Duterte asked: ‘Do the right thing for Mindanao’
KORONADAL CITY—Peace advocacy group Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte “to continue shepherding the Bangsamoro peace process.”
MPC secretary general Mary Ann Arnado vowed that the group will not get tired of asking the president “to do the right thing for Mindanao.”
Amid growing expectations from civil society groups and local leaders, Duterte failed to mention during his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) the need to extend by another three years the transition as among his priority legislative proposals.
Earlier, Duterte endorsed the measure to extend the Bangsamoro transition by postponing regional parliamentary elections in 2022 to 2025.
But since last month, the president said he is staying “neutral” on the clamor because of opposition from Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi and Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan.
“As a son of Mindanao, as one who takes pride in saying he has Moro roots, we know that President Duterte knows by heart that Mindanao cannot fully flex the wings of development and prosperity without peace,” Arnado said in a statement.
Arnado said Duterte made history when he inaugurated the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) as the interim government tasked with carrying out crucial institutional reforms in war-torn Moroland.
The BTA, whose mandate will end on June 30, 2022 if elections push through, earlier passed a resolution seeking to extend the transition period for three more years, citing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to governance in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) both stressed the need to extend the transition period in the BARMM to give more time to implement provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
The CAB is the final peace agreement between the government and the MILF signed in 2014 during the Aquino administration after 17 years of negotiations. The key component of the peace agreement was the creation of the Bangsamoro region, which was established in 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, popularly called the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Duterte signed the BOL three years ago. The CAB also provides for the decommissioning of MILF fighters, surrender of weapons and the transformation of Moro rebel camps into productive economic zones.
Dozens of civil society organizations within and outside the Bangsamoro region supported the move to extend the transition phase. Last March, the groups submitted to the Palace a petition for the president to certify the proposals for BTA extension as urgent, signed by more than one million people.
“We beg him (Duterte) to continue shepherding the Bangsamoro peace process until the necessary institutional reforms are completed and the 40,000 combatants are decommissioned and have fully returned to normal productive lives,” Arnado said.
At least 12,000 or 30 percent of MILF combatants have been decommissioned so far since 2019. Of the promised P1 million package for socio-economic assistance per guerilla, each deactivated fighter received P100,000 in cash.
During his SONA, Duterte said: “The bloodshed caused by the separatist movement in Mindanao is all about correcting the historical injustice suffered by the Moro people. With the help of Congress, we were able to pass the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, finally fulfilling a promise that was decades in the making.”
However, Duterte did not mention anything about the clamor to extend the transition period in the BARMM.
The President fell short of pointing to Congress the right direction to take for the transition period to fully accomplish and deliver the commitments mutually agreed upon by the government and the MILF in the CAB, the MPC said.
“But we are confident that both houses of Congress know the right direction is extension,” the group added.
Arnado noted that with 65 days remaining prior to the filing of candidacy on Oct. 1, 2021, Congress will navigate on a very narrow timeline within which to pass the extension bill.
“We urge our esteemed Senators and Representatives to utilize and exhaust every window of opportunity within the month of August to pass this important legislation,” Arnado said.
At the July 23 Bangsamoro Governance Summit, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri assured the region’s leaders that the Senate is on the “final stages of passing the bill”
“Within a month’s time, we will get it done,” said Zubiri.
“We believe the House of Representatives will be as decisive,” Arnado said.
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