Govt keeps MNLF deal’s best features


The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro does not abrogate the 1996 peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said on Monday.

She noted that the peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “wishes to take all the best features of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, as well as RA 9054 onward into the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

”To date, we know that there have been statements coming from some MNLF leaders saying that they would like the tripartite process to be completed, and that, yes, they are requesting the OIC [Organization of Islamic Conference] to help—to push that solidarity mechanism that have, in fact, already been started before,” Deles said.

”We fully support that. We have been speaking with the OIC, particularly the PCSP [Peace Committee for Southern Philippines], with regard to this matter,” she added
According to Deles, they are getting signals that some MNLF leaders support the government peace initiatives with the MILF.

“There are requests for meetings with some MNLF leaders in the coming period. We hope that that will come up with some clear suggestions about how the continued engagement of the MNLF can happen also in this process,” she told reporters.

Deles reiterated that “the door still remains open” for the MNLF, saying that the government’s representatives have agreed to set up all sorts of mechanisms, including special consultative mechanisms with the MNLF.

“The call continues to be that this should not be a matter—that more than a matter of attribution of who got what, the important thing is to think about what will be best for the Bangsamoro,” she said.

Local and international stakeholders have voiced out high hopes for the consummation of a peace agreement between the government and the Muslim insurgents, but a lawmaker called for closer scrutiny of its provisions to avoid conflict with the Constitution.

Malacañang also on Monday thanked members of the international community for their support to the peace process with the MILF.

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland and international bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations, praised the Philippines for signing the final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“This milestone gives the entire nation confidence that the next steps in the peace process are on track,” Lacierda said.

But Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House committee on defense, urged the government to further study the peace agreement with the MILF.

Biazon said the conditions in the Bangsamoro framework agreement should be examined carefully to ensure that these do not violate provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

He said there can be “traps” in the annexes, or the demands of the MILF that require constitutional amendments, or the enactment, repeal, amendment of a law.

One of the contentious provisions Biazon cited is the creation of a new police force within the new Bangsamoro territory.

“The Constitution is very clear: there shall only be one Philippine National Police, civilian in character and national in scope. I am not saying that it is hard for us—we need to examine all the scope of the annexes and find out and begin to study which of the provisions of these four annexes will require deeper examination so that we will know where the traps might be,” he said.

Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile also stressed the need to carefully study the framework agreement because it involves serious security and political issues that may run in conflict with the Constitution.

“We cannot just make a judgment on that until we have seen and read the whole text of the agreement,” Enrile said, noting that the agreement involves issues on territory and the subdivision of the country.

“Some are talking about cessation, independence, division of the country. And there’s a foreign content here, like the involvement of international players, dealing with the Organization of Islamic Conference, you’re dealing with Malaysia, you’re dealing with the Muslim world,” he said.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are in favor of granting amnesty to members of the MILF who have pending cases or have been convicted of rebellion and other rebellion-related charges.

“It [amnesty]is a necessary provision under any peace agreement. We trust the normalization annex is consistent with international policies and practices,” Party-list Reps. Sitti Hataman of Anak Mindanao, the wife of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said.

“We still have to review the normalization annex, but the deactivation and disarmament of forces will go through a process agreeable between the two parties.

We have to understand the cultural perspective on the issue of arms,” Hataman added.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also lauded the signing of the final annex.

“Any step towards peace is a positive step,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said.

Villegas said the Catholic Church is willing to extend its help to any of the two parties negotiating for the final peace deal.

Malacañang, however, admitted that more work needs to be done before peace can be achieved in the South.

“The work does not end here. In particular, we look forward to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is also working on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which our legislators will enact, moving forward,” Lacierda said.

With Llanesca T. Panti and Jefferson Antiporda


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