Thursday, 12 December 2019

Peace process ‘on track’ with MNLF on board

Misuari emerged from three years of hiding on Thursday to help push the peace process.

 

The Duterte administration turns to peacemaking in Mindanao, trying to save a peace deal with Moro separatist rebels clinched by its predecessor and bring to the table another group of insurgents for a broader accord that will end the decades-long conflict in the region.

President Duterte launches the effort on Monday by signing an order reconstituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that will draft a new Bangsamoro law.

The new draft law will be a combination of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which failed to clear Congress as the term of the Aquino administration ended earlier this year, and major provisions of the government’s 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

 

Mr. Duterte will also meet on Monday with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace agreement with the Aquino administration in 2014 and helped draw up the BBL.

MNLF Misuari faction

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said on Friday that some members of the MNLF faction led by the group’s founding leader Nur Misuari would be appointed to the BTC.

Misuari emerged from three years of hiding on Thursday to help push the peace process.

On the government’s request, a court in Pasig City suspended the warrant for the arrest of Misuari, wanted for the three-week siege of Zamboanga City in September 2013 that left 220 people dead, 254 others wounded, and more than 100,000 people displaced. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed in the fighting between government forces and Misuari’s followers.

Misuari met with Mr. Duterte in Malacañang on Thursday and promised to cooperate with the government in the quest for peace in Mindanao.

New draft law

The BTC will harmonize the BBL and the 1996 peace accord with the MNLF to produce a new draft law that would establish a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao, Dureza told reporters.

“Hopefully we can input all of these harmonious provisions in all the agreements and come up with a new enabling law,” he said.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) hailed the participation of both the MILF and the MNLF in the search of peace.

“The peace process in Mindanao is on track with both the MILF and the MNLF on board for a more inclusive resolution to the conflict. They are now willing to sit at the peace table and work together with the government to address the historical injustices committed against the Moro people,” the Opapp said in a statement.

“This is an unprecedented and historic development,” it added.

Engaging everyone

In an interview on Radyo Inquirer on Thursday, Dureza said the approach of the Duterte administration to peacemaking in Mindanao was to engage everyone.

“We’re opening the tables now for everyone to come and be with us,” Dureza said, explaining the inclusion of the MNLF in the process.

Dureza said the administration needed to engage Misuari because the MNLF founder played a key role in the pursuit of peace.

“He’s one of the key players in our efforts for sustainable and comprehensive peace,” Dureza said.

Commenting on concerns that the victims of the Zamboanga siege would not get justice, Dureza said the case against Misuari was alive.

He said conditions were imposed on Misuari for his temporary freedom.

But beyond talking with the MILF and the MNLF, Dureza said he planned to win support from the public as well as from lawmakers for the effort to bring peace to Mindanao.

He said he did not want a situation similar to Colombia, where citizens rejected in a plebiscite last month a peace agreement between the government and communist rebels.

Citing an example closer to home, he said he wanted to prevent a repeat of Congress’ rejection of the proposed BBL.

BTC members

The BTC will have 11 members chosen by the MILF, and 10 members nominated by the government.

The MNLF representatives will be among the government nominees, according to Irene Santiago, chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the Bangsamoro Accords.

Santiago declined to disclose the identities of the government nominees, but said in a press conference in Davao City that they would be men and women who were “eminent, who have stature, who have a track record and capacity of listening to many voices.”

Under the Aquino administration, the BTC had 13 members. Eight of them were from the MILF, including the group’s spokesperson, Mohagher Iqbal, who served as chair of the commission.

Like the BBL, the draft law that the expanded BTC will write will be subject to approval by Congress, Santiago said. —WITH A REPORT FROM KARLOS MANLUPIG

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