Gov't, MILF return to negotiating table

MANILA, Philippines – Back to the negotiating table.

After the historic signing of a preliminary peace agreement, the peace panels of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will thresh out the details of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

At a Malacañang press conference after the signing ceremony on Monday, October 15, government peace panel chairman Marvic Leonen and his MILF counterpart Mohagher Iqbal said they have agreed to work on the document’s annexes in November. The formal exploratory talks will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Calling the deal an incomplete document, Iqbal said the panels will focus on the annexes on power-sharing and wealth-sharing between the central government and the Bangsamoro, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

“With all the emotional attachment and substantive content of this agreement, it is still a piece of paper,” Iqbal said. “It will not implement itself. It requires the sincere intervention of the parties to the negotiation and the all-out support and proper leverage of the friends of the peace process.”

The two parties will also have to agree on details on the normalization process and timetable for the “decommissioning” or disarming of the MILF. 

Iqbal also disclosed that the MILF has come up with a shortlist for the members of the Transition Commission tasked with drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Under the Framework Agreement, the MILF will choose 8 of the 15 members of the body including the chairman, while the government will select the other 7 members.

“Certainly, we would consider our women participation, a member of the IP [indigenous peoples], an NGO and maybe from the non-government organizations, we will also involve them but definitely, we still have not finalized the list,” said Iqbal. 

The deal said President Benigno Aquino III shall issue an executive order creating the Transition Commission.

How to police Bangsamoro?

In implementing the Framework Agreement, the two parties will have to discuss the specifics of policing the Bangsamoro.

Iqbal said the issue almost stopped the panels from reaching a deal. Aquino announced the creation of the Framework Agreement on October 7.

“The hardest thing was about policing,” Iqbal said. “In the whole day of October 6, there was no plenary session except the opening maybe the third reading of the whole document. The most contentious thing is about policing. We were about to give up if not for the perseverance of both parties and the creativity of the Malaysian facilitator. It was 10:40 in the evening when we had a deal.”

Leonen agreed that the final hours of the talks were tough but a breakthrough occurred. He said the words he was proposing actually came from Aquino himself. 

The Framework Agreement said an independent commission will be organized “to recommend appropriate policing within the area.” Law enforcement functions will also be transferred from the Armed Forces to the police force for the Bangsamoro.

Asked what the MILF is most afraid of moving forward, Iqbal said it is the shift from fighting to governance. 

“With people like members of the MILF, they are used to fighting; they are not used to governance so it would be very difficult for us …. That’s why we have created the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute, the Bangsamoro Development Agency because we know the limited capacity of our people. But with our determination, we would be able to overcome all these obstacles.”

For the government, Leonen said working with a big group of stakeholders will be a challenge in seeing the deal through.

“We do have to talk to the Congress, we have to talk to both the Senate and the House of Representatives, governors, mayors, even heads of barangays and their sanggunians. So we are committed to that particular process because in the agreement that we signed is the political commitment of the President,” Leonen said.

MORE WORK. After signing the Framework Agreement, more work awaits the two panels as they hammer out the details on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization in November talks in Malaysia. Photo by Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

MORE WORK. After signing the Framework Agreement, more work awaits the two panels as they hammer out the details on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization in November talks in Malaysia.

Photo by Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

‘Misuari day of reckoning forthcoming’

Seeking to allay fears, Leonan and Iqbal stressed that Bangsamoro is not exclusive to the MILF.

Leonen said the government met with various leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). He was responding to the strong objection of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari to the agreement.

Misuari has rejected the agreement as a recipe for war in Mindanao. The MNLF signed a final peace agreement with the government in 1996. The MILF broke away from the group in 1977.

Iqbal and Leonen said Misuari’s statement that 17,000 MILF fighters bolted the group to join the MNLF because of the deal is unfounded.

“If that is true, using the figures of the MILF that I think they have 11,000, therefore [he] added additional members to the MILF,” Leonen said in jest. 

Iqbal also said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has scheduled several meetings with the MNLF but Misuari was not responding.

“Anyway, the day of reckoning is forthcoming. He (Misuari) filed for candidacy for the ARMM governor [in 2013]. If he has that number, then he will win in the election. Let’s wait for that,” Iqbal quipped.

'I WANT TO REST.' MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal says he looks forward to resting after fighting for more than 40 years. Screengrab from RTVM

'I WANT TO REST.' MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal says he looks forward to resting after fighting for more than 40 years.

Screengrab from RTVM

‘I want honorable peace’

Iqbal turned serious when asked why the MILF dropped its bid for independence.

"There is no compelling reason but we have to balance idealism with reality. I have been in the struggle for 40 years. I will be the first to say that I want peace more than anyone. I want honorable peace," Iqbal said.

Asked what he plans to do next, he said, “I’ve been through troubled times. I want to rest.” – Rappler.com

 

Read the full text of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

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