SENATORS on Monday criticized the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for its failure to make the peace process inclusive by also getting the position of sultanates and indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Francis Escudero, in a hearing, expressed disappointment over the shortcomings of the government peace panel and OPAPP particularly on their failure to reach out to other stakeholders in Mindanao.
“Essentially, we are doing your work for you. This [consultation]should have been done during the negotiations so that the draft law will already include their position and I cannot think of any important sector than the sultanates,” Marcos told OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena during the hearing.
Lorena earlier said the Mor Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) represents the Bangsamoro people including the sultanates and the IPs.
He claimed that the OPAPP sees a two-tier consultation process: during actual negotiatiosn with the MILF panel and during the process of legislation for the BBL when the royal families of Mindanao, the IPs and other stakeholders will be consulted.
“We cannot possibly have a successful peace process when you have not included the most ancient of royal houses, the sultanates, who are extremely important in any kind of political change that we are trying to institute in the region,” Marcos noted.
Escudero then asked Lorena if the OPAPP could present documents that would prove that the MILF has been chosen by the sultanates and the indigenous groups to represent them in the peace negotiations with the government.
Lorena admitted that there was no such document, explaining that they based their decision on realities on the ground that the MILF is the largest armed group in Mindanao.
The OPAPP official mentioned various resolutions of the Bangsamoro Congress or assemblies signed by the Bangsamoro people as proof that the peace panel consulted the other stakeholders.
The government’s failure to consult other stakeholders was confirmed by members of the sultanates and IP leaders who were present during the Senate committee hearing.
While most of them expressed support in having an agreement with the government, they claimed that they were left out in the negotiations.
The sultanates and IP leaders presented to the committee their respective proposed amendments to the BBL. One of these amendments is the inclusion of at least two of their representatives in the Bangsamoro parliament.
Among those present in the hearing were representatives of the Council of Royal Datus; Council of Royal Ladies Sultanate of Maguindanao; Iranun Sultanates League of the Philippines; Federation of Royal Sultanate Descendants of Mindanao Sulu and Palawan;
The Heirs of Sultan Mohammad Esmael Organization Inc.; Maguindanao Mandanaue Darussalam; Federation of the Royal Sultanate of Lanao; Sultan Uko Royal Descendants Associations Inc. (SORODA); Timuay Justice and Governance Gempa te Kelindaan ne Kamal ne Erumanen ne Menuvu; Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Peace Forum; and Lumad Mindanawed Peoples’ Federation.
Marcos’ committee will be holding its last hearing on June 3, wherein he will be talking with local government units in Mindanao.