October 28, 2015, 3:35a.m. – PEACE negotiators from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) urged Thomasians Tuesday to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to help end conflict in southern Philippines.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government’s panel, and Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the MILF panel, discussed the Mindanao peace process in a forum at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium.

Coronel-Ferrer said the passage of the BBL, one of the priority bills of President Benigno Aquino II, could pave the way for a “just and lasting peace.”

“Peace negotiations in the country started way back in 1997 and our president wants to put an end to that conflict,” Coronel-Ferrer, also a professor of politics in the University of the Philippines, said in her lecture.

The 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), signed during the Ramos administration, ended the MNLF’s rebellion against the government, she said. But efforts to preserve peace were not sustained, she added.

Coronel-Ferrer said only the administrations of Fidel Ramos (1992 to 1998) and Aquino took seriously the need to achieve peace between the government and Moro rebels.

“When you compare the previous administrations, naging urong-sulong ‘yung advocacy natin para makamit ang kapayaan. Ang administrasiyon ngayon ay gumagawa ng paraan para matapos na ito,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

Coronel-Ferrer said achieving peace involved a step-by-step process, and the peace agreement was just the beginning.

“There is no peace agreement that will guarantee a hundred percent effectivity and is the assured solution to end the conflicts with the MILF. We will still look into the future and [take] the next steps,” she said.


Mamasapano incident

According to Coronel-Ferrer, the BBL would have advanced  in Congress if not for the Mamasapano incident last January, in which 44 Special Action Force commandos were killed. There had been no record of armed conflict between the government and the MILF since 2012.

“Kung wala ‘yung Mamasapano incident at naprotektahan hanggang ngayon iyong ceasefire between MILF and the government, tapos na sana ‘yung plebiscite at may socio-economic programs na dapat tayo na ilalabas. By 2016, election na sana for the Bangsamoro,” she said.

“Kapag hindi ito naipasa ngayong administrasyong Aquino, magiging problema na naman ito ng susunod na presidente, assuming na suportado niya ito. Kapag naman hindi, mag-uumpisa na naman tayo sa simula,” she said.

Lingga, executive director of a Bangsamoro studies center in Cotabato, said that if Aquino secured passage of the BBL before the end of his term, he would make a big difference and surpass what Ramos had done.


The peace process

To allow the government to achieve peace with the MILF, the largest armed group in the country, a peace agreement must be forged and a law that will enable the implementation of the agreement must be passed.

The BBL, drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which serves as the final peace pact between the government and the MILF.

The BTC is composed of 15 Bangsamoro members, seven of which were selected by the government. Eight persons, including the chairman, were selected by the MILF.

The proposed law describes the ‘’Bangsamoro as an autonomous political entity, which will have a parliamentary form of government. It will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”’

During the transition period, Aquino will appoint a team called the “Bangsamoro Transition Authority” to temporarily assume power until formal elections take place.

The lecture-seminar was the first of the “PNoy Aquino Administration Lecture Series” spearheaded by the UST Department of Political Science and the Political Science Forum of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Alhex Adrea M. Peralta 


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