GPH, MNLF eye early ARMM law amendment

A March 2, 2011 press release prepared by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) jointly expressed that they look forward for the “early adoption” of the drafted Amendatory Bill for Republic Act (RA) 9054, the law which created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

This was mentioned in the communiqué issued at the Fourth Tripartite Meeting of GPH, MNLF, and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on February 22-23.

The Tripartite Meeting looked forward “for the Bill’s early adoption into Law through the legislative process of the Republic of the Philippines,” with the context of reviewing the progress and continuing the discussion towards the full implementation of the GPH-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

The meeting also welcomed the creation of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) with all panels agreeing to form an expert group who will formulate the terms of reference for the said program.

The government showed positive attitude on dealing with the GPH-MNLF issues with no common grounds, including the discussions on the plebiscite and revenue sharing.

“The meeting took note of the stated readiness of the GPH to revisit and study the issue with a view to reach a more appropriate, reasonable, and mutually acceptable ratio,” stated the communiqué referring about the issues on sharing of revenue.

For the issue of the plebiscite, the communiqué said that the GPH is prepared to look for possible mechanisms and appropriate timing to address it.

No to ‘unfinished business

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles asserted that the Aquino administration does not want to leave “another unfinished business” with regards to peace negotiations.

“We do not want to turn over another unfinished business to the next administration. It stops with us,” said Deles during the opening of the Fourth Tripartite Meeting.

Secretary Deles believed that the 1996 Final Peace Agreement ushered in an era of hope and further encouraged the tripartite delegates to “make that hope a reality.”

The GPH-MNLF joint secretariat of the legal panel initialed in January their draft amendatory bill for RA 9054 which provides for proposed revisions to make the ARMM law more faithful to the 1996 Peace Agreement.

The tripartite progress

During the First Tripartite Meeting, the GPH-MNLF Joint Working Groups were able to identify 36 issues in the implementation of the 1996 FPA.

In the second meeting, the working groups were able to identify common proposals on only 15 matters, leaving 21 concerns for further study.

Then, the Third Tripartite Meeting constituted the Legal Panel which was mandated to forge common ground on the remaining issues.

It took the Legal Panel 22 months to find common grounds on 18 additional concerns, leaving only three issues unresolved.

On the first six months of President Aquino’s administration, the Legal Panel, chaired jointly by MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari and Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, finally reached common grounds on the remaining issues which led to the transformation of these common proposals into legal form initialed by Director Susan Marcaida of the GPH Secretariat and Dr. Alipekre Basher of the MNLF Secretariat on January 15.

From the table to the ground

Deles, moreover, said that the government, under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, does not want to sign any agreement or statement that it cannot uphold or implement.

“The intention of the current Aquino administration is to move this process from dialogue on the table to implementation on the ground, so that we can use the remaining period of our term to ensure that commitments are delivered especially to the communities which have carried the heaviest burden of this conflict,” she noted.

MNLF women appeal to MNLF leadership

In the closing of the Fourth Tripartite Meeting, Hadja Bainon Karon, chairperson of the MNLF-Bangsamoro Women’s Committee, appealed to the Moro leaders to unite and consider the state of the Bangsamoro people.

“I humbly appeal to the leaders of the MNLF to unite. And united, let us deliver peace, security and development to the Bangsamoro Muslim communities who fought and struggled,” she said.

Karon also mentioned that it is not only the MNLF leaders who sacrificed for their faith, nation, and homeland but it is also the masses of the Bangsamoro Muslims who have fought, bled, and died.

“I am appealing to the MNLF leaders to make up for their differences and consider the status and situation of our brothers and sisters in the ground for us to move on in crafting the destiny of our people particularly the Bangsamoro People,” she noted.

Deles, on the other hand, also took note of this concern, “We owe it to the people of Mindanao, and especially the Bangsamoro, to make up for the time lost on protracted processes by coming to terms with a more certain future.”

Representatives from both government and civil society organizations (CSOs) composed the GPH delegation including Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronaldo Llamas; Undersecretary of Justice Leah Tanodra-Armamento; Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer; Maguindanao Governor Esmail Mangudadatu; CSO representatives Bai Yasmin Bssran-Lao and Fatmawati Salapuddin, among others.