GPH-MILF peace process ‘on track’ but lacks time – TMPT

By Ali G. Macabalang

The Bangsamoro peace process, provided under the Philippine government’s two major accords, is “fundamentally on track” but time constraint points to imminent shortfall among players to fully flesh out their mandates on or before 2022, according to an authorized monitoring party.

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) for the Bangsamoro peace process announced on Monday the release of its sixth public report covering March 2019 to October 2020.

The report showed “more work is still needed” to fully fulfill the provisions of R.A. 11054 (charter of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and those under the Philippine government-MILF major peace deals – the Comprehensive  Agreement on Bangsamoro of 2014 and the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro of 2013.

R.A. 11054 and the two peace accords stipulate two main goals: The Government (political) Track that requires the building of parliament bureaucracy for BARMM; and the Normalization Track that seeks the decommissioning of the MILF’s 40,000 members to meaningfully transform them to productive and peaceful life.

The five-man TPMT said there was “significant progress in establishing the Bangsamoro as an autonomous political entity,” hinting though that time constraints spawned principally by diversion of government focal attention to COVID-19 disease prevention constitute a setback in completing the two tracks on time and in rehabilitation of war-ravaged Marawi City, among other concerns.

For this year alone, the interim BARMM governance has allocated more than P500 million fund as its supplementary aid to the rehabilitation works for Marawi City and its displaced residents are facing delay. The regional cabinet would allocate more funds for the same purpose in subsequent years, it was learned.

The TPMT cited the appointment of Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament members, the formation of a BARMM cabinet, the creation of an Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB), and the passage of the Bangsamoro Administrative Code.

The IGRB co-chaired by Financed Secretary Sonny Dominguez and BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal is tasked to facilitate the full devolution of national government functions and assets to the regional bureaucracy.

“Political transitions such as these (two mission tracks and other concerns like the Marawi rehab and recovery) need commitment from a wide range of actors, and in this case the first 20 months of the transition have been remarkably smooth,” the TPMT said.

The TMPT also lauded the “peaceful” normalization process, citing the decommissioning of 12,145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) combatants out of 40,000 target members.

But regional authorities said other BIAF members were hesitant to undergo decommissioning because the already decommissioned comrades have not been given the P900,000 remaining support package committed by the government for each of them. Only P100,000 was given to each member at their decommissioning rites.

Each decommissioned BIAF member has been earmarked with a P1-million package – P100k for immediate needs; P400k for education and health requirements of family members; and P500k to build a decent house by each member.

‘Continuing challenges’

The TPMT said the interim BARMM governance was caught short-staffed when quarantine restrictions were imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic and stressed that “delays in recruitment will have flow-through implications for the institutionalization of key changes.”

The BTA was also urged to exercise its full powers instead of being “restricted to approval of legislation drafted by the Executive or in Cabinet.”

“Many elements” of fiscal arrangements also need to be changed to reflect provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the TPMT said.

“There are also some examples of the national government implementing solutions and initiatives unilaterally,” it added.

“Establishment of an effective BARMM government will require both parties to collaborate, and acknowledge that neither can succeed without the full participation of the other.”

The TPMT also lamented the occurrence of regular clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao, “occasional outbreaks” of local conflict in Lanao Del Sur, and encounters with the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.

Marawi rehabilitation

The monitoring team also expressed concern with the “frustration and a lack of information among constituents” on the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.

It claimed that the Task Force Bangon Marawi was “becoming more of a stumbling block rather than a facilitator of transformation in the city,” noting that rehabilitation plans were prepared without the participation of affected residents.

The TPMT also said stakeholders were concerned about the announcement of a new AFP base in Marawi that was reportedly decided upon without consulting the Bangsamoro Government.

“For three years, a large portion of the citizens of Marawi have been removed from their homes and their history. Despite many promises, the rehabilitation of the city and return of citizens to the most-affected area has no clear end date,” it said.

Formed in 2013, the TPMT is led by its chairman Heino Marius and composed of Karen Tañada, Hüseyin Oruc, Dr. Rahib L. Kudto, and Sam Chittick.

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte had agreed with the proposal to extend the BTA lifespan from 2022 to 2025. The BTA is the interim governing body of BARMM until its 80 current appointed members are replaced by successors elected in the 2022 polls.

At least three measures seeking to postpone the 2022 election for 80 regional parliament members and extending the three-year term of the BTA until 2025 have been filed at the House of Representatives by Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez.  (AGM)

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