Peace talks back to square one
All peace talks with Moro rebels in Mindanao are “back to square one” under the Rodrigo Duterte administration, according to newly elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who is tipped to be the next Speaker.
“There’s no more need” for a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Mindanao lawmaker said in an interview with the Inquirer.
He said the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the government signed in 2014 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be fleshed out with enabling legislation in the form of the BBL, had also been rendered moot by the new government and its plan to federalize the political system.
“That’s moot already. There’s no point to it anymore,” Alvarez said.
When asked to clarify if he meant all peace agreements with the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari, he said: “Yes… Everything is back to square one.”
Alvarez said the federal system of government, as espoused by Duterte’s campaign and which he would pursue as the next leader of the House of Representatives, would fix the Mindanao problem, making it unnecessary to enact a separate law.
Under a federal government, Mindanao would function as a self-governing state with its leaders enjoying more powers and resources.
Alvarez would not discuss in detail how Congress would go about amending the 1987 Constitution, or how leaders would muster the absolute three-fourths majority needed to accomplish this in each of the two legislative chambers.
He only said the legislative part of this process should happen in the first three years.
“By midterm elections, that should be submitted for a referendum. Before the end of his term, we should be in transition, and, hopefully when he steps down, we have a new form of government,” he said.
Alvarez said the lawmakers should take the cue from Duterte and the mandate he received from the people.
He argued that Duterte was elected on the strength of his campaign promises, including the shift to a federal system similar to that of the United States and Malaysia.
He expressed optimism that the outgoing Davao mayor would be able to end the war in Mindanao.
“I’m very confident Mayor Duterte can do it. He can end insurgency because he understands the real issues,” he said. “Mayor Duterte has a good relationship with the rebels.”
Asked to explain why BBL was not passed, Alvarez said the government and MILF peace negotiators were at fault for not clearing it with Congress first.
“They negotiated but there was no public hearing. There was nothing on the ground. That’s why there were vehement objections in the House of Representatives,” he said.
Alvarez was at one point a leader of One People Mindanao, a group advocating for Mindanao’s complete independence.
“We espoused Mindanao independence out of frustration with government. Our advocacy was for the secession of the Mindanao republic,” he said.
But it was not a rebellion, Alvarez clarified. “We had no armed struggle.”
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