INPUT ON THE MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS
“Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF. Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now. While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.” – Teresita Quintos Deles, PAPP
(Presented during the Panel Discussion on Mindanao at the 2013 Philippines Development Forum (PDF), held in Davao City on 4 February 2013
By Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)
This 2013 Philippines Development Forum comes at a most propitious time in the Mindanao peace process. The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or the FAB, which was signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October, 2012, has been hailed here and worldwide as a breakthrough in what has been a very long-drawn and protracted peace process. Today, hope has returned that finally there will be peace in Mindanao.
The fragile peace in Mindanao, intermittently broken as it has been with serious outbreaks of violence between GPH and MILF forces, has been a major deterrent to the full development of Southern Philippines. As we enter a new phase of the peace process with the MILF, we welcome fresh opportunities to redraw the development paradigm to ensure sustainable peace and development in the troubled territory. The challenges that lie ahead remain formidable, however, and there are dangers that we need to watch out and prepare for.
This morning, I have been asked to share the latest developments on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. While there remain significant issues still being negotiated on the table, I hope to be able to provide you with a broad but extensive view of how the FAB may change the political, economic, and social landscape in this part of the country, which will, in turn, have a major impact on the development not only of Mindanao but of the entire Philippines.
While people’s interest and attention are surely focused on the GPH-MILF peace process, I hope towards the end of my presentation also to spend a few minutes to speak on our other peace table with the CPP/NPA/NDF. In particular, I wish to draw your attention to the aftermath of the disaster caused by Pablo, which, in a different way, has also changed the landscape of another part of Mindanao.
Let me start with the update on what has happened since the FAB was signed in October, 2012, less than four months ago.
First, the government has a new Chair in the person of Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, or Iye to many of us. Iye is a professor of Political Science of the University of the Philippines. She has been a long time civil society peace advocate who has pursued different levels of engagement with various Philippine peace processes, particularly with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the MILF, and the CPLA. She was appointed a member of the GPH Panel for talks with the MILF at the start of this administration, at the same time that now-Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was appointed Panel Chair.
Professor Ferrer is the first woman Chair for the peace process with the MILF. From her background and practice in the academe, she brings with her a keen eye for detail, a capacity to sift through the many technical dimensions embedded in the annexes and put forward a clarity of understanding that serves the process well. We are confident that Iye, who leads a line-up of other ground-breaking women on the peace table, will bring to a satisfactory conclusion to what Justice Leonen had started.
Since the FAB signing, three rounds of talks have been held in Kuala Lumpur, one meeting per month since November, 2012 – one while Justice Leonen was still chair and two under Professor Ferrer. In all these rounds of talks, four joint Technical Working Groups or TWGs, which have equal representation from both parties, have been working simultaneously on four Annexes to the FAB. As stated in the FAB, these are the Annexes on (1) Power-Sharing, on (2) Wealth-Sharing, on (3) Normalization, and on (4) Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. It is the TWG’s task to draft the text of their respective Annexes for adoption by the Panels and eventual approval by the parties’ respective principals.
The parties’ joint work on the Annexes has been evolutionary. In her closing remarks at the last round of talks last January 26, Professor Ferrer recounted: “When we organized our working groups, we had no TORs. We had no rules except the basic ethic of respect and decency. We evolved, round after round. We explored together. We adjusted. We agreed and disagreed together. We vetted ideas, words, paragraphs, even whole sheets, of draft formulations one after another to each other.”
At the end of the last round of talks, the two panel chairs jointly announced that they had reached a milestone. The panels adopted and signed the draft Terms of Reference of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), which had been produced by the joint TWG on Transitional Arrangements. The TPMT – I have to warn you that we may have to start another lexicon, born of the Filipinos’ love affair with verbal short-cuts and acronyms, to keep up with the peace process – is envisioned to be an independent body that is tasked to “monitor, review and assess the implementation of all signed agreements, primarily the (FAB) and its Annexes.” It shall be chaired by an eminent international person and shall have two representatives from local NGOs and two representatives from international NGOs as members, one of each category to be nominated by each party. The panels agreed to identify the TPMT chair and members within one month. The TPMT shall exist and function until an Exit Agreement between the two parties has been reached.
Both sides had hoped that the four Annexes would be completed and signed by the end of 2012, as stated in the FAB. Elaborating the Annexes to a mutually satisfactory level of detail has needed an extension of a few more months, however. In negotiating these details, the President’s instructions to the GPH panel remain the same: We cannot agree to anything that we will not be able to deliver. The government will deliver legally, politically, economically, and culturally everything that it signs. It is taking a bit more time but we are confident that the FAB and all its Annexes, as carefully crafted as they are, will be able to pass the test and all provisions will be fully implemented.
While acknowledging that there are still very difficult issues to be negotiated, both sides have expressed optimism that the Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing, and Transitional Arrangements will be completed by the end of February, 2013, while the Annex on Normalization may take up to March. As our GPH chief negotiator has said: “Flexibility has always been our trademark in this process. There are difficult issues, but no issue is insurmountable.”
Once completed, the Annexes on Power Sharing and on Wealth Sharing will provide the parameters for the crafting of the Basic Law which, once passed by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite conducted in all covered areas, will establish the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.
Crafting the Basic Law will require being able to imagine a different way of structuring the regional government in order to ensure true autonomy. Other parts of the country may continue to question, and we will have to continue to explain why, in the words of Professor Ferrer, “it is important to realize self-governance in the envisioned Bangsamoro; why this Bangsamoro is different from local government units and administrative regions in actual terms and as envisioned in the Constitution when it provided in Article X for Autonomous Regions; and why therefore they deserve to have more powers, more support and institutional features that are different from the rest of the country, such as the plural administration of justice system and a ministerial form of government.”
And still again and again, we have had to explain and will continue to explain that these differences do not separate the Bangsamoro from the rest of the country. The Bangsamoro, the MILF are Filipinos.
Provisions on Power-Sharing establish what government powers are reserved to National Government, which ones are exclusive or fully devolved to the autonomous government, and which powers are concurrent or shared between the two. It requires a fine balancing act to determine such power-sharing, given the asymmetric relationship between the central and the regional governments and between the autonomous political entity and local government units. Through the hard work of the joint TWG, good compromises have been reached on many of the provisions. Only three unresolved items remain: on jurisdiction over natural resources, on the sharing of powers related to transportation and communication, and on the new concept of “regional waters” or “water domain.”
Provisions on Wealth Sharing, on the other hand, seek to provide the new political entity with the sufficient level of fiscal autonomy that will allow it to effectively define its development path. Clearly, the status quo embodied in the current ARMM is not acceptable. Presently, ARMM relies solely on the budget it receives from national government, with negligible capacity to generate and retain its own revenue to finance its activities.
An important question is: When can the Bangsamoro attain such fiscal autonomy? How much subsidy should national government provide for how long, and how much internal revenue from what source should it generate and retain? At the same time, it is important to highlight that accountability measures are also an important component of fiscal autonomy and that, as part of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro also has an obligation to contribute to the national coffers.
The joint TWG has achieved consensus on a majority of the proposed provisions, with only three items left for resolution: these are on the devolution of taxing powers, on the automatic appropriation of annual block grants, and on the sharing ratio on revenues from natural resources.
The Annex on Normalization, the third Annex, provides for the process that will allow the combatants and their communities to return to or enter into conditions in which they can achieve their desired quality of life. The process involves three major aspects: (1) Security, (2) Socio-economic Development, and (3) Transitional justice and reconciliation. Four components fall under Security: (a) The phased and calibrated decommissioning of combatants and weapons until, in the words of the FAB, “they are put beyond use”; (b) Police reform, with the gradual transfer of law enforcement to the police force in the Bangsamoro; (c) Disbanding private armed groups and eradicating loose firearms; and (d) Maintenance of ceasefire and demilitarization. Normalization will require an interfacing of concurrent actions where the police is reformed and strengthened, the AFP is repositioned for external defense, the MILF is decommissioned, other armed groups are disbanded, and loose firearms eradicated – all these processes timed with the delivery of the political commitments laid out in the FAB.
While many stakeholders are focused on the disarmament of the MILF, it is clear that effective normalization has to go beyond that. One cannot just talk about the arms of the MILF but also of everyone else How can we ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or families with which they may be in conflict continue to be armed? We are looking towards a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to seriously address how to increase people’s sense of security over their lives and property and how to get citizens to trust that state forces can and will protect them from harm.
Of all the sections of the FAB, the provisions on Normalization, particularly on the aspect of the decommissioning of MILF fighters, is drawing the most questions from the public. There is concern over certain statements from some MILF fighters that they will not give up their arms. We should not be surprised if some members of the MILF, a movement which has been fighting for so long, would have a different perspective on decommissioning. On our part, it is also about being able to assure combatants that there is life beyond fighting. This has to be part of the discussion: What alternatives do we offer?
As the fighters see these developments on the ground – that the peace is real, the land can now be cultivated and crops can grow to full harvest, there is livelihood for me and a market for my products, my children can go to school, there are functional health facilities when a member of my family falls sick – then it will be a matter not just of me giving up something but of a better life I will be gaining for my family and my community, especially our children.
Many provisions of the Annex on Normalization will not need to be enacted into law but can be directly accomplished by the act of the two parties.
Some aspects of the Annex on Transitional Arrangements may also proceed without need of the law. To begin with, Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission was signed by the President last December 17, 2012. Immediately on the following day, on their last working day of the year, both Houses of Congress passed their respective Resolutions expressing support for the FAB and the creation of the Transition Commission.
The TC is the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will be certified by the President for enactment by Congress and, thereafter, ratification through plebiscite. It will be composed of 15 members of which eight, including the chair, are selected by the MILF and seven by government. The MILF has submitted their list of eight, while nominees for the GPH side have been short-listed. The necessary documentation, including clearances from the appropriate bodies, is now being completed for submission to the President. We are looking towards the presidential appointment of the TC chair and members by mid-February.
In accordance with the provisions of the FAB, EO 120 provides a mechanism for authentic democratic collaboration in the crafting of a proposed law by the affected people themselves. The aim is to install the Bangsamoro through a new organic act as soon as possible in order to ensure that an elected Bangsamoro government is in place by 2016, simultaneous with the entry of the next administration. The issuance of the Executive Order creating the Transition Commission marked the delivery of the first political commitment under the FAB. Once the TC is operational with the appointment of its full membership, we will be able to say that the road map set by the FAB is firmly on the move.
This leads us to the provisions of the FAB on the reconstruction of communities in the Bangsamoro that had been affected by the armed conflict. We all know that the areas of the ARMM remain to be the most underdeveloped communities in the country. Almost all MDG indicators, from health to education to maternal and infant mortality and women’s participation, are lowest in ARMM. With the signing and implementation of the FAB, there are high expectations that the peace that the FAB promises will bring accelerated development in the area.
Indeed, government is committed to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of conflict-affected areas and to fast-track socio-economic development in the region. This will be accomplished in a large part by empowering the Bangsamoro themselves through their participation in transforming their own communities. According to the FAB and EO 120, the Transition Commission shall assist in identifying development programs together with the Bangsamoro Development Agency and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute – two institutions initiated by and affiliated with the MILF.
We see two tracks to development for the Bangsamoro. The first one involves the MILF combatants, their immediate families and communities, and those most vulnerable to conflict, particularly IDPs, women, and children. Programs for these beneficiaries will require strong partnership with and leadership from the MILF. Both parties are determined to ensure that the organizational leadership of the MILF takes a leading role in shaping the programs for their internal constituencies. This is imperative for the success of the peace process.
Already, there is a list of projects on health, education, and livelihood that has been drawn up and agreed upon by the GPH and the MILF for implementation in the next twelve months. Tentatively called Sajahatra Bangsamoro (which I understand means the welfare or state of happiness of the Bangsamoro), the program is part of the continuing confidence-building efforts between the two parties as well as assuring the communities that they do not need to wait until 2016 to experience the benefits of the FAB. The program is set to be launched on February 11, 2013, in Maguindanao in the presence of the President and Chair Murad. Sajahatra may be a precursor of more basic services and livelihood programs for the MILF and their communities, and we can anticipate that this program will play an important part of the normalization process under the FAB.
The second track involves the more massive and longterm reconstruction and rehabilitation of the entire Bangsamoro region. For this track, the national government is prepared to do its part to the utmost of its capability and in accordance with the spirit of partnership that it is seeking to forge and strengthen with the MILF. How exactly this will play out requires more discussion, coupled with mutual discernment and discretion, also confidence- and trust-building between the government and MILF, as well as strengthened and appropriate capacity-building for those who will play key planning and implementation roles in whatever programs and projects will be put in place.
Given the healthy financial situation of the Philippine Government due to Daang Matwid, we have been assured by both Secretaries Purisima and Abad that we stand ready to bankroll the costs of the initial and substantial phases of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Through several conduits and directly from Chair Murad himself, we have received information that MILF is embarking on processes to come up with a Bangsamoro Development Plan. We look forward to seeing these processes move forward, even as government continues to maintain and update its own data bases for appropriate future use. We hope that the MILF’s first engagement in the PDF will bear fruit in spurring the process forward.
In the meantime, in the short-term, given that the ARMM remains to be the government entity operating in the area, OIC Regional Governor Hataman will be relied upon in the planning and programming of socio-economic programs and projects for the territory. Governance reforms initiated when he took office in 2012 need to continue and be strengthened. Delivery of basic services needs to be accelerated and improved to facilitate a catch-up on MDG targets. Access, connectivity and markets need to be pursued if livelihood opportunities are to be sustained. Threats from climate change need to be addressed. The current ARMM government needs to accomplish all these not to pre-empt the powers and prerogatives of the prospective new political entity but to provide for a better baseline of governance and development once the new Basic Law on the Bangsamoro becomes a reality.
If all that is needed is infrastructure, much will need to be done, but it will not be that difficult. The task becomes more complex when one sees how development should in turn build and strengthen legitimate institutions within the Bangsamoro territory. We all acknowledge that despite the level of development assistance poured into the area over the past many years, the state of underdevelopment has prevailed. I do not know whether there are estimates on how much has been lost to corruption, inefficiency and poor planning, but it may be safe to say it has been considerable. Just anecdotal conversations in the field indicate that as much as 50 to 70% of budget covers do not reach the intended beneficiaries in many areas in ARMM. While Governor Hataman has been earnest in instituting reforms, much remains to be done.
This means that as we plan and do reconstruction and rehabilitation in the area, we will also need to build legitimate institutions that will guarantee inclusive growth, increase participation in the political and economic decision making, as well as guard against interests that are inimical to social, political and economic empowerment.
The Basic Law for the Bangsamoro will be instrumental in shaping these institutions. Those who will craft the Basic Law should learn from what went wrong before and incorporate into the provisions sufficient guarantees that the institutions to be established in the autonomous region will bring about inclusive, participatory and empowering social and political processes.
Flashed before you is the roadmap to 2016. Important milestones include the completion of the draft Organic Law that will create the Bangsamoro, its passage by Congress, the plebiscite that would ratify the law, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that would ensure the continuing functioning of government in the territory, and, fully anticipating that all the earlier milestones happen, then the elections of officials for the Bangsamoro government in 2016.
It is easy to see that the process laid out in the FAB leading to 2016 is not an easy one. Many things can go wrong. Those who prefer the status quo, which the FAB rejected, are determined to find ways to derail this process. The traditional powerbrokers are still very much entrenched, and it will be a challenge how to engage them rather than totally reject them.
But the roadmap leading to the creation of the Bangsamoro should also be seen as an opportunity to help those who have been working for reform all this time to gain the platform to engage the political arena, and even win in that arena. The ministerial form of government is promising in that it is anchored on a multi-party system, allowing for a multitude of voices aiming to garner the necessary votes to gain power. It will be necessary to increase the voice of those among the Bangsamoro who have been champions of reforms but have not been able to engage the politics of reform. These people need to be capacitated and provided with a platform that will allow them to compete for space in the formal political arena, to not be fearful or embarrassed to deal with the world of politics. This is an important challenge that MILF must become ready to confront.
Reformists need to engage the state and the government if we want to entrench systems and mechanisms for long term reform. If not, we leave these same systems and mechanisms to those whose only desire is to maintain the status quo.
What I have said about institutional reform is very much tied to the whole effort of development in the Bangsamoro. One without the other will not bring us to sustainable just and lasting peace and development, the Framework Agreement notwithstanding. We will need to build inclusive social and political institutions if development is to make a difference in the lives of people in Mindanao. This is an imperative that underlies all of our work.
Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF. Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now. While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.
But, here in Mindanao, the recent disaster brought about by Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Sur presents a unique opportunity for partners of peace and development. Not too many people realize that practically all of the areas affected by Pablo are also areas affected by the conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF. The map shown provides the overlay of Pablo-affected and conflict-affected areas.
As government and its partners begin the difficult work of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Pablo-affected areas, it might be worthwhile to consider a reconstruction philosophy that will guarantee that the re-established communities will not only be more resilient to climate change, but also be free from the armed conflicts that have prevented sustainable development to happen in the area. We are calling on the New People’s Army operating in these areas to truly show they care for these communities by taking this historic opportunity in partnering with us in healing and reconstructing communities badly affected by Pablo.
Every moment provides us with an opportunity to bring peace in our country. With the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro, the partnership between the GPH and the MILF allows us to break through decades of conflict and violence. The Pablo disaster likewise is an invitation to help each other rebuild communities of peace and development.
We are at the dawn of a new era of peace and development in Mindanao. But, as I hope I have laid out for you, much remains to be done. As always, we will need to depend on each other. As always, we will need to have a resolve that will carry us through the challenging times, a spirit that allows us to imagine a future different from the past, and the courage to believe that peace is truly within our reach.
Maraming salamat po. Daghang salamat. Shukran.