Updates Per Peace Table

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CAB, BBL still top political solution to Moro struggle

DAGUPAN CITY – During the Usapang Kapayapaan: A Forum for Congressional Candidates held in the city earlier this week, Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel member and former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani has reiterated that the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) remains the best solution in addressing the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

“We sincerely believe that the implementation of CAB will correct historical injustice suffered by our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, and will lead to meaningful self-governance and attain a just and lasting peace,” Bacani said during the forum held at the Star Plaza Hotel.

“There has been a lot of frustration and disappointment [with the non-passage of the BBL]. But the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is steadfast in pursuing peace instead of resorting to violence,” he added. “I think it is very hard to disagree on the concept of a just and lasting peace. [T]here is not much [to] quarrel doon sa kagustuhan natin ng kapayapaan sa Mindanao (on our desire for peace in Mindanao).”

On March 27, 2014, the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reached a milestone in the peace negotiations with the signing of the CAB after more than 17 years of negotiations. This peace deal outlined a roadmap for meaningful autonomy through the establishment of a Bangsamoro entity. However, its full implementation was stalled due to the 16th Congress’ failure to finish deliberations on the BBL last February.

Aside from its legislative track, the CAB also provides specific provisions pertaining to socio-economic development of Bangsamoro communities and previously acknowledged MILF camps. This is part of its normalization component that aims for the gradual and phased transition of MILF combatants back to normal civilian lives.

Bacani also noted that the peace process has gone far not only with the CAB but also with the convergence initiatives on the positions of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). “Nagkakaroon ng suporta [sa BBL] both from the ‎MILF and the MNLF. Hopefully with this convergence, lalong lalakas ang movement to pass [it] within two years (Both the MILF and MNLF are supporting the BBL. Hopefully with this convergence, the movement to pass it within two years will be stronger),” he said. In 2014, the OIC has set up the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum to unify the two fronts for the integration of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the BBL. 

Meanwhile, MILF panel member and Bangsamoro Transition Commissioner Abdullah Camlian called on political aspirants to study further the history of the Mindanao armed conflict to be able to understand the cause of the Bangsamoro people. “We hope that the next Congress would study thoroughly the BBL. The Bangsamoro is rising because we are neglected. We are treated as second class citizens,” Camlian lamented.

“The conflict in Mindanao is a sovereignty-based conflict, therefore it needs a political solution and [an] economic solution,” he explained. “Why we have conflict in Mindanao [is] because there is [a] political issue there that we have to tackle. We have injustices [to be addressed] in the Bangsamoro.”

The Usapang Kapayapaan forum series aims to ensure that the passage of the draft BBL would be an urgent agenda for the members of the incoming 17th Congress who would be elected in the May 9  elections.‎ It is part of the efforts of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in coordination with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to secure the commitment of candidates for the continuity of the Bangsamoro peace process in the next administration.

The Pangasinan event is the third leg in the Usapang Kapayapaan forum series. Earlier this month, the forum-series was first held in Cagayan de Oro City and was followed by Legazpi City last April 19.

Pangasinan congressional bets vow peace agenda in next admin

By addressing the problems of poverty and the lack of basic services in the Bangsamoro, local congressional candidates vowed to continue support for the Mindanao peace process under the next administration.

“We do believe we have to balance the peace process with poverty [alleviation]. There is no peace if there is no food on the table,” 3rd District representative candidate Atty. Eric Acuna said during the peace forum. “There is no justice without freedom, no freedom without peace, no peace without ending poverty.”

Acuna also pointed out that the problem of poverty in Mindanao was a contributing factor to the internal armed conflict. “We have poverty all over the land. When we talk of poverty, there is an umbilical connection with the lives of the people especially the farmers,” he said.

The congressional aspirant vowed to file a peace agenda if elected in Congress.

Meanwhile, incumbent Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr., who is vying for the 5th District congressional seat, maintained that peace and order issues stemmed from the lack of basic services that should be provided to the people. “In the local government level, giving special attention to socioeconomic programs means giving particular attention to peace and order,” he said.

Another 4th District congressional aspirant Master Sgt. Mario Operana, noted that peace could be attained if all corrupt officials would be held accountable for their actions and that they would be removed from public service. “Mababait yung Muslim leaders doon sa Mindanao. Alam ko yung mga hinaing nila. Ayaw na nilang makipag-away [sa ating gobyerno] (The leaders in Mindanao are good people, I understand their sentiments. They do not want to continue fighting against the government),” Operana said.

During the Legazpi leg of the forum series, GPH chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer underscored the need for Congressional candidates to "study the conflict and negotiations."

“Every time there is a delay in ending the conflict, it has a big impact on the lives of the youth. It becomes another generation that will become another problem,” Ferrer commented. “The success of the peace process is the autonomy being discussed, not separation. We want the country to stay together and mend broken relationships.”

Albayano congressional bets for Mindanao peace

The previous leg of the Usapang Kapayaan held earlier this month in Legazpi City, Albay showed that Albayano congressional hopefuls were also supportive of the current administration’s peace process initiative in Mindanao.

“Peace in Mindanao is very elusive... we have to address the problem by giving the right solution," second district candidate Danilo Llarena Maravillas commented.

Elmer Felix Manlangit Pornel, a candidate for the third district meanwhile commented that, “Maraming Bicolano ang pumupunta sa Mindanao. Magsama-sama tayong pakinggan ang bawat isa kung ano ang saloobin ng Kristiyano, Muslim, etc. Lahat tayo gusto ng mapayapa (There are many Bicolanos who go to Mindanao. Let us all listen to what each of us has to say whether Christians, Muslims etc. We all want peace)”.

“Magandang simula ang BBL. Hindi masusulusyonan [ang problema sa Mindanao] kung kada administrasyon ay magbabago [ng polisiya] (The BBL is a good start. The problem in Mindanao will not be solved if policies change per administration),” he added.

“Bigyan po natin ng sapat na karapatan ang ating mga kapatid na Muslim (We should give ample rights to our Muslim brothers and sisters)," Albay first district candidate Atty. Gregorio Luis Credo Contacto III commented, adding that he both supported pursing peace in Mindanao and the implementation of a federal system across the country.

Atty. Antonio Bermundo Betito, who is also running for the first district seat, agreed with Contacto and added that the establishment of the Bangsamoro government could be a prelude to federalism. “We should be united in imposing our will. We as a people should be the one to govern ourselves because this is the essence of sovereignty.”

Second district hopeful Atty. Oliver Oloteo Olaybal, meanwhile, noted that the BBL is “a good program.”