Agreement reached with MILF; details to be worked out
By A Web design Company
GOVERNMENT and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have agreed to the creation of the “Bangsamoro,” a political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, President Aquino announced yesterday.
The President asked the people to read the agreement and share their views before the “framework agreement” is signed.
The signing is tentatively set for October 15 in Malacañang, between Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the government and the MILF negotiating panels, according to Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process.
The signing will be witnessed by Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim.
Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the framework agreement will set the direction for the final comprehensive compact agreement.
“Now, there is a solution already to the Bangsamoro issue…This is the initial agreement, framework agreement. Later on, we’ll be signing the comprehensive compact agreement,” he said.
Jaafar refused to discuss the contents of the framework agreement. He declined to compare it with the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which would have established a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity but whose signing in 2008 was stopped by the Supreme Court.
“Do not compare that (Bangsamoro framework agreement and MOA-AD) because there is no importance if we compare them. What’s important is we have solution to our problems (in Mindanao),” said Jaafar.
“What is important here is this is accepted by the majority of the Bangsamoro. This agreement here is an agreement between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro people, represented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front through its leadership,” said Jaafar.
Asked if the Bangsamoro framework agreement is similar to the “sub-state” that the MILF was earlier pushing for, Jaafar said: “Sub-state is already gone. What we have now is Bangsamoro. It’s not important if that is sub-state or not a sub-state. What’s important is the solution (to the problem) is already there, so let us focus on the solution. That sub-state is a thing of the past.”
Aquino, in announcing the framework agreement, said, “The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform. This is the context that informed our negotiations throughout the peace process. And now, we have forged an agreement that seeks to correct these problems.” He added, “This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro. It defines our parameters and our objectives, while upholding the integrity and sovereignty of our nation.”
The agreement spells out general principles on major issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory of the Muslim region.
“The parties agree that the status quo is unacceptable,” according to the 13-page agreement.
The accord calls for the establishment of a 15-member “Transition Commission” to work out the details of the preliminary agreement and draft a law creating the new Muslim autonomous region in about two years. The proposed law has to be approved by Congress.
Rebel forces would be deactivated gradually “beyond use,” the agreement said, without specifying a timetable.
The government would continue to exercise exclusive powers over defense and security, foreign and monetary policy in the new autonomous region, where Muslims would be assured of an “equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony ... and equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice,” according to Aquino.
Deles said under the proposal, the Bangsamoro would be composed of the five provinces currently under ARMM and Cotabato City, and will add six municipalities from Lanao del Norte and barangays in six municipalities in North Cotabato, which all voted in 2001 to be part of the autonomous region.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the Zamboanga Peninsula and Iligan City would not be part of the proposed Bangsamoro.
ARMM was created in 1989 through Republic Act 6734. Under the ARMM are Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with Cotabato City as provisional capital. The law was amended in 2001, which led to the inclusion of Marawi City and the province of Basilan excluding Isabela City.
The framework agreement says the Bangsamoro will include the towns of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; barangays in the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap in North Cotabato, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.
Deles said the finer details and annexes of the proposed framework agreement are still being worked out and will be part of the comprehensive final peace agreement which Aquino said government hopes to sign by this year.
She said the framework agreement only pertains to the creation of the new political entity, which would also need legislation.
On the decommissioning of MILF forces and camps, she said, “It will be phased and calibrated. The details of that will be worked out, still as part of the annex. But in terms of the general principle, the ideas, yes, decommissioned. The armed forces of the MILF will be put beyond use.”
Deles clarified the decommissioning does not cover the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement of breakaway MILF commander Umbra Kato because the BIFM is not part of the MILF.
Roxas said Aquino considers the development “historic.”
“It will have a generational impact and the President was true to his principle that the people are the boss. First, in the consultations. Second, it will go through the whole process of legislation…And third, after their representatives finish work, the people would have a final say in this through a plebiscite,” Roxas said.
In Kuala Lumpur, Leonen said both sides face the enormous task of working out the details. “We are not naive to say that there would be no obstacles. But the Philippine government will defend the agreement,” Leonen said. “It’s pragmatic, constitutional and a democratic process.”
Leonen and Iqbal, in a joint communiqué, said the proposed framework agreement is a result of the “successful” 32nd exploratory talks between the GPH and MILF held in Kuala Lumpur from October 2 to 7.
The United States, Britain, Malaysia and other countries welcomed the accord.
“We fully support the ongoing peace process and hope the parties can continue to avoid violence as they work toward a final resolution that will last for generations,” US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said. – With AP