ZAMPEN, BASULTA Confront Issues on Peace and Security

Written by Hazelyn A. Gaudiano, Pro PolitiCS for Peace, Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

With the current political trend heating up towards elections and the peace process snagged over the apparent delay in the passage of the BBL, some Local political leaders, and heads of non-government sectors gathered to confront the real issues behind the current peace and security situations in Zamboanga Peninsula including those of the island provinces (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) in a forum last December 9, 2015 in Zamboanga City.

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Fr. Angel Calvo, President of ZABIDA extends his warmest greeting on the participants during his opening message. 

More than 60 participants to the Regional Forum on Peace and Security, with the theme “Current Political Developments in the Region and Implications on the Peace Process”, discussed and worked out schemes to manage and or resolve the issues and problems informing the peace, security, and development concerns of the provinces.  

In his welcome note, Fr. Angel Calvo, the President of Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA), highlighted the overarching spirit of the event to: “Confront our aspirations to reach the dream of living in harmony. Conscious of our identity, celebrate our diversity. Conscious on (about) the challenges and struggles of the historical conflicts that we suffer and that we carry also in our journey.”

National and local resource speakers expounded on a range of select topics comprising The Peace Process Journey, Security Situation in the Region, Current MNLF-MILF Unity Effort, Restorative Justice and Reconciliation, and The Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the Context of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

Tracing the journey of the Peace Process, IAG Executive Director Atty. Benedicto Bacani, accentuated the importance of having a clear framework, in understanding the framework of the peace negotiations and the implementation of the peace agreement. He pointed further: “Hindi ho ganun kadali ang kwento ng peace process, hindi rin ho ganun kadali ang pagtatranslate ng peace agreement into what we call public policies and implementation of public policies” (The story of the peace process is not that easy, nor is it easy to translate peace agreements into what we call public policies and implementation of public policies).

Atty. Bacani dated the discussions on the issue of autonomy back to the 1976 Tripoli agreement, when the Philippine Government and the MNLF initially worked out an autonomous regional package to resolve the root cause of the Moro political question - emanating from the core principle of self-determination. He insisted of maintaining the dynamism of the Peace Process through a forward-moving trajectory. According to him, it is only by moving forward that the whole process can allow autonomy to evolve, develop, and eventually influence and reform the political system. Then, it will be able to address the root causes of the conflict.

He further asserted that, both the peace process and autonomy are evolving, developing, incremental, and moving forward.  He instructed:, “We have to understand this process. That when you talk of peace agreements which is the product of negotiations, peace agreements are heavy on ideologies and aspirations and are roadmaps to achieving the aspirations. But (these) are not self-executing. It is not automatic. You need to go to the very hard process of policy legislation and implementation, which is now the governance part”.

Peace and Security Situation and the MNLF-MILF Unity Effort

The Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) of the AFP presented the security situation, focusing on the threat groups in the region. the report revealed that, the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), operating in semi-autonomous sub-groups remains a big security threat in Sulu and Basilan, and to a lesser extent, in Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi. In addition, other groups continue to conduct terrorist activities and remain a potent threat to security. These include:, the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the CPP-NPA-NDF, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Meanwhile, Atty. Randolph Parcasio, MNLF Chairperson of Bangsamoro Lawyers Network, pointedly presented the status of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)- Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) - Government of the Philippines (GPH) Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).  Among others the review is focused on determining the consistency or inconsistency of the existing autonomy law (RA 9054) vis a vis the FPA. Reportedly, the Tripartite Review of the Implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement which started in November 2007 remains incomplete. Accordingly, the March 11, 2009 agreement was not implemented o: two (2) main reasons; There are remaining unresolved issues in the Tripartite Review; and the MILF-GPH-MALAYSIA negotiation tract captures the GPH priority, at the moment. However, in a meeting last September 8, 2015, the MNLF and GPH (with the participation of the OIC) agreed to finalize and ratify the terms of reference for the implementation of the proposed Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) and the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee.

Atty. Parcasio also expounded the salient features of the consensus between the MNLF and MILF in the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF). Among others things, the MNLF and MILF agreed on the following:  1. Recognition of the Bangsamoro people’s inherent and collective right to self-determination and the commitment of the MNLF and MILF for its realization; and 2. The MILF respects the MNLF right to pursue the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and its implementing mechanism -  the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

Furthermore, the MNLF-MILF agreement covers the medium and long term collaborative efforts consisting of da’wah and education, shari’ah, economy, natural resources and ecology, human rights, and peace and development.

Transitional Justice and Reconciliation within the Bangsamoro Peace Process Framework

Atty. Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli of the GPH peace panel legal team dealt deeper on the comparison of the Transitional and Restorative Justice in his presentation. He defined transitional justice as intrinsically linked to the whole idea of “Dealing with the Past”. It proposes a holistic strategy for dealing with a legacy of grievances and past abuses. On the other hand, restorative justice is defined as an approach to criminal justice with focus on the needs of the victims and the offenders - where victims take an active role in the process and offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, "to repair the harm they've done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or performing community service".

The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was created with the mandate of undertaking a study, to make recommendations, propose appropriate mechanisms, and recommend immediate interventions. In addition, TJRC promotes healing and reconciliation, prevent/guarantee against recurrence of injustice, and proposes certain mechanisms to address: historical injustices, legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro, human rights violations and marginalization through land dispossession.

Indigenous Peoples’ in the Peace Process

Some concerns of the Sama Dilaut, the formal name of the Badjao, were also highlighted in the forum. Atty. Lorenzo Reyes, Chancellor of MSU-Tawi-Tawi, imparted to the participants the sad plight of the Badjaos. Emphasis was placed on the dire need to call the attention and speedy actions of the national government and international agencies towards correcting the centuries-old neglect and historical injustice suffered by the Badjaos.

He added, Badjao’s are bullied, abused and ostracized to the point that they do not even receive the basic social services. Their political participation is limited to being pushed around to vote for certain candidates during  the elections.

The Sama Dilaut’s traditional seafaring lifeways make them crisscross borders, and as such, like other cultural communities in Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam, do not recognize borders, and are affected by border controls. They consider the Sulu Seas as their ancestral domain, and yet, this cannot be found in the ancestral domain being pushed by the BBL. It has only territorial waters for the Bangsamoro. “How about ancestral waters for the Sama Dilaut?”, Atty Reyes queried.

In a bold appeal, Atty. Reyes expressed; “If the government is working for equitable, participatory and inclusive growth and development, the plight of the Sama Dilaut should be considered. They deserve nothing less”.

The Regional Forum on Peace and Security was co-organized by the Pro PolitiCS for Peace project of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance and spearheaded by Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). The Pro PolitiCS for Peace project is implemented in partnership with the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), and ZABIDA, through the support of the Australian Aid. 

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