PRESIDENTIAL Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles said the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was a “failed experiment,” a statement that could incite dissent among the remaining members of what used to be the largest Muslim front in Mindanao.
Deles, in a statement issued at the Oslo Forum in Norway, also said President Benigno Aquino 3rd fixed that failure by forging peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whose leader, Al Haj Murad, joined the same gathering for the first time.
“The Philippine government signed a peace agreement in 1996 that turned out to be a failed experiment—with peace remaining elusive and beyond our grasp,” Deles said.
She added that the peace pact with the MILF, which she described as the largest Muslim group at this time, was met with strong resistance and sabotaged by those against it, in obvious reference to MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari who led a siege on Zamboanga City in August last year.
“Our efforts to put the process back on track were met with resistance, setbacks, and sabotage as the secessionist movement was broken into two armed groups,” she stressed.
Deles claimed it was Aquino’s determination to see an end to hostilities in southern Philippines that led to the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March.
“It was only under President Aquino when, three years ago, he himself chose to break the impasse by meeting personally with the leader of the MILF [Murad]. They agreed to move forward, and, since then, both sides have persisted at the peace table, determined to craft an agreement that would be convergent and inclusive of all, especially of the communities that have suffered most from the long war,” Deles stressed.
The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 in Malacañang, paving the way for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is still being reviewed by lawyers from the Office of the President.
“The international community played an indispensable role in that agreement.
Responding to the voices of peace among the Filipino people and the determination of the Philippine government to heed those voices—the world came to our aid in many ways—through political support, development programs, technical assistance and, most of all, nurturing the trust and confidence that drove both sides to cross the rubicon and forge an enduring peace,” Deles said.
Deles expressed hopes that the BBL will be passed before the end of the year.
At the same time, Deles said they will work to ensure that the fighting units and weapons of the MILF are dissolved through a ticklish “normalization” process which is among the annexes agreed upon by both panels prior to the signing of the CAB.
“As we move to achieve these political milestones, the parties have also began to put in place a comprehensive and sustainable normalization process that will, through a multi-track approach, ensure that the weapons and the forces of the MILF are put beyond use and communities are transformed from conflict and despair to hope, productivity, and a chance at new beginnings,” she pointed out.