Next president: No choice but to pursue peace with MILF

CELEBRATING PEACE. Various groups attend the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Cotabato City. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

CELEBRATING PEACE. Various groups attend the 2nd anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Cotabato City.

Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

COTABATO CITY – The next administration has no choice but to pursue the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the government’s chief peace negotiator said Monday, March 28, as various sectors celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) that was supposed to implement key provisions of the CAB has not been passed and the chances of it getting approved before the current administration ends its term in June is remote.

"Walang choice ang next administration kundi ipagpatuloy ito," said government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the sidelines of the anniversary celebration at the Notre Dame University here. "Sa dami ng problema ng bansa, bakit pa hahayaan na magkagulo ulit?"

(The next administration has no choice but to continue this. With all the problems the country is currently facing, why would anyone still want violence?)

"We've been through a lot of changes in administration," Ferrer pointed out. "But what matters is that the commitment is there."

Ferrer added that the peace panel will continue with their timeline despite the significant delay in the approval of the proposed law.

"Hindi binubura ng isang kabiguan ang ilang dekada nang paguusap," she emphasized. "Hindi naman dapat na ating talikuran ang lahat na naitayo, naigawa, at natulungan." (One mistake doesn't erase decades of negotiations. It is not right that we abandon all that we've built, done, and helped.)

Challenge to candidates

Noting that they will “surely inherit this political problem,” MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal challenged the 5 presidential candidates to make a clear stand on the peace agreement and the BBL. 

"We still look forward that the next president will continue what we've so far accomplished and eventually pass the BBL,” Iqbal told reporters. "We urge all of you to to clarify to us the policy that your administration will pursue vis-a-vis the CAN and the BBL." 

All presidential candidates – Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Manuel Roxas II and Miriam Defensor-Santiago – have declared they're for keeping the peace in Mindanao.

But they vary in approaches to it. Binay said the proposed BBL needs to be tweaked, while Duterte said the more sustainable path to peace is to expand the bill and change the form of government to federalism. Poe stressed she wanted "transparent, inclusive and sustainable" peace talks," while Roxas promised to ensure the passage of BBL. Santiago voted against the BBL in the Senate, saying it's unconstitutional.

The CAB is the basis of the proposed BBL which also outlines mechanisms and interventions needed to ensure sustainable peace in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

The law's approval hit a snag after the Mamasapano clash between government forces and Moro rebels last year, which killed at least 65 people.

 

Iqbal said "vested interest groups" in Congress caused the "defeat" of the BBL.

"They all ganged up together and worked their way triumphantly," he said. "Who are they? They are those who are insatiable with wealth and power and those still enslaved by religious bigotry."

The mood was festive as different stakeholders from various sectors not just in Mindanao but from other parts of the country gathered to commemorate the anniversary.

But Iqbal acknowledged the frustration on the ground, adding, "we can't really blame them."

"Without the BBL, CAB can never become the solution to the Bangsamoro problem," he said. "But it is the summation of our aspirations and emotions. Now that our legitimate grievances and aspirations have already been recognized by not just the Philippine government but also by nations of the world, do we have to stop in our struggle just because the moment is not favorable to us? No." – 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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