The current peace process between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was apportioned a huge setback in late February 2016 with the non-passage of a diluted version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). With the BBLs failure to be enacted, experts from the national and regional security sector were invited to discuss its implication to the peace and security in an Experts’ Forum/Workshop: “The Non-Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law: It’s Implication to Peace and Security” happened last April 20, 2016 at AIM Conference Center, Makati City.
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The forum/workshop presented the experts’ assessments on the current peace and security concerns after the non-passage of the BBL. They discussed and deliberated on the possible ways to move forward. The discussants comprised thirteen (13) key officials from among security departments of the government. These include the Philippine National Police- Peace Process and Development Office (PNP-PPDO), Department of National Defense (DND), Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), Armed Forces of the Philippines- Peace Process Office (AFP-PPO), GPH-Ad Hoc Joint Action Groups (GPH-AHJAG), GPH- Joint Normalization Committee (GPH-JNC) and other stakeholders coming from the University of the Philippines (UP), and the International Alert.
Atty. Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director of IAG encouraged the participants to discuss the issue in a very open, frank and broad approach/manner, he also then expressed that the issue of the peace process and security policies are evolving - where particularly the whole country is transitioning as a result of the upcoming May 2016 national and local elections.
In addition, Atty. Bacani believes that sometimes the issue of the peace process, especially on the part of everyone in the peace infrastructure, is simply understanding the issue, without aiming to disregard what is outside the box. He enjoined the discussants to comprehend beyond the official line of their assessments viz-a-viz the non-passage of the BBL.
He asked: “If you would just look at the peace process within the perspective of a small box; is that enough to understand the context of all these violent activities that are happening at the moment? We have to even question our own assumptions this time also”, Atty. Bacani said.
One of the participants expressed: “Disappointment, one word that (could) sum up the impact of the non-passage of the BBL for both negotiating parties, the GPH and the MILF. The reaction was expected (as) many are hoping that the passage of BBL would put an end to the long years of conflict in Mindanao”.
According to him, the non-realization of the BBL created lots of apprehensions, such as the activities and other criminal incidence would balloon out of proportion in Mindanao, resulting inevitably to collateral problems that affect mostly the marginalized and vulnerable sectors: the women, children, senior citizens, and the PWDs.
The foregoing discussion generated some of the following assessments and recommendations for moving forward:
- The parties (GPH and MILF) will continue to affirm their commitment to abide by the peace process;
- Ceasefire is expected to hold.
- Spoilers such as threat groups, armed groups are expected to take advantage of the non-passage of the BBL. In relation, extremist groups may take advantage of the frustration among the Moro rebels to breed violent radicalism and may tend to establish another break-away group. Peace spoilers will take advantage of the non-passage of the BBL as a propaganda vehicle to gain more followers from some Bangsamoro youth toward extremism.
- Likewise, the non-passage of the BBL can have significant impact on the issue of radicalization. It is therefore imperative to take a look at the radicalization aspect, as the young generation is now the target of extremist groups. Once radicalized, there will be mobilization that will happen through organizingand network building. Such is firmed up by aspiration, and access to tools and skills.
- The situation on the ground can change anytime and others do not understand the procedures, that is why information dissemination is necessary to address dis-information and misinformation.
- Everyone should have a focussed look into the peace process, to distinguish the details of the shortcomings and violations of the agreements versus the details of how the mechanisms had successfully worked.
- The primary error is, the President committed something that he could not deliver. The next president should perhaps do it domestically, and limit the involvement of the international actors.
- The Mamasapano incident triggered the non-passage of the BBL. The next administration should not only focus on the Mindanao peace process, but on the national peace issue.
- To settle the problem with the MILF politically, not in war. The problem is the direction to achieve this goal, because the new the administration will effect some changes in the process, such as changes in the people who will be directly involved.
The Round Table Discussion was spearheaded by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), the implementing partner of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) in the Pro PolitiCS for Peace project, also in partnership with the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). The RTD was undertaken through the support of the Australian Aid.