A monitoring group sees a cloud of misunderstanding looming over implementation of a peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because it has not been fully explained to the people that it would affect.
The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), set up by the government and the MILF to keep an eye on the agreement’s implementation, noted the possibility of a misunderstanding developing in its first report released ahead of the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic law before Congress in September.
The law will create the Bangsamoro Region, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The team is headed by former European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald with Karen Tanada of Gaston Z Ortigas Peace Institute, Zainudin Malang of Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, Huseyin Oruc of The Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief and Steven Rood of Asia Foundation as members.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law is the fruit of the accord between the government and the MILF that provides annexes on transitional modalities, power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization or putting MILF combatants beyond use.
“Interlocutors were concerned about the inclusiveness of the process. Indeed, it seemed that there may be a significant scope for misunderstanding about the implications of the agreement, its relationship with the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the likely tenor of the future Bangsamoro assembly and government,” the report read, referring to the failed peace agreement between the government and MILF’s predecessor, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“There was also a clear desire among many of our interlocutors to see the agreement as something which would be beneficial for all Bangsamoro, and not only for one or other Bangsamoro group[s]. It will be important for both parties to do more to underline the inclusiveness of the process, no less for Western Mindanao than for Central Mindanao,” it said.
These sentiments were echoed by House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party- list.
“The areas comprising the proposed Bangsamoro Region are not solely inhabited by Moros. There are a lot of Christian and indigenous communities that are not Moros. Based on my reliable sources during discussions about the proposed law, the Christian communities and the indigenous non-Moro tribes have this fear that they will be discriminated [against],” Tugna said in a text message.
Under the proposed law, the core Bangsamoro Region will include the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte, as well as barangay (villages) in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite, as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.
The Third Party Monitoring Team traced such inclusiveness worries to the need for greater public information about the Comprehensive Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was very evident in Manila and Cotabato, and even stronger in Zamboanga and among stakeholders in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
“It was encouraging that both society and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, were keen to help support information efforts. But they recognized themselves that they needed to have a better understanding of what the implementation of the agreement will mean for the Bangsamoro,” the report pointed out.
“It would be important for the parties to strengthen their outreach and public messaging to a wider audience, including local government units, ulama, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, civil society, private sector and chambers of commerce,” it said.
The TPMT said the consultations confirmed the tremendous importance attached to achieving a comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable peace in Mindanao that would end cycles of violence and displacement, and that would allow the tremendous economic, social and cultural potential of Mindanao to come to the fore.
Formed in 2013, the TPMT will convene every two months and as they deem necessary, through regular operation of the Bangsamoro overnment from the second semester of 2016.