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Dureza: We've moved from negotiation to partnership with MILF

SELANGOR, Malaysia (UPDATED) – From negotiation to partnership. This is how Presidential Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza described the formal relaunch of formal meetings with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday, August 13.

The meetings, according to Dureza, will focus on crafting the new law that will implement the agreement, given the failure of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Implementation is hinged on the peace road map that President Rodrigo Duterte approved on July 19.

On Saturday, Dureza said the launch of the implementation phase of the peace process is a milestone, citing how the government and the MILF have now moved from the negotiating table to a clear partnership. He admitted, however, that there is still a long way to go.

"The Philippine government has come here in full force to demonstrate how serious we are in implementing all the peace agreements we have signed so far.

 We have no less than the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, and the Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, here with us as a testament that this Congress is a strong partner for peace not just for the Bangsamoro and Mindanao, but for the entire Philippines," Dureza said in a press statement.

He also said that their presence gives assurance that "the executive and the legislative branches are both on the same page as we implement our peace agreements."

Congressional leaders, according to Dureza, will also make sure that "the Bangsamoro enabling law will be in sync with the proposed shift to a federal system of government."

He added, "In fact, we are envisioning that the new Bangsamoro government entity can be the pilot of a federal state that embodies meaningful autonomy. With their support, we have no doubt we will see an early enactment of an inclusive Bangsamoro enabling law.
"

The formal meetings between the Philippine government and the MILF were previously said to be entering the implementation phase of the peace agreement as they focus more on how to implement the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Dureza thanked the Malaysian government for the role it played as third party facilitator in the "successful peace negotiations" as it transitions into becoming a supporter of the Bangsamoro development. Malaysia facilitator YM Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed meanwhile offered Malaysia’s help in the second phase of the implementation.

“My role might be needed in the decommissioning. I’m on call and if they need me, I am willing to help,” he said.

Transitioning body 

A body that will draft the new enabling law called the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is set to be part of the agenda for the meetings in Malaysia.

In an effort to be inclusive, Dureza said they plan to expand the representations of the BTC to include Moro National Liberation Front leaders, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) officials, and other sectors in Mindanao.

“We’d like to see inclusivity in this work, meaning all sectors in the Bangsamoro must be adequately represented,” he added.

The body is currently composed of 8 representatives from the MILF and 7 appointees of the government.

Federalism

Meanwhile, MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim called for an end to the cycle of conflict and said they are hopeful the BBL will have a brighter future in the 17th congress.

He said he believes that President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans for federalism will strengthen the Bangsamoro.

“There is a roadmap on federalism and there is a roadmap on Bangsamoro government. We will pursue both simultaneously,” he said, adding that they know federalism may take a while to be implemented as well.

He added that they aim to agree with the Philippine government first on the unconstitutional issues – if there are any – before deciding which ones can be parked so that they can move forward. They are also willing to enhance provisions of the BBL to accommodate other concerns from different groups in the region.

Radicalization

The panel denied having an Islamic State (ISIS) cell in Mindanao although there are groups that are inspired by them.

Murad said they are doing their part by monitoring radicalization in the area. “We formed a special group probing possible penetration in our ranks. We are also adopting preventive programs.”

He added that the peace process is a crucial part in solving radicalization in the area. He cited how the Abu Sayaff (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were formed during a time when the peace process was stalled and not moving forward. 

“That’s why we are very confident that once the peace process will prosper, there is no more justification to move forward in their own struggle and they will not be supported by the people once the peace process is successful,” Murad said, adding that just a month ago, they signed a cooperation mechanism with the BIFF to respect the peace process at the moment.

As for the ASG, Dureza said they will be dealt with using an "iron hand".

“Those terrorists now mutated from dissatisfaction to where they are today. They are very brutal and they are there for the money only,” Dureza added.

Both sides committed to working on the agreements as quickly as possible to improve the situation in the region, with Dureza pointing out what truly matters: “We can sign a hundred peace agreements but if we do not improve the lives of people on the ground, all this will be for naught.”

FORMALITY. The peace process gets a boost in Selangor, Malaysia as members of both the Philippine government and the MILF as well as representatives of the Malaysian government sit down once again.

Photo by Carol Ramoran/Rappler

In attendance

The relaunch in Selangor was attended by a high profile delegation from the Philippine government that included Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, Alvarez, Fariñas, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueño, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya, and Dureza himself. ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman was also there.

Officials from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), including implementing panel chair Irene Santiago, as well as Undersecretaries Diosita Andot and Nabil Tan, and Assistant Secretaries Dickson Hermoso and Rolando Asuncion were also present, together with Murad.

The venue was filled to the brim, with media and diplomats posted in Malaysia in attendance. – Rappler.com