Mixed reactions to GPH-MILF arms agreement

Karlos Manlupig
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman says they are 'more than willing to sacrifice while we prepare the bureaucracy for a smooth transition of power towards the new political setup'

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mixed reactions met the signing on Saturday, January 25, of the “Normalization Annex” between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). 

The normalization annex involves the decommissioning of firearms and MILF troops. Its signing brings both parties closer to the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman commended both panels for “persevering and braving the needed sacrifices and heeding the clamor of the great majority of Filipinos for a peaceful resolution of the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.” He also said that as promised, the ARMM is “more than willing to sacrifice while we prepare the bureaucracy for a smooth transition of power towards the new political setup.”

Both parties had signed a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012 which outlines a roadmap to the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity. This will take the place of the ARMM. 

Hataman said in a statement that since the signing of the FAB, the autonomous regional government has “committed to offer its full support to the southern peace process.”

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza also welcomed the agreement. “We commend both peace panels for their untiring work and unwavering commitment to forge the final annexes in order to move forward on the road to achieve this lasting peace.”  

“Being in North Cotabato and in Mindanao, we echo their sentiments that the comprehensive agreement should translate into positive changes in the lives of the people in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country,” Mendoza added.

However, Mendoza challenged both the government and the MILF to work harder for the agreement to translate into real-life changes.

“But as the rest of the stakeholders very well know, while the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro has come to be, there is much work to be done to implement the provisions of the agreement and bring about real life changes. The Bangsamoro basic law must still be passed by Congress and this must be consistent with our Constitution,” Mendoza said.

“Although the conclusion of these final annexes may not immediately bring the ideal conditions of peace, certainly this would allow us to move forward towards the next stages of the implementation of the peace agreement,” Mendoza added.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Muslimin Sema, on the other hand, said that their group has not completely rejected the GPH-MILF negotiations but explained that an agreement between the government and the MNLF still exists.

“Our reluctance to recognize stands from the point of view that the 1996 Final Peace Agreement is a final agreement for one people and one territory that has never reached culmination. It is still under review,” Sema said.

“We are firm that before another agreement is reached with another armed group, all prior agreements must first be fully implemented in letter and spirit,” added Sema.

Doubts

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), said they doubt that the talks or the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro will be successful.

“The deal is already ok on the level of the peace panels but what about the Congress?” asked Mama.

The BIFF said they do not believe that the agreement will be passed or implemented under the Aquino leadership.

Mama added that more members of the MILF would shift and join the BIFF if the agreement will be further compromised. “Those who are sell-outs would definitely disarm while those who understand Jihad would join us,” Mama said.

However, Mama said that they respect the talks and would never sabotage it. “We promise that the BIFF has never and will not sabotage the peace negotiations,” Mama said. – Rappler.com