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COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (2)

2nd of nine parts

Murad’s suggestion

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 Dec) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews on June 25, 2016 that the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), submitted to Congress in 2014, would be “improved” through a convergence of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) before presenting it to the 17th Congress again. This converged version is what is now referred to in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR) as Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL).

He suggests the “convergence” can better be done through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) that the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initiated in 2010 and which OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani strengthened during his visit in Davao City in April last year.

How practicable is this?

As we have shown earlier, the CAB, FPA and R.

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A. No. 9054 amending R.A. No. 6734 are virtually converged in Draft BBL. The Murad suggestion – the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and MILF doing the converging as members of the BCF under the auspices of the OIC  – will allow them to study more closely the three documents, see their common, complementary and supplementary provisions, and determine what more to converge into Draft BBL to come up with the most meaningful Bangsamoro-centered BEL.

On January 20, 2015, during hearing of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, Muslimin Sema and Abul Khayr Alonto, chairmen of their respective MNLF factions, supported the peaceful solution of the Moro Problems; but they differed in their views of the CAB as the solution – Alonto endorsing the Bangsamoro with some reservations, Sema fearing the loss of “all that we have gained in the last 40 years”. They both called for the Moros to unite. (GMA News, 1/20/15; Inquirer.net, 1/20/15; The Philippine Star, 1/21/15)

On November 12, 2014, during the BCF meeting in Makati, the MILF and MNLF exchanged position papers on the Moro Problem – that of the MNLF anchored on “MNLF’s humble contribution on how the autonomous set up should look like in the Bangsamoro Basic Law”. (MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal in his “Opening Statement”)

On December 12, 2015, the MNLF (Sema and Alonto factions) and MILF leaders held their “unification and reconciliation meeting in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao”; they “expressed their hope and optimism” for the passage of Draft BBL.

The three events bode well for Murad’s suggestion and convergence in Duterte’s BPDR. With the help of the OIC, they will be able to assess the gains under the MNLF and see whether under the CAB these gains could be lost as feared or preserved and enhanced as MILF has assured. The OIC must have the moral suasion to open blocked minds and temper animosities and distrusts.

But there are disturbing questions:

  1. How long will it take them to finish the converging? This can hold up the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and upset its timeline ending July 2017.
  2. Murad has hinted that the MNLF-MILF output would be submitted to the OIC-ICFM (Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers) which only meets annually. This will further upset the BTC timeline.
  3. The MNLF-Misuari faction did not attend the House Ad Hoc Committee hearing and the BCF meetings in Makati and Sultan Kudarat.
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    The “BIG Question Mark” then hanging over the prospects of MNLF-MILF unity through BCF under the auspices of the OIC turned out to be a “BIG NO” after the temporary release of Misuari.

Of Questions “1” and “2”, the OIC can ease anxieties. It should give the assurance it will only mediate and facilitate. After the convergence has been done, it will disengage letting the MNLF, MILF, BTC and Government follow the BPDR.

The challenge of Question “3” looms. Can the OIC and President Duterte solve the Enigma named Misuari?    

Misuari: Solution or Problem?

President Duterte, by his own admission to the media, ordered the court – and the court obliged – to suspend the arrest warrant pending against Misuari, thus, freezing the rebellion case and freeing him. Except for two conditions (MN 11/3/16: Misuari is…), he is almost absolutely free: (1) the suspension is for six months “unless sooner lifted”; (2) when the peace talk is outside the country he or OPAPP should seek court permission and  report to the Philippine embassy there. Otherwise, according to Secretary Dureza, he can go wherever and do whatever he likes (GMA News 11/3/16)

Misuari will always be center of media attention – and, an enigma, too. At the time that President Duterte was in Malaysia for a state visit, philstar.com (11/9/16: Duterte eyes …), reported he had flown to Abu Dhabi – perhaps, a case of bad reporting. December 5, philstar.com (Court junks Misuri’s motion to travel abroad), reported the Pasig Regional Trial Court reiterated that he can leave the country only in “connection with the peace process”.  On December 14, three Manila media reported he flew to Saudi Arabia to confer with Islamic heads of state regarding the peace talks with PH Government.

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Misuari’s release is considered necessary for peace in Mindanao. Will the suspension of his case be automatically extended should the peace talk with him drag on and on?

Key to the Solution: Media reports on November 3, when Misuari was specially flown in to Malacanang to meet for two hours President Duterte and the press, to two or three days after portrayed Misuari as the key to the solution of the Mindanao peace problem.

Mutual confidence: The President and he embraced like “long-lost brothers” – indeed addressing each other “Brother” – expressing their mutual trust and confidence to each other. Duterte thanked Misuari for accepting his invitation; Misuari thanked Duterte for inviting him and “restoring my freedom”.

Working for Peace: Misuari vowed to work for peace; Duterte assured him his place and role in the peace process – obviously, in the BTC and BTA — as planned in the Roadmap (BPDR).

On Track: OPAPP, Secretary Dureza’s Office, hailed as “an unprecedented and historic development” the participation of both the MILF and the “Misuari MNLF on board” in the search of peace ( PDI 11/5/16:Peace process …) – some of its members to be appointed to the BTC. Dureza dubbed Misuari as “one of the key players in our efforts for sustainable and comprehensive peace” for having “played a key role in the pursuit of peace”.

The President and Dureza must have spoken out their elation and optimism a day too early which reactive media were just too obliging to play up in their headlines. Either they presumed Misuari would go along the BPDR convergence track; or, knowing the contrary, they were hoping for a miraculous change. They were disguising Misuari the Problem as the Solution. It’s naïve to believe they did not know they were doing so!

Tomorrow: The Contrary


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