PH gov't, MILF start 'crucial' meetings on Bangsamoro August 13

START. Implementing panel chair Irene Santiago discusses the agenda of the upcoming meeting between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Photo from OPAPP

START. Implementing panel chair Irene Santiago discusses the agenda of the upcoming meeting between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Photo from OPAPP

MANILA, Philippines – The “relaunch” of the formal meetings between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is crucial as they enter the implementation phase of the peace agreement, Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said on Thursday, August 11. 

The meeting, set on August 13 to 14 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will focus more on how to implement the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“We have already gotten the consensus of all sectors in the Bangsamoro that the period of the negotiations is over,” Dureza said. “We are now in the process of implementing all these signed agreements.”

Members of the government’s newly-created implementing panel and representatives of the Moro rebels will attend the relaunch of the engagement.

Aside from Dureza, the government team will include implementing panel chair Irene Santiago, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretaries Diosita Andot and Nabil Tan, and Assistant Secretaries Dickson Hermoso and Rolando Asuncion.

Crafting CAB-enabling law

The CAB, signed in 2014 by then president Benigno Aquino III after 17 years of negotiations, outlined the mechanisms for sustainable peace and development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was supposed to implement provisions of the CAB, failed to materialize in the 16th Congress. It was a casualty of the 2015 Mamasapano clash, involving government troops and MILF rebels and other armed groups in Maguindanao, which eroded public support for the BBL.

The upcoming meetings, according to Dureza, will focus on crafting the new law that will implement the agreement, given the failure of the BBL. Its implementation is hinged on the peace road map that President Rodrigo Duterte approved on July 19. 

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, Duterte asked the 17th Congress to pass a Bangsamoro law minus constitutional issues that are highly contested. 

He added that the law is the "only solution" to the conflict in Mindanao and can correct the “historical injustice” in the region.

Inclusive transition committion

Included in the agenda is the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), according to Dureza. 

The BTC, composed of 8 representatives from the MILF and 7 government appointees, is tasked to draft the new law that will implement the CAB.

A shot at inclusivity, Dureza said that the two parties will tackle the possibility of expanding the membership of the committee to include leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), ARMM officials, and members of other sectors in Mindanao. 

“If everything goes well, and it is acceptable in their convergence, that can very well be the mechanism to start off the groups to already come together and craft the enabling law,” he explained. 

Dureza said that Moro leaders he had touched based with –  such as MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim and Muslimin Sema of the MNLF –  have already expressed willingness and have committed to participate in the drafting of the enabling law.

“This is part of our continuing efforts to reach out to all the key players in the work for the sustainable peace with the Bangsamoro,” Dureza said.

Meanwhile, Dureza added that he is “looking forward to meeting” with MNLF chairman Nur Misuari “but he is still under legal constraint because of the pending case against him.”

Misuari, the former ARMM governor, is facing charges related to the Zamboanga siege which transpired from September 18 to 28, 2013. (READ: Zamboanga siege: Tales from the combat zone) – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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