Updates Per Peace Table

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GPH-MILF peace process supports fight against organized crime and terrorism – Ferrer

BANGKOK, Thailand - Government of the Philippines (GPH) Chief Negotiator for talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer underscored the importance of peace negotiations as a tool in curbing organized crime and terrorism that are threats to the security and development of the country.

“There is unprecedented opportunity to quell terrorism and crime with the success of a political process with a major player, as in the case of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations. Without this flank, the job would be much more difficult and deadly,” Ferrer said in an international forum held in the Thai capital today organized by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the Thailand Institute of Justice.

“Spatial, family, cultural, ideological affinity make borders porous but distinctions among groups should be made nonetheless," emphasized Ferrer.  "Efforts to draw in the rank-and-file toward the peace process must continue, with the peace partner also as the most effective ally to serve as buffer if not counterforce to the seamless operations of criminal and terrorist groups,” she added.

The GPH chief negotiator also pointed out that the MILF has taken decisive steps to cut off their ties with international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, and supported efforts to crush criminal groups in the Philippines like the Al Kobar Gang and the Pentagon Gang. Meanwhile, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) integrees in the Armed Forces of the Philippines have actively participated in military campaigns against groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). She recalled that two MNLF integrees in the AFP were among the 19 soldiers killed in Basilan last April 9, in an intense battle against the ASG.

Also with her in Bangkok is Lt. Col. Abdurasad Sirajan, the Government Panel's action officer for Western Mindanao, a former MNLF combatant who was integrated in the AFP as part of the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF.  Retired Major Carlos Sol, Jr., the head of the GPH ceasefire secretariat based in Cotabato City also accompanied Ferrer in representing the Philippine government in the experts' meeting.

“The nexus of crime and terrorism plus insurgency is inevitable. [They share the] same space, kinship ties, cultural affinity, and historical and ideological links,” Ferrer said. “[But] the peace process has progressed. It serves as a counterpole to violent movements. Also, functional mechanisms are in place namely the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the GPH-MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) that enable valuable security cooperation.”

“Alternately, when the peace process broke down or floundered, conditions for the rise of other armed groups were enhanced, adding to the complexity,”‎ she added.

Despite the difference in the philosophical frameworks, Ferrer maintained that there is a need to infuse the dominant counter-terrorism and anti-crime framework with the peace orientation. “[S]uch a cohesive approach is even more essential in complex or mixed situations where crime, terrorism, insurgency and revolution interplay within the same spatial dimensions -- terrestrial and intellectual,” she said.

UNICRI was established in 1965 and is mandated to support countries across the globe in preventing crime and facilitating criminal justice. Programmes under the institute include creating and testing new and holistic approaches in preventing crime and promoting justice and development.

The chief negotiator has been lauded around the globe for her work on the Bangsamoro peace process. Ferrer is last year’s recipient of the Hillary Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security for her “indefatigable work to bring about peace in the Philippines and for her historic role as the first female chief negotiator to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.”

“Promoting international peace and security is at the heart of the United Nations Charter. The rise of extremist Islamist movements is a matter of international concern,” said Ferrer previously.

“The UN also upholds the right of self-determination. In this instance, the reference is to internal self-determination or regional autonomy and this is what the foreign governments support,” she added referring to the proposed Bangsamoro regional government that is parliamentary in form to provide more representation to the various stakeholders in the region and with more political and fiscal autonomy.

Unfortunately, the Congress failed to act on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) when it adjourned last February to give way to the recently concluded general elections. Proponents of the BBL have pledged to re-file the bill once the next Congress assumes power in July.

Ferrer urged the participants to see the larger picture of the peace architecture in solving the problem in organized crime and terrorism. “This is one case, but it reflects a dynamic that bears scrutiny. [It] doesn’t negate all the focused specific interventions along law enforcement and criminal justice but we must put these in a bigger peace-building frame, not the other way around,” Ferrer concluded.