Gov’t sees Bangsamoro Region, MILF forces out of duty by 2016

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The government panel has stood pat on the constitutionality of its framework peace agreement inked with the former separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and vowed that the MILF armed forces will be fully out of service by 2016.

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Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process and GPH peace panel Chief Negotiator Miriam Ferrer made the pronouncement during their briefing of the progress of the peace negotiations with the MILF before Congress on Tuesday.

The briefing was held three days after the government and the MILF agreed on the final annex of the framework peace agreement: the normalization or decommissioning of MILF forces. With framework peace agreement done, the Transition Commission would now draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will be subjected to Congressional approval.

“The President’s instruction is to follow legal process, and so we assure you that this framework [peace agreement with the MILF]is constitutional. We have consulted with various constitutional lawyers and we are certain that this is within the parameters of the Constitution,” Deles told the House panels on Muslim Affairs as well as Peace, Reconcillation and Unity presided by Rep. Jim Hataman of Basilan.

Deles made the emphasis after Reps. Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City and Thelma Almario of Davao Oriental raised fears that the Bangsamoro Basic Law could be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just like the old GPH-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain back in 2008.

“The Transition Commission’s main task is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law and to work on proposals amending the Constitution so that the law will be reflective of the framework peace agreement. Changing the Constitution is not illegal, and such duty is up to Congress, not the Transition Commission,” Deles added.

Ferrer then disclosed that the establishment of the Bangsamoro Region—which will be done by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law—will go hand-in-hand with the gradual decommissioning of the MILF combatants and their corresponding weapons.

“There will be a simultaneous, parallel action. Once the Bangsamoro law is drafted, something should happen in decommissioning. We are looking at a timeframe that we have reached full decommissioning [of MILF forces]by 2016. First, they will be a part of the Joint Regional Peace and Security Team because we will work with them on the peace and order situation in the area,” Ferrer pointed out.

“There will be an independent third party that will account for the deliverables of both parties,” Ferrer added.

Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, a former soldier, welcomed the eventual full turning over of arms by the MILF.

“There should be turning over of arms in full because otherwise, they can use it against the government anytime. The refusal to give back their arms is a sign of distrust [on the government],” Alejano said in a separate talk. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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