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Peace pact took a hit, foreign monitors say

THE Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) that assesses the implementation the signed agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front admitted that the Mamasapano incident has set back the peace process despite the peace deal’s significant progress.

But even with the recrimination caused by the death of 44 police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano last January 23, TPMT chairman and former European ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald said the peace deal is still “the best possible vaccination against radicalization and terrorism.”

Kimi Cojuangco
“The best way to avoiding radicalization is to promote peace and prosperity. Some people said the peace process is best possible vaccination against radicalization and terrorism. I am absolutely sure that is the case,” MacDonald said in a press briefing.

“I think it is evident the very tight deadline in which Congress is working is already very difficult. It is now thrown in disarray. We cannot make predictions,” MacDonald said, adding he hopes the the public will be reminded of the distance the peace process has already traveled.

MacDonald said the challenges have “strengthened and multiplied now, but the commitment of both parties is very crucial, noting that both parties must restore trust in the peace process.”

Aside from MacDonald, the other TPMT members are Huseyin Oruç of Turkey, Steven Rood of the United States, Karen Tañada  and Rahib Kudto of the Phlippines.

At the same time, President Benigno Aquino III has promised the Moro Islamic Liberation Front a “peace budget” amounting to P80 billion, P10 billion of which will be released this year, an administration lawmaker and a militant group disclosed Friday.

Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco said the Bangsamoro, with a population of 3.7 million, was allocated P70 billion in peace budget while the rest of the country or the rest of the 96.3 million Filipinos will have to share with only P40 billion in Internal Revenue Allotment.

“The P70 billion will be released soon after we pass the suspended Bangsamoro Basic Law. How in heaven’s name will I affix my signature when 44 SAF families are crying for justice because those responsible for the commandos’ death were the forces that the government was negotiating peace with,” said Cojuangco.

“So I withdrew my support for the BBL. No to BBL,” Cojuangco told the Manila Standard.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. also questioned the P10 billion that the Department of Budget and Management announced will be released this year.

The announcement was made by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on February 11, barely two weeks after the Mamasapano carnage.

Cojuangco, a Nationalist People’s Coalition leader, said the P70 billion was explicitly stated in the Palace-drafted BBL, of which deliberations the House suspended Monday last week.

“The P70 billion was just a conservative estimate. It is a block grant, four percent of the national budget. And based on the BBL that was crafted by the Palace, they will not need to go to Congress to defend their proposed budget. It will automatically be given to them every year,” Cojuangco said.

“And on top of the P70 billion, they will also receive a special development fund from the national government for infrastructure,” Cojuangco said.

In announcing the P9.94-billion package, Abad said the national government was “seeking the peaceful settlement of armed conflict in the country, not just by focusing on national defense and security but by also restoring the provision of essential government services in areas affected by conflict.”

“That’s why government programs that strengthen peace-building, reconstruction, and development activities are a top priority in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), receiving a budget of P9.94 billion,” Abad said.

“We need to sound the alarm because the cause of peace is being used to mask corruption in government. It is also deceptive since these programs do not really address the root causes of the armed conflict,” Reyes said.

“The nearly P10 billion so-called ‘peace budget’ looks like pork and is a revival of previous DAP-funded projects,” Reyes said.

Among the items Bayan is questioning include the P7.29 billion PAMANA fund that includes: P760 million Department of Social Welfare and Development or DWSD funds for “community support,”; P519 million for Department of Public Works and Highways’ road construction; P1.8 billion for Department of Agriculture “community driven development projects,”; P656 million Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao “community driven development projects,”; and P200 million Department of Environment and Natural Resources reforestation projects.

“How can the Aquino administration claim to boost peace with spending that appears geared towards patronage and corruption more than anything else? The budgets seems to be geared for 2016 and is reminiscent of DAP spending,” Reyes added.

 

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