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COTABATO CITY – The Duterte administration has bared its so-called “roadmap to peace” and efforts are being undertaken to convince the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and rival Moro National Liberation Front to unite and pursue a separate homeland or federal state where Muslims can practice Sharia laws.

This peace initiative would also include the Muslim autonomous region and other indigenous groups in Mindanao.

Government media said the peace strategy now entails the operationalization of a mechanism where an all-Muslim body will be tasked to draft anew a more inclusive enabling law that will be filed with Congress in lieu of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that was not rejected by lawmakers during President Benigno Aquino’s term.

It envisions the consolidation and convergence of the various peace agreements already entered into like the MILF’s Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 and the MNLF’s 1996 Final Peace Agreement, including relevant provisions of the ARMM Law and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act.

The government said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission – provided for in the CAB – will be reconstituted with representation coming from the MILF, MNLF, the ARMM, and other Muslim representatives. It said work on the proposed Bangsamoro enabling law will be done simultaneous with the moves to shift to a federal form of government.

The new BTC will also be mandated to propose amendments to the Constitution that are pertinent to the Bangsamoro as inputs towards eventual federalism in the country.

ARMM welcomes peace map

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he welcomes the efforts of the new administration, adding, it shows Duterte’s commitment to peace and recognizes the urgency of the issue.

“The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao knows first-hand the effects of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that is inclusive and accounts for the realities on ground. With the support of the national government, the ARMM has made strides in matters of economic development and has brought basic social services closer to the people.”

“President Duterte’s decision to build on the gains of past negotiations and ensure the implementation of the long-signed agreements between the government and the MILF is also a step forward in the right direction. That his administration has made it a priority to act upon previously mutual agreements, trusting the wisdom of those who have always been at the forefront of the peace negotiations, sets a proactive tone with regard to the peace process, especially when it comes to addressing the Bangsamoro struggle,” he said.

Hataman said they appreciate the sense of urgency that guided the decision to work on a new proposed Bangsamoro enabling law alongside moves toward the planned shift to federalism, acknowledging the shift will take time relative to pursuing a legislation affirming the gains of a peace process that has been in motion more than a decade.

“The ARMM regional government has always taken an active role in the struggle for peace and justice and we look forward to working with the Duterte administration in hopes of finally realizing the dreams and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

MILF wants BBL

Just last month, MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim held talks with Duterte in Davao City. Ebrahim was accompanied by his political deputy Ghazali Jaafar when they met with Duterte at a restaurant where a senior member of an MNLF faction Abul Khayr Alonto joined them. 

The meeting discussed the issues of the Muslims in Mindanao and the shift to federal form of government as being proposed by Duterte.  The MILF previously insisted the new government approved the passage of the BBL to appease the Muslims. 

Ebrahim said they are confident with Duterte that the “peace process will not be relegated in status, as it has proven to be potentially the most viable solution to address conflict arising from historical injustices committed against our people.” He said the MILF remains committed in its continued pursuit to find long-lasting peace and development in Mindanao. Ebrahim said the BBL could be a possible template for federalism.

During Duterte’s political campaign, he said “nothing can appease the Bangsamoro until the BBL is passed.”

The MILF also pledged to exert efforts in undertaking its obligations to fully implement the commitments under the CAB. “The MILF maintains its position that the CAB-based Bangsamoro Basic Law needs to be immediately passed into law, not only because it effectively addresses the peculiarities unique to the Bangsamoro that are not necessarily found in other prospective federal states,” Ebrahim said.

MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari had opposed the BBL, saying, it violated the peace accord they signed, and demanded the Philippine government to comply with the provision of the agreement. Misuari is wanted by authorities in connection to rebellion charges following the 2013 deadly attacks in Zamboanga City by his followers.

Congress failed to pass the BBL after politicians opposed to the draft law said many of its provisions were unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)

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