GPH, MILF peace pact complies with the Constitution - Palace | Inquirer News

GPH, MILF peace pact complies with the Constitution – Palace

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 05:23 PM January 26, 2014

Moro Islamic Liberation Front. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The touchy agreement deactivating the army of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had been crafted to comply with the Constitution, Malacañang declared Sunday.

Hailing it as a milestone, Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed to prioritize the approval of legislation creating a new Bangsamoro region.

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The government and MILF on Saturday concluded negotiations on the normalization annex in Kuala Lumpur, which would entail the gradual disarmament of the rebel group and the decommissioning of its 11,000-strong forces.

This served as a call to the Moro National Liberation Front founded by Nur Misuari to return to the peace process, Malacañang said.  The MNLF signed a peace agreement in 1996 with the Ramos administration, but has had serious disagreements with successive Philippine governments on the implementation of its peace agreement, resulting in armed confrontations, including the Zamboanga City siege in 2013, said to be led by an MNLF faction led by Misuari.

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“The government negotiators followed the President’s directive to make sure each provision is constitutional, reflects the lessons of previous peace processes, and most important, is consistent with political, cultural and economic capabilities of both parties,’’ Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said over radio.

This and three other signed annexes make up the comprehensive peace agreement that the government will sign with the MILF within the year.  They will be the basis for crafting a proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to be submitted to Congress.

Drilon said the cessation of armed violence was “arguably, the most vital step in the comprehensive peace agreement process.’’

“The admirable commitment and hard work of both parties — the government, the MILF panel, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process — have led to a historic stride in this decades-old quest for peace in Mindanao,’’ he said.

Drilon said the chamber looked forward to scrutinizing the proposed Bangsamoro law, vowing that this would be given “utmost priority.’’

“The Senate is more than ready to work on the new Bangsamoro basic law – one that would be universally fair, practical and Constitutionally consistent,’’ he said in a statement.

Coloma expressed hope that Congress could tackle the proposed law so that this could be approved in a plebiscite by next year, and that a new set of officials of the new Bangsamoro entity would be elected by 2016.

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Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Teofisto Guingona III, both from Southern Philippines, called the signing an achievement.

Pimentel, however, said that the proposed Bangsamoro law should capture the “essence’’ of the four annexes, and would be scrutinized for compliance with the Constitution.

“The lawmakers should be careful here. We should make sure that the basic law that is approved is constitutional,’’ he said in a radio interview.

Coloma aired hopes that the annex would help contribute to the silencing of guns in the South.

More important, this should serve as a signal to all stakeholders, including disgruntled members of the MNLF to resume its peace process with the Philippine government, Coloma said.

“Until now, they’re being encouraged to take part in the peace process. Our peace process is inclusive,’’ he said over State-run dzRB.

Coloma said the government respected the opinion of individuals who were predicting the “disintegration’’ of rebel groups with the signing of the normalization annex.

Misuari’s followers laid siege to seaside villages in Zamboanga City in September 2013, leaving more than 100 dead, and forcing close to 120,000 people to flee their homes. Aquino flew to the war zone to oversee the military offensive against the rebels, who were eventually flushed out.

Misuari, who felt left out of talks between the government and the MILF to forge a new peace agreement by year-end, was suspected of instigating the attacks.

Coloma said the signing of the normalization annex could also signal the start of crackdown on private armed groups.

“Part of the process of normalization is the cooperation of the MILF with the Armed Forces to break up private armed groups for us to achieve genuine peace in Mindanao,’’ he said.

Dealing with a breakaway group should be merely a “matter of law enforcement’’ against groups not recognized by the MILF, Pimentel said.

Guingona said the signing of the annex brought the Filipinos “closer to the aspiration for genuine peace and development for the Bangsamoro.’’

“We believe this is a major step towards achieving our aspiration for peace and stability in Mindanao,’’ he said in a statement.  “I reiterate the full support of the Senate Peace, Unification and Reconciliation Committee to the efforts of both the Government and the MILF to bring the process to the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. ‘’

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV welcomed the signing with “guarded optimism’’ and appealed to stakeholders to monitor the process every step of the way, and ensure full benefits for both parties.

“Of course there’s a promise of lasting peace… but we need to study the provisions so these won’t cause any problem,’’ he said.

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TAGS: Franklin Drilon, Malacañang, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, News, Office of the President, Peace agreement, peace negotiations, peace process, Peace Talks, Philippine Government, Philippine Senate
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