The MILF, too, went through a difficult period with the death of its charismatic leader, Hashim Salamat, in 2003. Replacing him as chairman was the military chief of the rebel organization at the time, Ibrahim Murad.
What happened since the signing of the framework agreement?
July 15 – Malacañang announces the appointment of then UP College of Law dean Marvic Leonen as the government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks.
September 7 – Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles announces that Aquino has formed an advisory body to assist government negotiators in the peace talks. The body is composed of “members from both Houses of Congress, retired justices of the Supreme Court, members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission, local governments in strife-affected areas, non-government organizations involved in peace efforts, and the former chairmen of previous peace panels.”
August 4 – MILF chair Murad “Al Haj” Ebrahim holds an unprecedented meeting with Aquino in Tokyo, Japan. Both agree to expedite the peace process.
October 7 – The Philippine government and the MILF conclude the 32nd round of exploratory talks with a framework agreement that will create a Bangsamoro region.
October 15 – The Aquino administration and the MILF sign the peace agreement in Malacañang. It marks the first time the rebel group steps into the country’s seat of power.
November 12 – The 33rd round of peace talks opens, with the main agenda focusing on details of the Three Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing and Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
This round ends without any agreement being signed.
December 12 – The panels convene for the 34th round of peace talks, marking the first time that professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is taking the helm as the government peace panel chair after being appointed to replace now Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
December 16 – The 34th round of peace talks concludes with a “technical impasse” over the issue on whether the MILF should lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
December 17 – President Benigno Aquino III signs Executive Order 120 creating the 15-member Transition Commission that will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
January 21 – The 35th round of peace talks begins, with both parties expected to settle the “technical impasse” on who will lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority – the only unresolved issue in the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities.
January 25 – Both panels sign a document outlining the terms of reference for the Third-Party Monitoring Team that will “review, assess, evaluate and monitor” the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
February 14 – Malaysian security forces summon dozens of suspected Abu Sayyaf members in a remote area with a history of incursions by armed Filipino Islamic groups.
February 25 – As the 36th round of peace talks begin, President Benigno Aquino III names the members of the Transition Commission (TransCom) that will draft the basic law that would pave the way for the Bangsamoro political entity.
February 27 – The Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities is signed before the last session of the 36th round of peace talks ends.
The parties also agree under the Framework Agreement to form an Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), which will submit recommendations on how the relationship between the Philippine National Police and Bangsamoro police should work.
March 25 – The government asks the MILF to postpone the 37th round of peace talks to allow it more time to review the annexes.
April 3 – The 15-member Transition Commission convenes for the first time.
April 9 – The 37th round of peace talks finally starts, with only discussions on the annex on normalization remaining at the level of the technical working groups.
April 11 – This round ends without any agreement being signed.
April 30 – The Transition Commission agrees on the process to be followed in establishing the inner workings of the commission, including its organizational chart and internal rules and regulations.
July 6 – The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter guerilla group, ambushes an army truck and attacks an army camp a day before peace talks resume.
July 8 – Panels proceed with the 38th round of peace talks, with the MILF returning to the negotiating table “with guarded optimism.”
July 11 – The 38th round of talks ends without any agreement, with the MILF peace panel members leaving the venue in a huff.
Afterwards, they agree to return and extend the talks, in an attempt to seal the deal on wealth-sharing.
July 12 – Parties fail to arrive at any agreement and agree to extend again the talks for one more day.
July 13 – Parties sign the annex on wealth-sharing. Among others, the agreement gives automatic appropriations to the Bangsamoro, as well as a 75% share on taxes and revenues from metallic minerals.
August 22 – The 39th round of talks starts, with the last two annexes topping the agenda.
August 25 – No agreement is signed after this round, but both panels release a joint statement that expresses confidence that the final peace pact will be completed soon.
September 9 – Up to 400 suspected members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) take over 4 barangays in Zamboanga City.
September 10 – The 40th round of peace talks is opened, with the government peace panel nearly missing their flight to Kuala Lumpur after Aquino called for an emergency meeting following the siege of Zamboanga City.
September 19 – The panels decide to extend the session for one more day, though both parties feel that it is unlikely that a document will be signed and completed this round.
September 20 – The 40th phase of talks end without signing a deal on power-sharing and normalization. Proposed changes to the annex – both from the government and the MILF – extend discussions, described to be “generally constructive” during this round.
October 8 – Parties hold the 41st round of talks, as Zamboanga City recovers from the bloody siege by rebel forces associated with a faction of the MILF’s rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front.
October 11 – Peace panels from both parties extend their talks for another day.
October 13 – The 41st round of peace talks ends. Parties fail to complete the power-sharing annex.
December 5 – The 42nd round of peace talks opens, with power-sharing being the agenda.
December 8 – The panels sign the annex on power-sharing, but without a deal on the so-called “Bangsamoro waters” – the most contentious issue in the peace talks.
January 22 – Negotiations continue at the 43rd round of peace talks to discuss what to do with firearms and what will happen next to those who will lay down their arms.
January 24 – The panels arrive at a deal on how power will be shared over “Bangsamoro waters.”
February 6 – Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr meet with other top congressional leaders and agree to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of 2014.
March 14 – Deles announces that the final peace pact is set to be signed on March 27.
March 25 – In a Malacañang press briefing, Deles says close to 500 members of the MILF will witness the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement.
March 27 – The Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
President Aquino vows, “I will not let peace be snatched from my people again. Not now when we have already undertaken the most significant steps to achieve it.”
Meanwhile, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim describes the peace agreement as the “crowning glory of our struggle.”
Other personalities hail the signing:
- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak: Peace deal act of ‘momentous courage’
- Deles: ‘No more war. We are tired of it.’
- Senate President Drilon, on behalf of Congress: We can’t afford mistakes in Bangsamoro law
- MNLF Chairman Abul Khayr Alonto appeals to Nur Misuari: Support peace deal
March 28 – Abu Misry Mama, spokesman and senior leader of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), says they will continue the fight for independence through armed struggle.
April 2 – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago raises an objection to the peace pact, saying that it is unconstitutional. She argues that it will make the Bangsamoro as a sub-state instead of a mere autonomous region.
Santiago later writes to government chief negotiator Coronel-Ferrer to clarify her position regarding the peace agreement. She says that she is not out to scuttle the peace deal, “but to ensure that it will be able to stand scrutiny in the Supreme Court.”
April 9 – Rappler reports that the MILF is starting to formalize the electoral participation of its political party, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party.
April 25 – The Joint Normalization Committee convenes in a preliminary meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to oversee the preparation of former rebels’ shift to civilian life.
June 12 – The MILF and the MNLF meet in Jeddah to reactivate the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, a mechanism that will enable the groups to discuss their issues.
June 21 – Basir Kasaran, said to be the highest commander of the BIFF, is killed, the military reports.
June 24 – President Aquino and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim hold a surprise meeting on the sidelines of a peace conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where both are guests.
July 8 to 11 – The peace panels of the government and the MILF meet in Kuala Lumpur to iron out concerns on the proposed BBL. It ended on a “positive note,” says their joint statement.
July 28 – In his 5th State of the Nation Address, President Aquino appeals to Congress to understand the delay in the drafting of the proposed BBL. “It is important that we scrutinize each provision,” he says.
August 1-10 -The two panels meet again in Davao for a workshop. Both camps vow to submit the final draft of the measure to Aquino on August 18.
August 20 – The second draft of the proposed law is submitted to President Aquino.
September 8 – The House of Representatives creates an ad hoc “supercommittee” to tackle the Bangsamoro bill.
September 10 – In a ceremony at Malacañang, President Aquino personally hands over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to Senate President Drilon and House Speaker Belmonte
September 23 – The Senate conducts its first briefing on the BBL. Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr asks the peace panels if the proposed measure creates “a state within a state.”
September 24 – The House ad hoc committee holds its first public hearing on the BBL. It mainly requests the first draft of the BBL that was submitted to Malacañang “in aid of legislation and for transparency.” (READ: Legal experts take on Bangsamoro bill)
September 27 – Both peace panels meet in Malaysia to discuss the disarmament process.
November 28 – Deles confirms that the MILF and the government target to begin the decommissioning of rebel firearms in January 2015.
December 1 – ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman delivers his last state of the region address in Cotabato City, before he turns over the power to the Bangsamoro government once the basic law is ratified.
January 20 – Senator Marcos warns that the passage of the BBL could be delayed if the question of how constitutional issues should be tackled is not resolved soon.
January 21 – The House ad hoc committee holds the 36th and last public hearing before lawmakers conduct a series of executive sessions to finalize the BBL. Meanwhile, the Senate is set to conduct 4 more hearings. Their target: the passage of the BBL in March.
January 25 – 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) die in a clash with BIFF and MILF rebels, and other armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The clandestine operation, with the aim of arresting two “high-value targets,” also claims the lives of 18 Moro rebels and 5 civilians.
January 26 – Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito withdraw as co-authors of the BBL following the Mamasapano clash. As a result, the proposed measure is no longer guaranteed a majority vote in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Senator Marcos suspends “indefinitely” the hearings under his committee on local government on the passage of the BBL that are scheduled in Mindanao. Senator Santiago, however, pushes through with hearings under her committee on the constitutionality of the proposed law.
The House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro suspends its afternoon session. However, it will hold executive meetings on the proposed law until the first week of February.
January 27 – The MILF urges lawmakers not to delay deliberations on the proposed BBL. Otherwise, it would be counterproductive to restoring peace and development in Mindanao, says Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs.
Meanwhile, the MILF claims their troops acted in self-defense in the Mamasapano clash, and that the PNP-SAF did not coordinate the operation with them, as provided by its long-standing ceasefire agreement with the government.
Chairman Murad Ebrahim also announces that the MILF will form a special investigative commission to look into what happened in Mamasapano.
January 28 – President Aquino addresses the nation and explains the details of the Maguindanao operation. He admits being in touch with the PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas before the launch of the operation. But he says he repeatedly emphasized to Napeñas to coordinate with the army. (READ:Full text of Aquino’s address)
January 29 – The government and the MILF sign a protocol for the decommissioning of rebel firearms in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
January 31 – The MILF denies coddling wanted terrorists “Marwan” and Abdulbasit Usman.
February 2 – The 6-man PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) is formed to lead the police organization’s probe into the Mamasapano clash. It is headed by PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong.
Meanwhile, Senator Marcos says that “confidence-building measures” must be fulfilled by both the government and the MILF first before he resumes BBL hearings under his committee.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House ad hoc committee, says that no hearings will push through until concerned agencies submit their reports on the deadly Maguindanao clash. The OPAPP, ARMM, AFP, and PNP are given a February 9 deadline.
February 6 – President Aquino addresses the nation for the second time regarding the Mamasapano clash. He promises to pursue terrorist Basit Usman, and vows to continue working toward peace and put in place reforms in the PNP. (READ: Full text of Aquino’s 2nd address)
February 9 – The Senate starts its probe into the deadly Mamasapano encounter. The investigation is headed by Senator Grace Poe.
February 10 – On the second day of the Senate probe, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano casts doubt on the credibility of the MILF, even implying it is a terrorist group. Deles takes exception to this pronouncement, pointing out that the MILF agreed to “disavow terrorism” when peace talks resumed in 2003.
February 11 – Two days after suspending BBL deliberations “indefinitely,” the House ad hoc committee conducts its own probe into the Mamasapano clash.
Meanwhile, Senator Marcos describes the BBL’s status as “in a coma.” While saying he is not giving up on the peace process, Marcos says that one “glaring weakness” in the process is revealed by the January 25 encounter.
February 12 – In his first appearance at the Senate probe, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal says his group is committed to help track down terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, and reiterates the importance of the peace process.
Senator Cayetano castigates Mohagher Iqbal, saying the MILF’s rebellion also victimized those in Mindanao in the last 20 years.
February 18 – The MILF returns 16 firearms seized from PNP-SAF forces during the deadly January 25 clash.
February 24 – Senator Cayetano grills the government peace panel and MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal anew during the Senate’s 5th hearing on the Mamasapano clash.
February 25 – The Armed Forces of the Philippines orders an “all-out war” against the BIFF.
March 2 – Congress leaders set a new deadline for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law: by the end of the second regular session on June 30.
March 6 – AFP chief Gregorio Catapang Jr says that it is “illogical” to go back to war with the MILF.
March 11 – Senator Cayetano delivers a privilege speech on the BBL. He wants the MILF to first lay down its arms before Congress passes the proposed Bangsamoro law.
March 13 – The PNP releases the 130-page report of its Board of Inquiry. The report implicates resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima for acting “without authority” before and during the operation. It also says that President Aquino bypassed the chain of command in the PNP, when he allowed Purisima to take part in the operation even after his suspension.
Meanwhile, leaders of the House of Representatives agree to resume hearings on the Mamasapano clash and the BBL in April.
March 19 – A Pulse Asia survey shows that 62% of Filipinos in Mindanao – said to benefit from the BBL – disagree with its passage. Nationwide, 44% of Filipinos are opposed to the passage of the BBL.
This prompts government peace panel chair Colonel-Ferrer to say that the survey is based on the views of a public that is “misinformed” about the contents of the bill.
March 24 – The MILF submits its 35-page report on the Mamasapano incident to the International Monitoring Team (IMT). A copy is also provided to the Senate.
The rebel group accuses the SAF team of firing the first shots. It also says the MILF sustained the first casualties, and maintained that the government’s failure to coordinate the police operation led to the bloody clash. Meanwhile, it also recommends sanctions for its erring commanders.
After receiving the report, Senator Marcos says his committee will continue tackling the BBL on April 13, even while the Senate is on session break.
March 27 – President Aquino creates a citizens’ council to help the public understand the proposed Bangsamoro law. – Rappler.com