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8 Jul, 2014

Philippines: Bangsamoro Peace Pact to remain bright spot amidst global conflict

Statement of GPH Panel Chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the Proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

MANILA, July 7 (PNA) — “The implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is in the critical stage of processing a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that the President can confidently submit to Congress and certify as urgent upon its adoption as an official bill in Congress, shortly after the reopening of Congress on July 28.

We know that the review process conducted by the Office of the President (OP) on the proposed law submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has raised some apprehension over some content where modifications were recommended by the OP review team. That is why we are taking the necessary steps to ensure better understanding of the concerns, and to find a good resolution through frank and open discussion.

Last July 3, in an en banc meeting held in Cotabato City, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission passed a resolution “elevat(ing) the matter or process to the Panels for clarification, discussion and resolution of issues that may have been affected by the proposed revisions in the proposed BBL, in the higher interest of finding a lasting solution to the conflict in Mindanao.”

The Government Panel readily accepted the task. Together with the MILF Panel, Malaysian Facilitator Tengku Ghafar and the members of the International Contact Group, we will be meeting in Kuala Lumpur this week in a workshop that would thresh out the various substantive matters that have arisen from the BTC submission and the subsequent OP review. The members of the BTC will also be present, thereby ensuring close coordination and processing.

To begin with, neither the BTC draft nor the OP-reviewed text is so complete and perfect to leave no more room for discussion, or no other option but to choose between one or the other.

Closed options have never been the practice in our past negotiation. It shouldn’t be now in the implementation stage. Then and now, “problem-solving” has defined our modalities and this approach has produced the workable results that brought us this far.

For both the Government and the MILF, the bottom line is set by the signed documents that make up the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. There is no backtracking on either side. Any perception of backtracking can be duly addressed and rectified during the discussion. On the other hand, details or aspects beyond the signed documents are policy options that the BTC has taken and which the OP team took care to study and uphold as much as possible. But as in any legislation, there are various ramifications to any single text, or gaps that might not have appeared at first instance. The Kuala Lumpur workshop will help sort out these grey zones.

If we are going through this difficulty now, it is because we want the next stages to be less difficult not only between the government and the MILF, but among all the institutions and actors that will be or have been playing a role in the process. A well-processed bill that goes through the legislative mill, with the certification of the President as urgent, will stand much better chances of smooth-sailing passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

As we have said many times in the past, this partnership between the GPH and the MILF is not for the fainthearted. It is also not for the impatient and the impetuous who, in the face of difficulty, immediately throw in the towel.

Rather, it is for those who persevere so that when the going gets rough, they get going. They do not turn back to their old comfort zones, or to the familiar sound of their war cries.

Surely, we are not throwing in the towel because we do need the towel for this laborious task that is 99 percent perspiration.

We appeal to the understanding of all sectors who have accompanied this process and who like us desire to institutionalize a Bangsamoro that is grounded on a solid foundation and enjoying very strong people’s support.

Let our peace process continue to be the bright spot amid the violent conflicts that beset many countries in other parts of the globe today.” (PNA)