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Posted on 24 November 2015 by cbcs_mike

After applauding the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as a demonstration of peace and hope, the world is now witness to how this peace agreement fails to be carried out to its fruition. As civil society organizations with programs for, offices in, and people from the Bangsamoro, we are saddened to see how 17 years of negotiations are being put aside, and how the hope for lasting peace is slowly dimming under the Aquino Administration.

Underlying a peace accord are trust, commitment and hard work to get to the consensus points and to move it towards implementation. In the end, a peace process is judged not only by the provisions in the peace agreement, but how it is actually able to change people’s lives for the better. The CAB has raised expectations for lasting peace, and rightly so. After all, the war has seen a lot of our people suffering not only from exacerbated poverty and its consequences, but also from adverse social and psychological effects of protracted armed conflict.The possibility of peace and development is just too appealing, especially for those who have suffered much from the decades of war in this region.

As Congress is nearing the end of its last session for 2015 and as the election fever vitiates the debates (or the lack thereof) in the legislature, these expectations can easily turn into frustration and hopelessness.In the larger scenario, significant deviations from the provisions of the CAB and reduction of the existing autonomy that is already provided in the Organic Acts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will lead to public erosion of trust in the peaceful resolution of conflicts and possibly to other scenarios that can be deleterious for the people in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country.

As direct beneficiaries and stakeholders of peace, we are deeply concerned over the initiatives of some groups and entities to lay down “minimum issues or pillars” that should be restored in the substitute bills (now called the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region or BLBAR), implying that other amendments introduced in said bills, even if contrary to the CAB, are already acceptable. These entities have questioned the constitutionality of the agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the propriety of giving certain powers to the Bangsamoro, and even the capacity of the people in the Bangsamoro to exercise such powers. In taking such a position, they now throw out whatever incremental gains that past and present agreements are supposed to have generated towards resolving the Bangsamoro Question, which essentially is about the Bangsamoro right to self-determination. The very essence of this right to self-determination—seems to have been lost, as the voices of those who have suffered the most and have experienced injustice most, are now drowned out in the discourse.

The CAB is a product of years of consensus-building between two Parties that had very divergent if not opposite perspectives and positions, but managed to continue talking amidst adversities, until they arrived at something that satisfied their minimum demands and the common interest of the people that they represent. It balances the Bangsamoro’s demand for their right to self-determination and the Philippine Government’s assertion of its sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country. In the course of the peace talks, the Government Panel made sure that there were constant consultations and due diligence work with legal experts and the different agencies and stakeholders in the national and local governments, even when these prolonged the negotiations. The Panels believe that the agreement can be delivered within the flexibilities of the Philippine Constitution. The BBL itself, filed as HB 4994 and SB 2408, was the product of more engagements between the Panels, the Office of the President and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which had conducted numerous consultations during the drafting of the BBL.

With the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that will build on the powers of the existing ARMM for a more meaningful autonomy, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to decommission its combatants and weapons, and to participate in democratic processes in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country. Surely, it is a feat to have the biggest armed group in Mindanao to agree to put aside its main strategy of armed struggle and to venture into the unknown terrain of electoral struggle, governance, and leading productive civilian lives.

We are at a critical stage in the history of war and peace in Mindanao. Enacting the BBL will certainly not end all the violence in the Bangsamoro, but it will bring about meaningful structural reforms that can lead to better governance, and eventually, peace and development to the people. It is a chance we are asked to take towards national unity and reconciliation. In the end, the dividends of peace do not just go to the combatants, but to each citizen who will be able to go to school, seek and get employment or livelihood, have access to health facilities and services, feel secure against violence and criminality — as guns are silenced, communities are rehabilitated and relationships are rebuilt. And when there is peace in the Bangsamoro, it will also mean peace in the whole country.

We therefore ask Congress to take on its pivotal role in implementing the CAB and to take heed of our cry for peace.

We say NO to BLBAR! Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law!


CBCS Secretariat

Telefax: (064) 421 -5420

1 Comments For This Post

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