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MILF fears pact future

Says peace or anarchy depends on PNoy successor

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sees today’s signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as not only historic, but an achievement of a lifetime.

Ready for the big day. Presidential Adviser on the
Peace Process Teresita Deles (second from right)
and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda (third
from left) inspect the preparations, including the
presidential seal surrounded by images of white
doves, for the signing of the Comprehensive
Agreement of the Bangsamoro in Malacañang today.
At the same time, however, the MILF admitted that there is “fear” among their ranks if Aquino’s successor in 2016 would follow through on the commitments in the comprehensive agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law to carry out the peace accord.

“Without saying, a weak partner will pave the way for anarchy to rule the day and chances that a more dangerous place is not farfetched in Mindanao. This fear is compounded after the exit of President Benigno Aquino in 2016,” the MILF said.

“If the new president does not follow through with the achievements of the peace process and genuinely adopts a policy of empowering the MILF and henceforth the Bangsamoro government, then the future is truly bleak. This is the reason why the 2016 presidential election is truly material to the future of the Bangsamoro. We can only hope that those who run for president will adopt a policy of fully supporting the Bangsamoro and not to undermine it in any manner or form.”

The agreement, the culmination of 16 years of complex and difficult negotiations, signals the “dawning of the real partnership” between the government and the MILF, the group’s central committee said Wednesday.

“By any stretch of imagination, this hard, complex, and almost futile exercise cannot be repeated in a generation. In fact, many of the negotiators from both the MILF and the government have died already.

They were not lucky enough to see and witness this history in the making,” the MILF said.

“Thus, this partnership has to be real and genuine. Gone are the days when mistrust and reservation are the rule between negotiators whose motive is to outwit the opponent in order to win.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the signing ceremony is a “joyous occasion” for all.

With the MILF accounting for about half of the 1,000 invited guests, the signing at the Palace today will also gather representatives from three factions of the Moro National Liberation Front as well as from the Sultanate of Sulu.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will also witness the event, and will be meeting with President Benigno Aquino III ahead of the 4 p.m. ceremony.

The CAB brings together the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro: the four annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements; the addendum on Bangsamoro waters; and the 1997 ceasefire agreement.

It will result in the creation of the Bangsamoro, a political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

For its territory, the Bangsamoro will have the current provinces and cities in the ARMM, the cities of Isabela and Cotabato, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and 39 barangays in six municipalities of Cotabato province.

Under the wealth-sharing annex, the Bangsamoro will also enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and use of metallic minerals within the region. Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium shall be shared equally by the Bangsamoro and the central government.

Under the annex on powersharing, the Bangsamoro assembly shall have at least 50 members representing district, party-list, sectoral and reserved seats.

The assembly shall be headed by a chief minister, who shall be elected by majority votes from among the members of the assembly.

The national government shall have reserved powers on defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, postal service, citizenship and naturalization, immigration, customs and tariff, common market and global trade, and intellectual property rights.

The government and the Bangsamoro shall have 14 jointly-shared powers, including social security and pensions, land registration, pollution control, penology, coast guard, civil service and maintenance of national roads and bridges.

The Bangsamoro, on the other hand, shall have 58 exclusive powers, including tourism, creation of sources of revenue, power generation, ancestral domain and natural resources, and management of all fishery, marine and aquatic resources within the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction.

The Bangsamoro government will also have authority and jurisdiction over the exploration, development and use of mines and minerals within its territory.

Presidential Security Group head Commodore Raul Ubando said there is no need to raise the security level to red alert for today’s event at the Kalayaan Grounds.

“We will just be deploying additional personnel in light of the magnitude of guests,” Ubando said.

“We have also asked the help of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Manila Police District in managing the expected traffic,” he added.

The Philippine National Police, on the other hand, placed the entire Metro Manila under red alert with all vital installations under heavy guard, including the seat of power.

Among the critical spots the police would be concentrating are five-star hotels at the waterfront where foreign guests, including the Malaysian prime minister, will be billeted, said PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Wilben Mayor.

Mayor said security at the airports and seaports have also been beefed up.

At the perimeter of the Palace, elite military and police forces have also been deployed to fortify the security measures during the signing ceremony.

He said the military had no information that communist rebels might seek to disrupt the ceremony after the government arrested two of their top leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

“So far, we have no information relating to NPA [New People’s Army] possible attacks, but again, the PNP is prepared for any eventuality just in case,” Mayor said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala of the military’s Public Affairs Office said they do not see any specific threat but would remain on alert.

On Tuesday, the military and police in Mindanao raised the level of alert to red, especially in areas where “spoilers of peace” such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by former MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato and the a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari operate.

Mayor said the ceremony would have 1,200 attendees, including 598 MILF members and constituents, foreign ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, local government officials and Najib.

Zagala said the Armed Forces was elated at the efforts to end armed conflict in Mindanao.

“Tomorrow will be the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in full support of this peace initiative to finally end the more than four decades of conflict in Mindanao with the separatist movement. We are very optimistic that this signing will be beneficial not only to the Bangsamoro but also for the AFP and other security forces who have been on a long, long fight with them and that finally we will have peace,” Zagala said.

Several lawmakers led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. will also witness today’s signing.

 

Belmonte said that Congress is ready to look into the nitty-gritty of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law agreement, and have it enacted as soon as possible.

 

“We welcome and hail this latest development that would end the four decades of fighting in Central Mindanao. We are fully supportive of the Bangsamoro agreement and we will just wait for the draft bill,” Belmonte said.

Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, wife of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman, and Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman credited President Aquino for his commitment to attain peace in Mindanao by establishing the Bangsamoro region to replace ARMM.

“Anak Mindanao is in solidarity with the nation in welcoming the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. With this is our prayer and commitment to continue working for peace and ensuring the gains of this agreement will benefit the peoples of Mindanao and translate into progress and development in the region and the nation,” Turabin-Hataman said.

Jim Hataman-Salliman, brother of the ARMM governor and who witnessed the signing in Malaysia of the peace agreement last January, said Congress will do its best to approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“We will do everything we can to pass the law. I believe in the maturity and sincerity of all the members of Congress to help bring our country towards sustainable peace and development,” Hataman-Salliman said.

Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said the public should expect some groups to question the legality of the peace pact before the Supreme Court.

In separate interviews, House Deputy Majority Leaders Sherwin Tugna of Ciba party-list and Jorge Banal of Quezon City; Reps. Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP party-list, Rodel Batocabe of Ako-Bicol party- list and Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela, were all optimistic about the Bangsamoro agreement.

“It is a big step to peace and should get the support of every Filipino regardless of political and religious persuasion,” said Bello, a former government negotiating panel chairman.

Tugna said he proposed law should be able to get the full support of all stakeholders concerned, otherwise it is doomed to fail.

“It should be voted upon and approved by the residents and inhabitants that will be part of the Bangsamoro homeland. Without real approval it is bound to fail because the people will not honor it,” Tugna said.

Batocabe said he is hopeful that the signing of the peace agreement “will open the avenues for lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“I therefore urge all parties to work together with a positive attitude towards reaching consensus, and if not possible, compromise. There is always no winner if we seek the path of violence and decades of fighting should give way finally to peace,” Batocabe said.

A Mindanao multi-sectoral group on Wednesday called on the Aquino government to seriously respect the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, adding that lasting peace in Mindanao can only be achieved if the military is pulled out from Mindanao.

Sharif Ibrahim Albani, chairman of both the Peace for Revival Foundation and the World Philosophical Forum, warned against any attempt to sabotage the agreement.

The multi-sectoral group made the call in support the signing of the peace agreement today.

The Catholic Church and other sectors in Mindanao commended the government and MILF for succeeding in forging a peace agreement.

Angel Calvo, a priest and Mindanao peace advocate based in Basilan, said Mindanao residents who have been following the peace negotiations expect that a true peace accord can be reached and presented to the people.

Senator Ralph Recto on Wednesday urged the government to increase the P20.4 billion budget for the ARMM in the 2015 national budget, saying the region deserved a bigger “peace dividend.” With Vito Barcelo

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