GPH, MILF 6 months after FAB signing: 5 documents signed; most important pending

By | April 15, 2013

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 April) –  Six months after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012 and four months past their supposed yearend 2012 deadline to finish the four annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace agreement,  the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels have signed five documents except the most important: the Annexes on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing and Normalization.

Within the six-month period, the peace panels signed one Annex – on Transition Arrangements and Modalities; three Terms of References – for the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), and the Sajahatra Bangsamoro; and a certificate extending the tours of duty of the Malaysian-led  International Monitoring Team (IMT) up to March 2014 and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) until February 14, 2014  “in recognition of their important roles in the peace process, without prejudice to adjustments that may be needed pursuant to developments in the crafting of the Annexes to the FAB.” (see timeline)

In accordance with the FAB, President Aquino on December 17 issued Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission (TransCom). The House and Senate immediately passed resolutions 971 and 922, respectively, in support of the EO.

Malacanang announced the names of the 15 members of the TransCom on February 25 and on April 3, the TransCom held its “first en banc meeting” in Pasig City.

But the TransCom cannot proceed with its task of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law if the three Annexes are not signed. Without the signed annexes, it can only set up office, draft internal rules and create committees, but cannot proceed to the substantive issues, MILF peace panel Mohagher Iqbal, who also chairs the TransCom, said.


The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) says otherwise. In its “Frequently Asked Questions” on last week’s talks, dispatched by email evening of April 11, it said that while awaiting the finalization of all the annexes, “we believe that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro can serve as a lift-off point that will allow the (TransCom) its substantive work.”

But Iqbal told a press during the body’s first meeting on April 3 that “we cannot proceed to discuss the substantive issues unless the three remaining annexes will be discussed and signed by the parties.”

Terms of Reference

The TPMT, which will be composed of “an eminent international person” as chair and spokesperson,  two local NGO representatives nominated by the GPH and MILF and two international NGO representatives nominated by the GPH and the MILF,  is tasked to  “review, assess, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes.”

According to their January 25 Joint Statement, the panels were supposed to have identified the members of the TPMT “within one month” but as of April 11, no announcement has been made.

But even if the panels name the TPMT members now, without the signed Annexes, the TMPT has nothing to review, assess, evaluate and monitor.

The seven-member ICP is the body that would submit recommendations to the peace panels on the police force for the Bangsamoro. The four-page TOR on the ICP was prepared by the technical working group on Normalization.

The last document, signed at the end of last week’s round of talks on April 11, was the TOR on the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a socio-economic peace initiative of government in partnership with the MILF which was personally launched by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on February 11 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute compound in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The February 11 launch was historic in that it was the first time a Philippine President visited the MILF’s turf. But beyond the fanfare that day, the hastily-launched project could not take off because it had no TOR.

Annexes

Under the FAB, the parties agreed to work on the annexes “and complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

In November, both GPH chair Marvic Leonen and MILF’s Iqbal were optimistic they would finish the four Annexes by yearend 2012.

Leonen was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on November 21. GPH peace panel senior member Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was named new panel chair on December 7.

Ferrer in a New Year’s message expressed optimism  “it should not take more than two months to finish the four annexes.”

By then,  the TransCom “should have been fully organized and ready to build on the terms laid out by the Panels in the Annexes.”

“The future is on track,” she said .

The Annexes on Wealth-Sharing and Power-Sharing have taken the longest to complete even as their Technical Working Groups (TWGs) had been working on the details since August last year. The TWG on Normalization and TWG on Transition were convened only in November.

The Annex on Wealth-Sharing was initialled by the TWG on February 27 and the panels were supposed to have submitted the same to their respective principals. This Annex was expected to be signed in the March 25 to 27 talks.

But President Aquino sought a postponement of the March talks allegedly to be given more time to review the draft Annexes.

It has been a month and a half since the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was initialed but GPH peace panel chair Ferrer explained that the review process takes long.

“Unlike in the case of the MILF when they are focused on this thing,” Ferrer told MindaNews after the closing ceremonies in Kuala Lumpur on April 11, “government is focused on many things, it has many agendas so that means in a matter that requires extensive discussion, understanding of the full implications and consensus of all branches of government that will be affected here, then that‘s a process that takes some time in the midst of all the regular governance functions, in the midst of all issues that government is facing.”

On the same day Iqbal told MindaNews: “Government is not ready to sign Wealth-Sharing. MILF is very ready.”

After elections

The panels had agreed to “meet again after the May 13 Philippine elections” and “exchange notes” between now and their next meeting, through the Malaysian facilitator.

Malaysia, which has been facilitating the talks since March 2001, will also hold its elections on May 5.

Critics have questioned Malaysia’s role as facilitator in the wake of the Sabah crisis that began with members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo”  under Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, landing in Lahad Datu to assert their proprietary rights over Sabah. The standoff ended in violence on March 1 and Malaysia launched on March 5 Operasi Daulat (Operation Uphold Sovereignty) to flush out Kiram’s men from Lahad Datu.

Since then, at least 70 alleged members of Kiram’s group had been killed, hundreds have been detained and at least 5,000 have evacuated to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi for fear of getting caught in the crossfire. Complaints of human rights violations were also aired by evacuees. As a result, the Sabah crisis had become an election issue.

The OPAPP’s FAQs said the issue on Sabah “has no effect on either the momentum or the substantive issues of the negotiations” but added “we continue to conduct the peace talks  in a manner  that will ensure the inclusivity of the process and the outcome.”
The FAQs also said the upcoming election has “no effect on the focused work of the negotiating panels.”

Iqbal said the GPH wanted the next meeting after the elections “kasi busy sila” (because they are busy). Their principal (President Aquino) is busy.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)