Archive | April, 2016

elections in the phils

Elections in the Philippines: New Hope for Peace?

Posted on 28 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Editor's Note: This is a reprint from the article written by Harriet Lamb and posted at The Diplomat.Com. She is CEO of International Alert in November 2015. She previously served as CEO of Fairtrade International (FLO) and Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. This comment was written with Kloe Carvajal.]

With campaigning well underway for the presidential election on May 9, a look at the implications for peace.

By Harriet Lamb
April 26, 2016

elections in the phils

Ask anyone about the symbol of peace and they will immediately talk about a dove, possibly carrying an olive branch in its beak. Probably sketched by Picasso in beautiful blue freehand. That could all be about to change if one loquacious businessman from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, gets his way.

Vicente Lao fervently believes that economic development in Bangsamoro — a proposed autonomous region in the Philippines — should go ahead despite the derailment of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We met him recently in Davao, Mindanao as he returned from visiting a duck farm in the United Kingdom. He says that ducks could contribute to tackling poverty in Mindanao.

With its fertile lands, mild climate and abundant vegetation, Mindanao has been called the “land of promise” and has enormous potential for the development of agriculture and eco-tourism.

But the area is also host to decades of conflict, with both Muslim and Communist rebels fighting against the government in Manila. As with many conflicts, the root causes of the violence in Mindanao are land and resources: the Muslim population has struggled for access to land since colonization by Christian settlers. Today, it remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in the country, with almost half its people living in poverty.

This accentuates the vital role business can play in contributing – directly and indirectly – to the prevention and resolution of violent conflict as it can foster equitable wealth and well-being.

“Poverty is the root cause of conflict,” proclaims Lao. He is convinced that more investment is needed in Muslim Mindanao, specifically investment that is sensitive to different community needs. This will help build the economic underpinning of peace. It’s a positive cycle: a safer Mindanao will lead to investment, development, and new jobs for local people.

“These ducks are hardy,” he tells us. “They can survive with little care and within three months, when the ducks are fully grown, communities can already start making a living from them. In six months they can be on their way to crossing the poverty threshold.”

In a world rightly absorbed by Syria and the wider region, most people have forgotten some of the world’s longest-running wars are still limping on, looking for ways out of their impasses.

In Colombia, the government is systematically hammering out a comprehensive peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Communist guerrillas after a shocking 51 years’ of war, and has most recently brought other rebels to the negotiating table.

Likewise in the Philippines, the government of current president Benigno S. Aquino III had been hoping to deliver a new legislative program of devolution, the so-called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Fifteen years on from the signing of the Agreement on Peace with the MILF fighters, this key promise is yet to be met. With the singing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro in 2014, the prospects were looking good, but were tragically undermined by the Mamasapano clash in January 2015, which left 66 dead including 44 policemen and civilians — one a 5-year-old girl. The nation reeled and opposition to the Muslim fighters stiffened.

A year on, the government made another attempt to pass the BBL. But by now, the president and the parliament were more concerned with the upcoming general election on May 9, and certainly didn’t want to throw away votes by passing a law that could be unpopular with mainstream voters outside Mindanao.

After months of work, the peace agreement stumbled at the final hurdle. Some worry that a new parliament could re-open all the old debates again, and the rebel commanders could struggle to restrain their restless troops. However, others are hoping a new president and congress would open a space for truly embedding “peace” in the draft legislation.

In February, we met Teresita Ging Deles, who has been negotiating the peace deal on behalf of the Office of the President. She remains solidly optimistic that a new level of trust has been built with the leadership of the MILF and gives them credit for staying calm despite the legislative set-back. The community of peacebuilders is certainly ready to come back fresh in May, with a new president and a new congress, to try again to get the law passed, and the peace truly embedded.

We at International Alert have been talking to all the presidential candidates in the Philippines, urging them to pass an inclusive law that would establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. We have also been pushing for the new government to address itself to the Communist conflict, which has received less attention in recent years but still drags on.

But the economy always resurfaces as the vital ingredient for peace. On April 1, three peasants were killed and over a hundred wounded following an attack on protesting farmers demanding urgent relief from the government due to drought, hunger, and the destruction of their crops brought about by El Nino weather events.

International Alert’s Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System has indeed found that violence often spikes in the hungry season, before harvest, when farmers have no money.

Furthermore, the rise in violence due to shadow economies — illicit drugs, illegal weapons, and illegal mining, as well as common crimes such as robbery — is adding to instability. Minimizing the conflict risks of these informal economies must also be high on the to-do list of any new government elected in May.

The poorer people are, the fewer economic opportunities they face, the easier it will always be for criminal gangs to recruit members. That is why initiatives to stimulate the local economy are so important.

The people of the Philippines have shown huge resilience during decades of bloodshed. Their hopes for peace remain — and no one’s more so than Mr. Lao, as he gets his ducks in a row.

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Filipinos and Moros – two nationalities

Posted on 28 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 13:56

[Author's Note : This article has been written as information input for the next set of Peace Negotiators who will be officially designated to resolve the more four decades of unpeacefulness in Mindanao and Sulu. This may also help the top executive and legislative officials of the Philippines understand the historical root-cause of the Mindanao Crisis.]

From the viewpoint of the Spaniards and the Americans, Filipinos and Moros were (or are ) two distinct nationalities. Filipinos were the native inhabitants of Luzon and the Visayas who the Spaniards originally called Indios for they resembled the American Indians. Following their submission to the Spaniards either voluntarily or by conquest, they became Filipinos as subjects and citizens of the colony composed initially of the Samar-Leyte Islands which fell under the sovereignty of Spain named Felipinas or the Philippine Islands by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in 1543 in honor of the Prince of Asturias which later on became the King of Spain, Felipe II. Buttressing the historicity of this event, Ramille Anthony Martinez in his book entitled “From Indio To Filipino.” he explicitly stated that Indio was a term used by the Spaniards to refer to the indigenous people of the Philippine Islands because they resembled the Indians of America.

Martinez, further narrated that the indigenous inhabitants of the Philippine Islands did not become instant Filipinos. The Spanish conquerors called them Indios, the common appellation for all people encountered by the Spaniards in their expeditions in search of a route to India.

The name Filipino Martines stressed, is of colonial origin. He said that the term Filipinos was reserved for Spaniards born in the Philippine Islands to distinguish them from the Spaniards born in Spain, also known as the Iberian peninsula, who were called peninsulares. The Insulares as distinguished from the peninsulares, referred to all the full blooded Spaniards born in the Philippines.

On the other hand, “Moros” was the name given by the Spaniards to all the native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu including those that were professing the Islam faith conclusively on account of the fact that Islam was introduced in Mindanao and Sulu according to historians as early as 1380 about 141 years ahead of Christianity brought by Ferdinand Magellan in the Visayas in 1521. One of the prominent authors who confirmed that the term “Moro” is just a moniker given by the Spaniards is Salah Jubair as found on page 13 of his book entitled, “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, quoted as follows:

“All the monikers assigned to the natives, Indio, Moro, and Filipino were given by the Spaniards. History should credit them for giving us all these names, either out of hatred or by reasons of similarities, or by force of circumstances, or by all of the above.”

Jubair on page 266 of the above-mentioned book, explains further that the word Moro had its roots from the Latin term Mauris or Maurus which referred to the people of North Africa especially Morocco and Mauritania, who professed Islam and once ruled Spain for about 800 years. This historical narrative is corroborated by Jamair A. Kamlian, author of the article entitled “ Who Are the Moro People” published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 20, 2012 and posted at Inquirer.net on April 18, 2016, a portion of which is hereby quoted:

“For the Spaniards the term Moro did not necessarily have degoratory connotation. It was simply the Spanish name for anyone who was Muslim. In colonial Philippines, the Spanish rulers used the word ‘Moro’ to refer to all the inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.”

Unlike Luzon and the Visayas which fell under the colonial possession and sovereignty of the Spanish Crown, world-renowned authors, researchers, and historians affirm that Mindanao and Sulu as de facto and de jure Sultanates distinct, separate, and independent from each other, were not conquered despite countless consummate attempts by the Spanish forces over a span of more than three hundred years. Even the Americans in two diplomatic documents entered into between the United States and the Sultanate of Sulu ( The Bates Treaty of August 20, 1899 and the Carpenter Memorandum of March 22, 1915) expressly confirm that Mindanao and Sulu were not colonial possessions of Spain despite the fact that these two Sultanates were included in the technical description of the territorial limits of the Philippine Islands, the colony of Spain that was sold and ceded to the United States in Article III of the December 10, 1898 Treaty of Paris as the victor of the 1898 Spanish- American War. One world famous American author and researcher, Vic Hurley in his book “Swish of the Kris” said that for more than 300 years the Spaniards attempted to conquer Mindanao and Sulu, but miserably failed.

The failure of Spain to conquer Mindanao and Sulu was affirmed by an internationally recognized, multi-awarded, and highly respected author and educational administrator, Dr. Onofre D. Corpus, who became one of the Presidents of the University of the Philippines (1975-1979) and was appointed Minister of Education and Culture by the former President of the Republic of the Philippines, Ferdinand E. Marcos when he frankly made the following authoritative statement:

“By the time treaty negotiators were parleying in Paris there was no longer any vestige of Spanish control, possession, or government in Filipinas (that is to say, the Christian part of the archipelago). And Spain never had control, government, nor possession of the Moro territory. It did not have any “suspended sovereignty” because its sovereignty had been terminated.” (As quoted by Salah Jubair on page 59 of his book, “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny.)

From all these historical narrations by reputable authors and historians, it is safe to conclude that the Filipinos were the Indios of the Visayas and Luzon who submitted to the sovereignty of the Spanish Crown either voluntarily of by conquest then colonized and Christianized. They subsequently pledged allegiance to the Spanish Empire and became subjects or citizens of the Las Islas Filipinas or Philippine Islands as a colony of Spain. After several centuries, unable to bear the tyrannical regime of the Spaniards, the Filipinos in August 1896 rose in revolt but unfortunately ended in the surrender of Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo and all his revolutionary army on December 15, 1897 after receiving Four Hundred Thousand Pesos which was half the amount promised by the Spaniards under the terms of the Pact of Biak-na- Bato. He was then exiled to Hong Kong together with his trusted revolutionary officers.

The “Moros” who were not conquered by Spain, were the adherents or inhabitants of two major Sultanates; the Sultanate of Maguindanao (Mindanao inclusive of all the royal houses in Lanao and Cotabato) and the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo which existed as de facto and de jure states established around 1475 and 1405,respectively, ahead of the 1946 Republic of the Philippines and the United States Federal System of Government using its 1787 Constitution as point of reckoning, by several hundred years.

Both the Spaniards and the Americans treated or considered the Filipinos and Moros as two different nationalities. The Americans confirmed this fact in two legal documents; the Philippine Commission Act No. 787 otherwise known as an Act providing for the Organization and Government of the Moro Province which unilaterally joined Mindanao and Sulu composed of 5 districts, namely; Zamboanga, Davao, Cotabato, Lanao and Jolo with Zamboanga as its capital and administered by the Americans separately from the Philippine Islands; and a Proclamation by the former Governor General of the Philippine Islands, James S. Smith with prior approval by the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt on March 28, 1907 at the White House. This proclamation explicitly excluded the Moros and other non-Christian tribes from participating in the general election for the choice of delegates to the Philippine legislature known as the Philippine Assembly.

Therefore, the Filipinos were the inhabitants or citizens of the conquered, colonized, and Christianized areas not inhabited by Moros and other non-Christian tribes called the Philippine Islands with representatives to its legislature officially called the Philippine Assembly chosen in a popular election for this purpose.

Another top American official, Dr. Najeeb M. Saleeby who was appointed Superintendent of Schools of the Moro Province in the Sixth Annual Report of the Philippine Commission (1905), also confirmed that Filipinos and Moros were treated as two different nationalities when he wrote the following statement on page 579, to wit:

“ The native teachers in the province are 64- 6 Moros and 58 Filipinos. Two of the Moro teachers have no knowledge of English at all, but the other 4 have received all their education and training as teachers in our schools.”

The above-cited references and citations are just some documentary evidences affirming the fact that both the Spaniards and the Americans treated and considered Filipinos and Moros as two distinct nationalities. The Filipinos were the natives of Luzon and Visayas who the Spaniards called Indios and later on were colonized and Christianized. On the other hand, the Spaniards called the native inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu who were not conquered, colonized, and Christianized Moros which included those who were already embracing the Islam religion. This Moro monicker was subsequently adopted by the Americans when they covertly occupied Mindanao and Sulu beginning May 19, 1899.

(By Clem M. Bascar)

http://www.zamboangatoday.ph/index.php/opinions/22785-filipinos-and-moros-two-nationalities.html

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The Philippines’ Own War on Terror

The Philippines’ Own War on Terror

Posted on 28 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

[Editor's Note: This is a reprint of an article written by Matthew Pennekamp who is a resident junior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.]

Jihad looms as Filipinos go to the polls.
Matthew Pennekamp
April 25, 2016

This year will mark a decade and a half of hearing the phrase “war on terror” as a normal part of the United States’ national parlance. In that same span of time, the term “undisputed victory” has become as rare as the preceding is ubiquitous—perhaps only the death of bin Laden afforded Americans the same outpouring of raw jubilation, reminiscent of V-E or V-J Day. But before and since, clear-cut successes have been practically indiscernible. Afghanistan is a morass, and northern Iraq resembles something out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s most feverish dreams. ISIS has managed to franchise its brand with more adroitness than Starbucks, while the American ethos of “homeland security”—another platitude for the ages—remains as finely honed as ever.

The Philippines' Own War on Terror

This is why the Philippines is so important. For nearly the last fifty years, a Muslim insurgency has been fighting successive governments in Manila for the right to impose its own sharia-based system on historically Muslim Mindanao, the southernmost island of the archipelago. President Benigno Aquino’s 2012 decision to pursue what ultimately proved to be successful negotiations with the most powerful iteration, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), appeared to be one of the few victories notched against terrorism’s crude post. But now, the din of an upcoming May 9 presidential election threatens to upend this piecemeal slog toward progress.

In retrospect, the history of the conflict in Mindanao has been centuries in the making. Although Islam predates Christianity in the Philippines by about two hundred years, Catholicism spread at a rapid rate after the first Spanish settlement was established in 1565. Today, Catholics make up an estimated 80 percent of the overall Philippine population, with Muslims consigned to a demographic footnote, at 5 percent. However, like so many other nationalistic movements that become secessionist, the Moro people—a from the Spanish for Moor—had geographic compactness and a separate identity from the rest of the Philippines on their side. If they could feasibly see themselves as distinct from the rest of their fellow Filipinos, then the time was bound to come when they would test the proposition.

A succession of colonial powers—first the Spanish, then the Americans after 1898, with a brief Japanese interlude during the Second World War—put off any attempt to answer that question, as multiple ethnicities chafed under imperial rule. Moro sovereignty sat on the same distant horizon as Tagalog sovereignty. But after the United States granted the Philippines its independence in 1946, things fell apart. It became official government policy to shift the dense populations burdening the overpopulated northern islands to the more bucolic south. This meant, in effect, a sudden influx of Catholics into a region that had been decidedly homogeneous beforehand. That Catholics then proceeded to take higher-paying jobs and the best land at the expense of the indigenous Muslims was hardly a healing salve. By the early 1970s, open conflict was unavoidable.

Seldom has there been a train of administrations that have oscillated so mercurially between the application of the carrot and the stick as can be found in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Manila. Prolonged fighting led to a settlement in 1976 (using the good offices of Muammar el-Qaddafi, of all people) whereby an at-large Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would be created within the country. This took ten years of intermittent fighting to implement, and in turn eventually broke down when Christian enclaves within the proposed ARMM balked at the proposal, leading to yet more war until a second Qaddafi-brokered convention was set in place in 1996 under President Fidel Ramos. However, Ramos’ successor, Joseph Estrada, opted to tear up the agreement and launch an all-out offensive, leading to years of repair under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Finally, Aquino, declaring the ARMM outmoded, started anew with a deal that would grant even more autonomous leeway in exchange for disarmament and an end to warlordism. Although agreed to in 2014, this Bagsamoro Basic Law (BBL) became more of a liability after forty-four police officers were killed by MILF fighters the next year in an unintended exchange of gunfire. Now the BBL languishes in Congress, awaiting final judgment.

Politics in the Philippines is notoriously dynastic—both Aquino and his immediate predecessor are the children of prior presidents, and the presidential candidate from Aquino’s Liberal Party is the grandson of yet another. So if, in the usual clustered regatta of candidates tacking toward their nation’s highest office, the two dreadnoughts outmaneuvering the rest of the field were of humble origins, it would be more unusual there than it would in the United States. Less than a month before Election Day, Senator Grace Poe and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte are exactly those heavy guns, with the latest poll available showing them at 36 and 28 percent, respectively. Yet despite their shared affinity for the common touch, they could not diverge more wildly in their thoughts on the implementation of Aquino’s legacy-making BBL.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-philippines-own-war-terror-15903

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ABP

Pass BBL in 2 years; make Bangsamoro pilot for federalism

Posted on 27 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

[NOTE: This is a reprint of an article from Minda News concerning some future proposals for the Bangsamoro Basic Law which the 16th Congress failed to enact] 

By Carolyn O. Arguillas on April 23 2016 11:21 am

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /23 April) — A Moro civil society leader said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) needs to be passed “not later than two years from now” in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), to allow for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro political entity that can be the pilot project for the shift to a federal form of government.

GMA

IN TWO YEARS. Guiamel Alim, executive director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society tells a press conference on 22 April at the Ateneo de Davao University that the Bangsamoro Basic Law needs to be passed “not later than two years from now” in accordance with the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Guiamel Alim, executive director of Kadtuntaya Foundation and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) told a press conference here Friday that the BBL has to be passed within this period as the CAB provides for a transition period of at least one year for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) that would prepare for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Under the CAB, the ARMM is deemed abolished upon the ratification of the BBL. The BTA then takes over until the first elected officials in the Bangsamoro political shall have assumed their post during the inauguration of the new Bangsamoro political entity.

Congress adjourned on February 3 without passing the BBL, paving the way for the holding of elections in the ARMM on May 9. Under the law, each ARMM administration has a three-year term of office. The next ARMM election is in May 2019 if the next Congress does not pass the BBL again.
A reporter asked if the peace groups that gathered here for a symposium dubbed “TItayan: Bridging for Peace” (Inclusive Political Transitions in the Bangsamoro) are planning to make a barangay as a pilot project for the implementation of the CAB.

Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo said there are candidates who are advocating federalism “but federalism is a long-term project“ as it involves amending the 1987 Constitution.

ABP

PILOT. Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, tells a press conference at the Ateneo de Davao University on 22 April that federalism is “a long-term project“ as it involves amending the 1987 Constitution but the Bangsamoro which is going to adopt a parliamentary system of government, can be a pilot project. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

“What we would like is begin with a pilot project – not a barangay – but the Bangsamoro territory. If it succeeds, then perhaps all the others would say ‘ah dapat ganyan, more power more autonomy sa mga provinces… we hope that this will happen,” Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato and lead convenor of Friends of Peace, said.

The proposed Bangsamoro is adopting a parliamentary system of government.
Alim said the shift to federalism may not come soon. “I don’t think that will happen very soon.. it will take time before we can change the Constitution.”
But he said the idea of making the Bangsamoro region as an example is possible “because you know the system that is being adopted in the CAB is more of a federal type of government.. than presidential.”

“If this works then we can improve on it, if this is the way we think can help the country. But for now, federalism is only in the mind. There are so many things to consider in adopting federalism,” he said: geographical cohesion and competence of l local government units (LGUs).

“What are the geographical boundaries in creating these federal states. Two is the competence of LGUs without which we will be creating only a layer of bureaucracy like what is happening today,” Alim said.

He explained that the ARMM is merely a layer of bureaucracy between the national government and the local government units (LGUs). “This is a government that has no oversight over LGUs and so it is an intermediary organization, not helping so much and I think this is why the (phrase) ‘failed experiment’ was coined because it is not responding positively to the needs on the ground.”

The lone Presidential candidate advocating a change in the system of government from the present unitary, Presidential form to a federal system is Presidential frontrunner and Davao city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In his visit to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao morning of February 27 and in his rally in Cotabato City in the afternoon, Duterte said that if he wins the Presidency, he would push for the passage of the BBL and make the Bangsamoro an example for the rest to follow under a federal system of government.

At the MILF camp, Duterte told MILF officials led by Ghazali Jaafar that he would convene a Constitutional Commission to amend the 1987 Constitution to change the system of government into federalism but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”

At the Cotabato City plaza, Duterte said there is a need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed that under his administration, “we will try to go federalism.”

“Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).

He said he will also tell Nur Misuari “kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that for Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines”). Misuari, whom Duterte considers a friend, is founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with whom government signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 and whose implementation has yet to be fully completed.

The Friends of Peace had earlier invited Presidential candidates to a dialogue on their peace agenda. Duterte confirmed attendance to the February 12 “Conversations with Presidential Candidates on the Bangsamoro Peace Process” at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City. Duterte, however, fell ill during an engagement in Manila the afternoon before and was advised by doctors to rest. He sent his City Administrator, Melchor Quitain.

Quevedo told the “Titayan” symposium on April 21 that administration bet Mar Roxas met with the Friends of Peace in Cotabato City on March 31 and talked about continuing the peace agenda of the Aquino administration.
He said Senate President Franklin Drilon, who accompanied Roxas, said they will pass a BBL “different from the House or the Senate” versions that they deliberated on “within 360 working days” from the start of the next administration.

Drilon is seeking reelection.

Quevedo said there were schedule problems in the “Conversations” with the other Presidential candidates – Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Grace Poe. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/04/23/pass-bbl-in-2-years-make-bangsamoro-pilot-for-federalism/

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MAR ROXAS BRIEF FORUM WITH CSO LEADERS OF FRIENDS OF PEACE

Posted on 05 April 2016 by cbcs_mike

Presidential candidate Mar Roxas made a brief forum with selected leaders of the civil society organization in Cotabato City. The forum was organized by Friends of Peace headed by his eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo and Mr. Guiamel Alim who was also a member convener of the group held at the Bishop Palace here in Cotabato City the other day.

Mar Roxas with Cardinal Quevedo while discussing issues with friends of peace.

Mar Roxas with Cardinal Quevedo while discussing issues with friends of peace.

It was a short but relevant and focus issues had been substantially discussed in the forum if he wins as president of the Philippines come May 9, 2016 election.
Foremost of the issues tackled as advanced by Mr. Bobby Benito was secretary Roxas’s plan on the peace processes especially of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which 16th Congress of the Philippines failed to enact. He had categorical response that the matter was among the important peace program under the “Daang Matuwid” which he will continue. He explains that: “the basic foundation of the negotiation is the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and that the only matter is how it will be expressed into law.” He further emphasized that: “the next step is to identify the flaws and where it went wrong and address those problems”.

On another issue, Mike Kulat from the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) reiterated that the report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) which was tasked to study deeply the predicament of the Bangsamoro people rooted on the historical injustices against them. The report he said “gives full details of the so-called historical injustices”. He then asked Secretary Roxas if he would care to ask for “a public apology” for these centuries’ old injustices to the Bangsamoro People should he win as president.
After a deep pause, secretary Roxas managed to say: “What happened in the past are very unfortunate and regrettable. The hardships and travail is unimaginable.” However he stressed that: “I believed that words of apology are not enough and that as an action-man I think that action is more appropriate and that this is to mean what were lost must be returned” to the Moro People.

Also the issue of “Muslim na mananakop” was advanced by Yusoph Lumambas, secretary general of UNYPAD. Secretary Roxas was prompt to explain that “the matter is a wrong use of words.” And continued to elaborate that after the incidence it came into his mind referring to the unfortunate Zamboanga City Siege by some elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that even the word MNLF is not even appropriate much more the word Muslim. He gave an example of the MNLF under Chairman Datu Muslimen Sema who are not part of the incidence.

On the issue of what would people of Mindanao expects if he win as president he had substantially discussed what the present administration did, complete with facts and figures which he planned to continue and expand under the his administration.

By: CBCS Secretariat

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