Monday, October 8, 2012

Peace in Mindanao

By Ben Cal

An enduring peace in Mindanao is seen at last with the forging of a framework of peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set to be signed next week following the successful 32nd exploratory peace talks between the GPH and MILF in Kuala Lumpur Saturday.

This was after 15 long years of tough negotiations, marked by a series of bloody fights between government forces and Muslim rebels, including the 2000 all-out war that collapsed the peace process, followed by the 2008 heavy fighting when the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Despite the barriers, the government and the MILF continued their backdoor negotiations to revive the peace process in both instances.

In the late 1970s, the MILF peeled off from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) due to organizational differences.

Fighting in southern Philippines continued without let-up until 1996 when the government then under the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos signed a peace accord on Sept. 2, 1996.

However, the MILF continued its defiance. The Ramos administration initiated a dialogue with the MILF in 1997 but there was little time to forge a peace agreement as Ramos' six-year term ended on June 30, 1998.

Then President Joseph Estrada took over the helm of government.

During Estrada's time the MILF continued to attack government forces in various parts of Mindanao, forcing Estrada to declare an all-out war against the MILF in the summer of 2000.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dealt a heavy blow to the MILF rebels by capturing all their 49 camps, including Camp Abubakar, the MILF's main enclave.

Negotiations were at a standstill.

However, the MILF continued to be a force to reckon with. When Estrada was booted out from power during the so-called 2001 EDSA people power revolt, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency.

The Arroyo government pursued peace negotiations with the MILF.

Its aim was to end the armed conflict, address the social, cultural and economic inequities, and arrive at a viable political arrangement that will reconcile the ideals of the Moro self-government, good governance, and national sovereignty.

But in 2008 heavy fighting again erupted in Mindanao following the non-signing of the controversial MOA-AD, which was declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

After nine years of off-and-on negotiations between the Arroyo government and the MILF, no peace agreement was reached.

In 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III restarted peace negotiations with the MILF to achieve a negotiated political settlement to resolve the armed conflict.

The peace negotiations with the MILF were guided by the flexibilities of the Constitution; the lessons learned and experience of the past administration; the ability of the government to deliver viable political, economic, and social commitments in a peace agreement; and the principles of transparency and inclusivity.

Exploratory talks under the Aquino administration.

It was during the 32 GPH-MILF exploratory talks that the two sides agreed to forge a framework of agreement as a roadmap to a genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao.

However, the other exploratory talks were important as ever as part of the peace-building confidence. The highlights are as follow:

In September 2012 the GPH-MILF held their 31stExploratory Talks

• The Panels reached substantive gains in the negotiations.

• Worked towards the crafting of a framework agreement.

• The respective Technical Working Groups (TWGs) continued their discussions, reached consensus on many issues and submitted preliminary reports which were duly noted by the Panels.

August 2012, GPH-MILF 30th Exploratory Talks

• The Parties organized their respective Technical Working Groups (TWGs) on Power-Sharing and Wealth-Sharing. Both TWGs discussed and reached consensus on some issues on power sharing and revenue generation and wealth sharing arrangements.

• The Parties note the progress in the discussion on aframework agreement.

• The Parties condemned the senseless attacks of the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFF-BIFM), as well as the violent acts of lawless elements in several areas in Mindanao.

July 2012 GPH-MILF 29th Exploratory Talks

• Both sides expressed confidence in wrapping updiscussions on mechanisms towards the realization of a new political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as contained in the April 2012 GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles.

• Continued discussions on power-sharing and other related matters.

May 2012 GPH-MILF 28th Exploratory Talks

• Both sides agreed to go back to their principals and further refine their respective positions on the substantive agenda, which includes wealthsharing, power-sharing, governance, transition roadmap, and normalization for the envisioned new autonomous political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

• ARMM provincial governors joined this round of peace talks as observers and consultants. Present were Maguindanao Gov. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong. Also NorthCotabato 1st district Rep. Jesus Sacdalan was present as consultant.

April 2012 GPH-MILF 27th Exploratory Talks

• The two Parties signed the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012. The document contains the preliminary listing of all points agreed so far, but does not preclude further consensus on other key issues.

• As a document which has been evolved by the Parties in an attempt to check what has already been achieved throughout the history of the talks, it should guide current discussions on the substantive agenda of the negotiations.

March 2012 GPH-MILF 26th Exploratory Talks

• Continued discussions on substantive issues, including power sharing on governance and wealth sharing.

• Approved the request of the Office of the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to sit as observer in the GPH-MILF peace talks.

• Both Parties signed the Terms of Reference for the consultants who will be part of their respective delegations.

February 2012 GPH-MILF 25th Exploratory Talks

• Acknowledge the need to explore creative approaches that will address the political, legal and other dimensions of the problems.

• Considered reports from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and renewed the mandate of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for a period of 12 months beginning February 2012.

January 2012 | GPH-MILF 24th Exploratory Talks

• Discussion of substantive issues: concept of governance, listing of reserved powers of the National Government

• Identification of areas of common ground and agreement to consult with principals on outstanding issues

• Consideration to draft roadmaps toward resolution of the Bangsamoro question.

December 2011 GPH-MILF 23rd Exploratory Talks

• Reaffirmation by both Parties of commitment to move the peace process forward; continued discussions on the substantive points in crafting a framework agreement

• Renewal of mandate of the IMT for another year; adoption of the Terms of Reference of its Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Component November 2011

• Informal executive meeting to address pressing issues regarding the negotiations, especially the fighting that erupted in Basilan and Zamboanga in October.

• Agreed on a process that will enable the parties to move forward on the substantive agenda.

• Authorized the International Monitoring Team in coordination with the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (Joint CCCH) to conduct an investigation of the charges of ceasefire violations in Al Barka and Zamboanga Sibugay.

October 2011

• From January to August 2011, only an armed skirmish between GPH and MILF forces took place; cooperated in addressing other sources of violence such as rido, land-related issues and criminal activities.

• On Oct. 18, a major encounter between the government and MILF forces took place in Al Barka, Basilan. This was immediately followed by two separate ambushes against government security forces in Zamboanga Sibugay and Lanao del Norte. The AFP consequently conducted pursuit operations against the attackers in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay.

August 2011 GPH-MILF 22nd Exploratory Talks

• President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, as a grand gesture of sincerity in the peace process, met with MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim in Japan on Aug. 4, 2011 prior to the peace talks held this month

• Submission of the government's 3-for-1 proposal to the MILF by the GPH Peace Panel.

April 2011 GPH-MILF 21st Exploratory Talks

• GPH Peace Panel sought clarifications on some points of MILF's Revised Comprehensive Compact

• Introduction of the new Malaysian third partyfacilitator, Tengku Dato AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, replacing Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abdul Razak, facilitator for the past nine years.

February 2011 GPH-MILF 20th Exploratory Talks

• Resumption of peace negotiations

• MILF submitted their Revised Comprehensive Compact

• Amendment of Terms of Reference and mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) or 12 months Peace Adviser: Teresita Quintos Deles (2010-present)

GPH Peace Panel: (2010-present)

Chair: Atty. Marvic Leonen,

Members: Prof Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Sec. Senen Bacani, Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao, Dr. Hamid Barra, and Mayor Ramon Piang Sr. (alternate member)

MILF Peace Panel: Chair: Mohagher Iqbal

Members: Atty. Michael O.

Mastura, Atty. Maulana M. Alonto,

Atty. Abdullah Camlian, Prof.

Abhoud Syid Linga, and Datu

Antonio Kinoc (alternate member)

Other backgrounds of the peace process:

In 2001 when then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the presidency, she reversed her predecessor's policy and brought the GRP-MILF peace process back on track.

The two parties agreed on three negotiating agenda: security, rehabilitation, and ancestral domain. President Arroyo invited the Government of Malaysia to become the official third-party facilitator of the GRP-MILF peace talks.

However, on Feb. 11, 2003, a military campaign was launched in the area of MILF Central Command Headquarters at Buliok Complex, Maguindanao.

On June 13, 2003, MILF Chair and founder Hashim Salamat died of a heart attack. Al Haj Murad Ebrahim took over while Mohagher Iqbal became the Chairman of the MILF peace panel.

Other milestones:

- Signing of the Agreement of the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and MILF

- Signing of the Agreement of Peace between the GRP and the MILF, otherwise known as Tripoli Agreement of 2001

- Series of exploratory talks between the parties were held in 2001

- Signing of the Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001

- Signing of the Manual of Instructions for Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Local Monitoring Teams (LMT)

- Signing of the "Joint Communique between the GRP and the MILF" for the joint creation of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)" which aims at the isolation and interdiction of all criminal syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom groups, including the so-called "lost-commands" operating in Mindanao

- Creation of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), an international peacekeeping team in Mindanao; signing of the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the IMT; and agreement on the inclusion of NGOs as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Mindanao People's Caucus.

- Signing of the "Framework Agreement on the Formation of the International Contact Group (ICG) for the GRP-MILF Peace Process."

- Agreement to set up a Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) in Cotabato City.

Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA -AD)

In December 2004, the peace negotiations transitioned to the third agenda item on ancestral domain.

Under the ancestral domain aspect are four strands: concept, territory, resources, and governance. Negotiations on ancestral domain would complete the requirements in the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 and it will be a critical aspect of discussions for the reaching Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and MILF.

The scheduled signing of the MOA-AD by the parties on Aug. 5 was blocked when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on August 4, in response to the injunction filed by a group of Mindanao local government officials questioning the legality of the agreement. On Oct. 14, 2008, the high court declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional.

The decision triggered renewed hostilities between forces of the government and MILF in Central Mindanao.

On June 3, 2010, the Government of the Philippines and the MILF signed a "Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiations between GPH and MILF" embodying the parties' commitment to continue engaging with each other in the GPH-MILF Peace Process until they finally conclude and reach a comprehensive compact.

Peace talks under the Estrada administration formally opened in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Oct. 25, 1999. However, Estrada declared an "all-out war" policy against the MILF on March 21, 2000. This caused the withdrawal of the MILF from the negotiating table.

After the ravages of war, the MILF sought support from the international community. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OICs) urged the GRP and the MILF to end military hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

- Signing of Joint GRP-MILF Acknowledgment and Agreement to Reaffirm the Pursuit of Peace

- Issuance of a Joint Statement on the Cessation of Hostilities; a Statement for Joint Efforts to Pursue Just, Equitable, Lasting Peace; a Second Joint GRP-MILF Agreement

- Opening of Formal Peace Talks on October 25, 1999. However, Estrada gave the MILF a deadline for the conclusion of peace talks with the government on June 2000.

The GPH-MILF peace negotiations started in 1997 during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.

The early part of negotiations was characterized as revolving mainly around security issues, confidence-building measures, and AFP-MILF ceasefire matters.


- Setting up of ceasefire mechanisms for the GPH-MILF peace process, namely the creation of Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Local Monitoring Teams (LMT)

- Signing of the Agreement for General Cessation of Hostilities on July 21, 1997

- Signing of Implementing Administrative Guidelines of the GRPMILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities on Sept 12, 1997 and the Implementing Operational Guidelines of the GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities on Nov. 14, 1997.

Peace Advisers:

(2001- Oct. 2003) Eduardo Ermita;

(Oct. 2003 -July 2005) Teresita Quintos-Deles;

(July 2005 – 30 Jan. 2006) Rene Sarmiento (OIC);

(Feb. 2006-July 30, 2008) Jesus Dureza;

(2008 – Feb.2009) Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.;

(2009 – 12 Oct. 2009) Avelino I. Razon, Jr.; (Oct. 2010);

Nabil Tan (OIC);

(23 Oct. 2009 – 30 June 2010) Anabelle T. Abaya

Gov't Peace Panel: (2001) Sec. Jesus G. Dureza - Chairman

Members: Vice-Gov Mahid Mutilan, Mayor Muslimin Sema, Dr Emily Marohombsar, Ms Irene Santiago.

(0ct 22, 2003) Sec Silvestre Afable – Chairman

Usec Rodolfo Garcia, Prof Rudy Rodil, Governor Datupax Mangudadatu, Ms Sylvia Okinlay- Paraguya, Mr Saeed Daof

(2003) Sec. Eduardo Ermita – Chairman

Memmbers: Governor Datupax Mangudadatu, Mayor MusliminSema, Dr Emily Marohombsar, Ms Irene Santiago

(2007) Sec. Rodolfo Garcia – Chairman

Members: Sec. Nasser Pangandaman, Prof Rudy Rodil, Ms Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya

(2008) Amb Rafael Seguis – Chairman

Members: Sec Nasser Pangandaman, Dr Ronald Adamat, AttyAntonio La ViƱa, Dr Grace Rebollo

Resigned (Panel Members): Mayor Adelbert Antonino, Atty Tomas Cabili

MILF Peace Panel: (2001-2002) Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Mohagher Iqbal, Atty. Michael O. Mastura, Atty. Musib M. Buat

Peace Adviser: Emmanuel Yan (March 1994 – 2001)

Gov't Peace Panel: Lt. Gen Edgardo Batenga - Chairman (2000)

MILF Peace Panel: Aleem AbdulAzis Mimbantas, Mohagher Iqbal,

Ghazali Jaafar, Omar Hassan, Sammy Al-Mansour(1998-1999)

Peace Adviser: Haydee Yorac (September 1992-Sept. 14 1993), Oscar Santos (Sept. 15, 1993 – February 1994), Emmanuel Yan (March 1994 – 2001)

Gov't Panel Chairman: Gen Fortunato Abat (1996), LtGen Orlando Soriano (1997)

Gov't Panel Members: Rep Anthony Dequina, Dr Emily Marohombsar, Major Gen. Santos Gabison Jr

MILF Peace Panel: GhazalI Jaafar R, Sammy Al-mansour Omar

Hasan, Abdulmanaf MantawiL, Atty. Omar B. Umpar (1997).

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