MNLF, ARMM leaders join Bangsamoro body

Written by Ryan D. Rosauro.

Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other sectors will be part of a reconstituted body that will craft the proposed charter governing Bangsamoro autonomy.

After a two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels agreed to expand the membership of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from the current 15 to 21 to accommodate more voices and “to ensure inclusivity” in implementing the peace agreement between them.

The meeting of the panels over the weekend was the first formal one under the Duterte administration.

Approval of 17th Congress

The BTC drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that was submitted to the 16th Congress but failed to get the approval of lawmakers.

It was created by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2012 through Executive Order No. 120 following the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012 as basis for the peace negotiations.

According to Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, the expanded commission would write another enabling law for approval of the current 17th Congress even before the 1987 Constitution is amended to accommodate a shift to a federal form of government.

He earlier explained that with its new roster, the BTC would “include leaders of the MNLF, officials of the ARMM, and other sectors in Mindanao for it to be inclusive.” He stressed that in crafting the enabling law, “all sectors in the Bangsamoro must be adequately represented” and must “come together.”

ARMM setup replaced

Under the Bangsamoro peace road map of President Duterte, the government seeks the convergence of the peace processes with the MILF and the MNLF, the main group that waged the Moro rebellion in 1972 that later split up into factions. The MNLF inked the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the government on Sept. 2, 1996.

The road map provides that the writing of the proposed Bangsamoro charter will consider the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed in March 2014, the FPA and the key results of the 10-year Tripartite Review Process on FPA implementation, the Organic Act of the ARMM, and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

Under the envisioned charter, the Bangsamoro autonomous entity will have greater powers and will replace the current ARMM setup.

Before flying to Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Dureza met with former mayor Muslimin Sema of Cotabato City, who heads the largest of the MNLF factions called the Council of 15, in Davao City.

Sema had earlier joined hands with the MILF in finding ways to harmonize the respective peace pacts of the government with the two Moro fronts.

Opapp highest execs

During his meeting with Dureza, Sema “expressed his commitment to join the BTC,” according to a news release of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp).

Irene Santiago, chair of the government panel, drew attention to the composition of Mr. Duterte’s team for the Bangsamoro peace process during her opening address in Malaysia.

She described her panel members as being among “the highest executives of Opapp … to show that government is very serious in this phase of implementing the peace agreement not only with the MILF but also with the MNLF.”

Apart from Santiago, the panel is composed of Undersecretaries Diosita Andot and Nabil Tan, and Assistant Secretaries Rolando Asuncion and Dickson Hermoso.

Andot headed the panel secretariat from 2001 to 2004 and is a director of a program to develop once conflict-torn communities. Tan and Asuncion have been in the Opapp for quite some time, with the latter overseeing peace and development initiatives. Hermoso used to head the government’s contingent in the joint ceasefire body.

MILF panel

The MILF panel is composed of Mohagher Iqbal as chair, and professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdullah Camlian, Said Sheik and Melanio Ulama as members.

Iqbal has been part of the negotiations since 1997, and went on to chair the MILF panel since 2003. Lingga and Camlian were part of the MILF panel that forged the CAB. Sheik served in the ceasefire mechanism, while Ulama, a Teduray leader, was part of the board of consultants of the MILF.

Except for Lingga, the MILF panel members served in the BTC appointed by then President Aquino.

Informal meetings

Prior to the meeting in Malaysia, the government and MILF panels had three informal meetings. This included one between Mr. Duterte and MILF chief Murad Ebrahim in Davao City, and between Dureza and Murad inside the rebel group administrative base, Camp Darapanan, in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province.

Of the 21 members of the expanded BTC, which will require the issuance of a new executive order by Mr. Duterte, 11 will be nominated by the MILF and 10 by the government. All will be appointed by the President.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer