The journey to peace ends, the government says, in Malacañang today where the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) will be signed, but the work to implement the historic pact will continue in the next few months since the draft of a law that will implement the agreement is yet to be completed.
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Wednesday said the peace agreement forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will bring some immediate changes for the people in Mindanao and the rest of the country.
She noted that the CAB text to be signed “will have to come alive in the form of real-life changes.”
“Very soon, the main challenge will be to make this difference manifest, in the lives of our people, especially of those in Mindanao, in our institutions, especially those of government at different levels, in our mindsets and norms, especially that of our leaders in politics and society,” Ferrer said.
“The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important, not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao, [but]all other Filipino citizens, who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building,” she added.
“For this reason, we cannot afford to lose more time at the expense of the bigger task of implementation, and of the considerable progress we have already gained. Let us enable ourselves to move forward 100 percent to the next stage of implementation,” Ferrer said.
The CAB is the final peace agreement between the government and MILF that will serve as basis for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The BBL, once passed by Congress and upheld in a plebiscite in the proposed core territory, will formalize the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro political entity that will enjoy an enhanced political and fiscal autonomy.
According to Ferrer, the success of the CAB will help realize the hopes of ordinary Mindanaoans to lead peaceful lives, enjoy equal opportunities, send their children to schools and have decent jobs.
She pointed out the importance of having strong and democratic governance institutions.
“This is the goal of the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity—replace the institution that does not live up to the expectations for a good and democratic government. We are putting all the elements in place. The institutional designs of this [Bangsamoro] government will be more representative and accountable,” Ferrer said.
“We need the public to understand that if we are able to work this out and have peace and development in Mindanao, the whole country will benefit. A bomb that explodes in Mindanao affects the entire country. Economic activity is disrupted, business confidence is decreased, travel is restricted. One incident can easily affect the economy of the country,” she added.
President Aquino and MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim will oversee the signing of the peace deal during a lavish ceremony set in Malacañang.
Under the agreement, MILF fighters will lay down their arms.
The autonomous region will comprise about 10 percent of the Philippines’ territory and will have its own police force, a regional parliament and the power to levy taxes. The national government will retain control over defense.
Ferrer said “implementation [of the agreement]will not be easy” and warned that the enduring distrust between the MILF and the government could yet jeopardize the peace deal.
The group has said it will not give up its arms or the identities of its fighters until the government fulfils its commitment to create the legal framework for the autonomous region.
Jesus Dureza, the chief peace negotiator with the MILF in 2001-2003 under a previous government, warned that Aquino faced big challenges in getting Congress to pass the “basic law.”
Catholic politicians from Mindanao who stand to lose power are one obvious group of potential spoilers, according to Dureza, who said Congress may seek to weaken the peace pact.
“There are influential political leaders in the area who may not look too kindly on the new [power-sharing] paradigm,” he said.
Various groups have also warned they may challenge the peace treaty before the Supreme Court, arguing it is unconstitutional.
The President has insisted that the peace deal is constitutional.
But he need only look back to when the Supreme Court rejected a plan in 2008 by his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, to strike peace with the MILF, to know that his efforts could unravel.
With a report from AFP