The Philippines risks facing extremism if a peace agreement forged between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is abandoned, the head of the Third Party Monitoring Team warned on Wednesday.
Alistair MacDonald, chairman of the TPMT, an independent body that monitors implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and the MILF in 2012, issued the warning as the proposed Bangsamoro law remains in limbo in both Houses of Congress.
The CAB provides transitional modalities, power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization or putting the MILF combatants beyond use.
“Looking forward, no administration can afford to ignore the underlying costs of conflict in Mindanao—the human costs on both sides of the conflict and among the civilian communities, the economic costs of development which can’t take place in the absence of peace, even the budgetary and security costs of having a large chunk of Armed Forces focused on internal rather than external security. Not to mention the risk of violent extremism finding fertile ground in a context where peace efforts have been stalled,” MacDonald, former Ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines, said in an email to The Manila Times.
“The CAB, negotiated after 17 years of effort, and signed in front of the international community, offers by far the best chance of carrying the peace process forward to a successful conclusion. The CAB remains the cornerstone of peace,” he added.
The House has ended plenary debates on the Bangsamoro measure, but the bill will have to undergo the tedious Period of Amendments, the second reading and the third reading vote.
Congress only has nine session days left before it adjourns to give way to the campaign period and the 2016 elections in May.
MacDonald pointed to the need for a Plan B that will reassure people on the ground that the peace process will not come to an end if Congress does not complete its work in time.
“That’s why, as TPMT, we’ve been urging all stakeholders to stay the course,” he said.
For ex-Justice secretary and 1-BAP party-list Silvestre Bello 3rd, peace can still be pursued as long as the CAB is in place.
“We have the CAB that will govern the relations between the government and the MILF until a proposed Bangsamoro law that is legally and constitutionally defensible is mutually arrived at by the government and the MILF,” Bello said.
But former Air Force combat pilot and Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo does not agree with MacDonald assessment that the non-passage of the BBL would lead to extremism.
“I am quite surprised at the statements of Ambassador MacDonald for correlating what will be a surge in extremist terrorism as a result of the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro law. Everybody should be circumspect in their statements,” Acedillo said.
“A careful study of Islamic extremism throughout the regions of the world will contravene this assertion, which only serves to muddle such an important issue such as the issue of peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he added.