This week, we are witnessing the tail-end of the 17-year peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Right now, both the GPH and the MILF Peace Panels are in the middle of their 10-hour per day workshop for 10 days, August 01-10, rolling their sleeves up together as partners to produce a mutually accepted text of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Last Friday, the Mindanao peace advocacy leaders had a dialogue with Chair Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF Peace Panel between 1900H and 2100H in Davao City. The next day, during their lunch break, the same group met with Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH Peace Panel.
After listening to both parties, I suddenly realized that this tail-end of the peace process is very, very fragile.
In 12 October 2012, we celebrated the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
In 27 March 2014, we celebrated the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
I thought it will be a smoother ride after these two key documents were signed. Along with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), we followed a clearly laid-out road map for peace in Mindanao.
But in the last two days listening to both peace diplomats whom I truly respect, there are still hard issues we’re facing. One of the key issues is how to operationalize the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro—a politically negotiated agreement which is general in scope, into the Bangsamoro Basic Law—a legislative document which is specific and detailed in scope.
So, the two panels are working as partners for 10 days to deal with these issues.
That’s when I requested my friends for prayers in support to both the GPH and the MILF panels as they journey from the general principles of the peace agreement, to the specific operational details emanating from the same agreement.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Mindanao Peaceweavers met together and wrote a statement of support and delivered it during their lunch break today:
REAFFIRMING OUR SOLIDARITY FOR PEACE IN MINDANAO ANDOUR COMMITMENT TO ACCOMPANYING THE BANGSAMORO PEACE PROCESS
We, members of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, gathered in Davao City for a two-day Convenors Meeting to consider the state of peace in Mindanao and take stock of important lessons in the work of helping create a hopeful future for the region.
We recognize the enormous challenges that still need to be surmounted in order to address the various conflicts that weigh down development efforts and continue to consign the lives of millions of people to lingering uncertainties.
For the peoples in conflict-affected communities, development is synonymous with peace. Hence, we reaffirm our solidarity for peace in Mindanao and commit to further cultivate the ideals that brought us together as the broadest Mindanao peace network for the past 11 years.
Throughout the decade of our work, we note the positive climate created by the breakthroughs in the political negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), symbolized by the forging—after a 17-year process—of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
As civil society networks that have engaged and accompanied the Bangsamoro peace process since its rough and tumble days, we share the same hopes imbibed by our constituents—including the grassroots peoples of Mindanao— that a lasting solution to the Moro rebellion is close at hand, and that they are saying goodbye—with finality—to war and recurrent displacement from their communities.
We understand that some kinks have recently come up in the process of implementing the CAB, particularly in drafting a Basic Law that would give birth—when enacted by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite—to the Bangsamoro political entity. To some extent, the lack of adequate official information about this situation resulted to stirrings of restiveness in several areas.
Even then, we note the present efforts by the peace panels and their principals in addressing the issues raised about the Basic Law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. This gives us confidence that the parties are still heavily invested in the peace process.
We extend our goodwill to the members of the peace panels as they roll up their sleeves from August 1 to 10 to come up with a mutually acceptable text of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We trust in the deep and strong commitment of these men and women for achieving peace in Mindanao, and we expect that to drive their much-needed creativity, patience and resolve to muster the decisive consensus in this crucial exercise. They have consistently shown these qualities during the negotiations for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes that now constitute the core of the CAB.
We pray for their continued personal strength and fortitude as they carry on a task that is made formidable by its historic significance and the weight of expectations from stakeholders within the country and those in the international community. We also pray that President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim maintain their unwavering stance for this peace process, and continue to keep and nurture the partnership they have built in pursuit of a just resolution of the Moro conflict.
We call on our peoples– Moro, Lumads, Filipinos– to stay calm and keep holding on to the aspiration for lasting peace. This is the effective way of maintaining sobriety in the communities amid these trying times.
Fueled by our strong desire and resolve to keep alive the cause of peace in Mindanao, we commit to continue to journey with the government and the MILF in this critical period of the peace process and beyond.
To us all, Salam, Kalinaw, Paghidaet, Kapayapaan, Peace!
The response of both the peace panel chairs, which I video-recorded, were such an encouragement to a peacebuilding fieldworker like me.
Today, and every day of this week, let us all pray for both the GPH and the MILF Peace Panels as they work together as partners in achieving a mutually agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Mohagher Iqbal. He is peace diplomat par excellence to me.
My favorite Iqbal quote this week:
“For the MILF we are not thinking of any other option. The only option is peace so that’s why we are pouring everything here so that peace would be possible.”
01 August 2014, 1900H-2100H, Davao City — Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, listens attentively to a question from one of the peace advocates in Mindanao.
His answer was clear, intelligent, and delivered from a sincere heart.
Tonight, and every night this week, let us all pray for both the GPH and the MILF Peace Panels as they work together as partners in achieving a mutually agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
I pray that he and the Bangsamoro people, along with the Indigenous People and the Migrants in Mindanao, would soon enjoy peace that is based on justice.
May the God of peace embrace us all — in Mindanao and the whole Philippines. In Shaa Allah.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. I respect her as a very assuring, determined peace negotiator.
My favorite Ferrer quote this week:
“I guarantee that we will have a good draft BBL and we commit to work with Congress in any way the legislators see fit. We call on the public to keep the faith and to join our collective effort for peace and development in Mindanao.”
02 August 2014, 1200H-1400H, Davao City — Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was sharing the journey of both the GPH and MILF Peace Panels as partners, moving from the general principles contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to the specific operational details that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) ought to be.
I pray that the journey of the GPH Peace Panels, along with their partners–the MILF Peace Panel, would produce a mutually agreed draft of the BBL.