Lasting peace, everyone’s concern

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

WITH the pronounced need for significant stakeholders to address lack of access to information and venue for sharing of views and perspectives, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao or AFRIM, Inc. conducted a workshop forum on the Mindanao peace process last month in celebration of the Mindanao Peace Week at the NEAP 11 Leadership Development Center, Davao City.

The forum tackled issues related to the implementation of the Government of the Philippines - Moro National Liberation Front Final Peace Agreement (GPH-MNLF 1996 FPA), the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro(FAB)of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines – National Democratic Front (GPH-NDF) Peace Talks.

AFRIM, Inc. acknowledged the fact that the schools and media have significant role in molding young minds and in creating public opinions, they invited to the forum workshop the leaders and representatives from the academic institutions and media networks.

The activity aimed to provide a venue for sharing of information and knowledge on the issues and concerns like the Status of the 1996 FPA implementation and its Impact on affected communities, FAB and its Annexes and the role of media and the academe in building constituency for the peace processes in Mindanao.

Hazel P. Lozada, Program Officer, discussed the Background on the GPH-MILF and GPH-NDF Peace Processes. The presentation took the participants through a timeline of the major peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as the National Democratic Front.
Further, it explained why the talks were stalled at one point, and other issues that contributed to the stalling of the talks. It listed the major agreements signed by both Parties in both peace processes.

Updates on Peace Talks

Meanwhile, Atty. Johaira Wahab, Commissioner, Bangsamoro Transition Commission tackled the updates on the GPH-MILF Peace Talks and Salient Points on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Annexes on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.

The presentation dealt with the basics of the FAB and its Annexes, and explained them in layman’s terms. Atty. Wahab also gave concrete examples for each agreement, such as in the case of Revenue Sharing on minerals, and how earlier agreements were amended for clarity and precision of definitions.

Atty. Wahab also discussed the proposed territory and what is entailed in the inclusion of provinces in the proposed territory. Atty. Wahab also briefly but succinctly explained what is entailed in the Annexes on Power Sharing and Normalization.

The presentation also included a summary of Basic Rights, in addition to ones already enjoyed, such as: Equality and non-discrimination, Freedom of Expression of religion and beliefs, freedom of speech, and the right of women to meaningful political participation and protection from a.ll forms of violence.

Atty. Wahab also presented a Road Map for Transition, with a timeline from 2013 to 2016, beginning with the signing of the Peace Agreement and leading to eventual regular elections in the Bangsamoro Government.

The talked of Atty. Wahab was followed by an open forum. On the question whether the constituents were fully informed about the FAB, the lawyer that they consulted/talked with the LGUs first.

“Learning the lessons from MOA-AD wherein the LGUs are the ones who sent petition to the Supreme Court claiming that they were not consulted. And so we had the escalation of war that time. We don’t want to keep secrets, but it is hard for the Panel to say something especially if it is broadcast in media, puwedengmakaapektosa peace process. For as long as di pa nasignangisang document, di puwedengidivulgesa public. But we consistently participate in forums as per request from CSOs”, Atty. Wahab said.

The lawyer added thatShariahLaw will apply only to Muslims while mainstream law will be applied to non-Muslims within the Bangsamoro.

On the replacement of ARMM, the issue on transitional mechanism installed to prepare the people and the employees of the current ARMM, Atty. Wahab said that a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be installed in 2015.

“Even if the ARMM Regional Governing bodies will be abolished, the rights of current employees will be protected under Civil Service Law,” Atty. Wahab added.

Atty. Wahab said that the 10 percent petition will apply in areas adjacent to the proposed Bangsamoro territory. The petition will not automatically mean inclusion right away, the population in the area will still be subjected to a plebiscite just like the areas within the proposed territory. Everyone will be subjected to a plebiscite.

Voice from the Indigenous People

The forum also featured the Comments and Reaction from Indigenous Peoples Representativebrought by Timuay Santos M. Unsad, Deputy Supreme Tribal Chief, Timuay Justice and Governance Mr. Unsad was the voice of more or less 200,000 individuals in the Maguindanao Province, with an ancestral domain of about 300,000 hectares.

Mr. Unsad maintained that they are the most affected sector of the conflict between the GRP and the MNLF, MILF and the BIFF, mainly because their ancestral lands are host to the fighting. Despite that fact, his people were not included in the discussions that lead to the peace agreement, he expressed hope that the new Bangsamoro Government will not overlook them as they were during the time of the ARMM.

AFRIM’s Milestone Initiatives

Starjoan D. Villanueva, Executive Director, AFRIM delivered the Presentation of AFRIM’s Research on the Implementation Status of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government and the MNLF and its Impact on Affected Communities.

The presentation gave a backgrounder on the Final Peace Agreement (FPA), with insights on the recent Zamboanga standoff, and a brief history of the conflict in Mindanao.

She enumerated the amount of peace investments made by various international funding agencies, and the dividends reaped by the communities involved in the conflict.

She also listed the shortfalls and limitations of the FPA in terms of awareness and further benefits to the communities in the area, as well as AFRIM’s conclusions and implications based on years of research by AFRIM.

Meanwhile, Ms. Lualhati Abreu, Research Fellow, AFRIM, presented the NDF’s view on present status of GPH-NDF peace negotiations.

Ms. Abreu’s presentation on the Peace Negotiations from the point of view of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines was written from a deep involvement with the Left, and provides a timeline of highlighted achievements of Presidents of the Philippines from the time of the signing of the Hauge Declaration in the Netherlands.

It cited the causes of the various delays in talks, and then the move to fast track based on a 10-point proposal.

Ms. Abreu pointed out the apparent intentional misunderstanding by the GPH of the NDFP’s agenda and its refusal to honor the Hague Declaration.

Furthermore there are accusations of corruption and the tendency towards exploitation of both resources and indigenous people on both sides.

Status of the GPH-NDF Peace Talks

Bishop Modesto Villasanta, United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), Member, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform presented the Updates on the Status of the GPH-NDF Peace Talks.

Bishop Villasanta echoed the timelines and issues presented by Ms. Villanueva and Ms. Abreu, adding his own inputs from the point of view of one who has repeatedly called for the resumption of the peace talks, with emphasis on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) to address socio-economic conditions of the people such as employment, land and other basic necessities.

For Bishop Villasanta it was also important that while there is an ongoing negotiation for the CASER, there should be a full implementation of the previously-signed agreement of both parties, particularly the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Workshop Outputs

The forum workshop ended with the following agreement from the educators and media participants:

Educators: Sustain the utilization of peace education exemplars, Strengthen and sustain the integration of peace concepts in the curriculum and Contextualize peace education.

Media: Responsible reporting and Commitment for truth.

The group agreed the need to stop too much politics in the government, conflict / violence and useless spending of money and the need to start to allocate funds for peace education, pray for peace, conduct of capability building activities for peace and start supporting educators as they work for genuine and lasting peace.

They also agreed to continue peace advocacy, reproduction of materials on peace education and strengthening of the integration of peace concepts in the curriculum. (With report from Hazel L. Pergis, AFRIM)

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