THE new administration is looking at the possibility of crafting a new law consolidating the peace agreements forged with Moro separatist rebels to make them more consistent with planned constitutional reforms, the top government peace negotiator said Saturday.
“We are committed to these peace agreements that have been signed but they have to be consistent with the planned constitutional and legal reforms we will implement,” presidential peace process adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza said in an interview with state radio dzRB.
“[President Rodrigo Duterte] has said we will implement all peace agreements. That includes the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that we signed with the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that we signed with the Moro National Liberation Front,” he said.
“We will also look at the other Moro leaders that have to be considered,” Dureza said, adding that while the Moro separatist movement has many factions, they decided to come together at the start of the Duterte administration.
“The President was glad the leaderships of different Bangsamoro groups came and expressed to him their willingness to come together and unify,” he added.
“So what is emerging is that we will have one law that we will try and converge on, but what is really important is that our Moro brothers get together as one,” Dureza said. “We’ve already made a good start when they expressed to President Duterte their intention to come together.”
Dureza said he is planning to go to Cotabato City next week to meet with stakeholders and formulate a roadmap to peace.
But MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said Duterte plan to amend the 1987 Constitution to shift to a federal form of government may not be the solution to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.
“We say that federalization per se may solve the general problem of the country, but we feel that it may or may not solve the specific problem in the Bangsamoro homeland,” Murad said.
“We will still push for the continuity of peace process and then the implementation [of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro], because the negotiation has already ended. It’s a matter of implementation of the agreement [through BBL],” he added.
The BBL, borne of the peace agreement the government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, seeks “to establish the new Bangsamoro political entity and provide for its basic structure of government, in recognition of the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.”
The BBL seeks the creation of a new autonomous region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the entity created after the government reached a peace deal with Misuari’s MNLF.
The BBL, however, failed to get enacted into law during the 16th Congress because of questions on the legality of some provisions.
Offering federalism as an alternative, Duterte repeatedly said his federalism proposal will address injustices, such as unequal distribution of wealth in Mindanao by allowing regions to keep most of their income, which could be used to develop poor areas.
Duterte believes that Moro rebels may like the idea of federalism as long as key aspects of the BBL are present and leaders of the MILF and the MNLF went to Davao City two weeks ago to express support for Duterte’s plan to shift to a federal form of government.
The MILF, however, warned against holding public consultations on the BBL because “any consultation asking the same people or repeating the same issues will only slow down, if not stifle, the legislative process.”
“More seriously, if those to be asked are those who harbor strong anti-Moro prejudices, biases, hatred, the outcome is already predicted,” the MILF said in a statement.
The government should instead “revisit or use the inputs of these consultations or hearings, in the case of Congress, to fast-track the legislative roadmap or process.”
The MILF said the peace process in the Duterte administration “should start from where they [authorities] stopped.”
MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jhaafar wants Duterte to first pass the BBL in Congress before shifting to a federal form of government because it would take time to legislate and thus dampen the hopes of Bangsamoro fighters.
Last June 29, the MNLF and MILF had signed a Joint Communique for Peace seeking to form a joint technical working group tasked with “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks.”
Murad considered the event as a demonstration of unity. “Despite the non-support of some groups, he stressed that the event “only strengthens the Moro’s steadfastness in their struggle for right to self-determination.”
In their joint communique, the two Moro groups said, “as they join together, they declared a cohesive stand on their efforts to regain their lost freedom and self-determination so that they will enjoy the blessings of peace, justice and development.”
“We come together with a unified action to work at common goals and objectives to engage with the new Philippine administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” both leaders said in their communique.