Senators hail government, MILF peace panels

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Sunday, January 26, 2014


MANILA, (Updated) - Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Sunday hailed the peace panels from both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in their recent signing of the Annex on Normalization.

Drilon said that the Senate is “more than prepared to work on legislation capacitating the peace accords,” which would end four decades of armed conflict in central Mindanao.

The normalization annex, the last of the four documents that make up the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro – states the deactivation of the 11,000-strong MILF fighting force, and the eventual turnover of their arms. The framework agreement is the blueprint for the final peace agreement.

The annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and transitional arrangements had already been signed previously after the Framework Agreement last October 2012.

“The completion of all the annexes has proven that we Filipinos are not ruled by our differences, but by our shared desire for peace, equality and prosperity as a nation,” he said.

"The admirable commitment and hard work of both parties- the government, the MILF panel, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process- have led to a historic stride in this decades-old quest for peace in Mindanao," he added.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III also said that the annex on normalization was an indication of the MILF's sincerity in sealing a peace pact with the government.

“There are solid commitments here for the decommissioning of firearms and the socio-economic empowerment of conflict-affected communities. When the MILF combatants fully embrace the cause of peace, it is with the knowledge that their families and communities will gain not just physical security but economic security as well,” Pimentel said.

Drilon said that the cessation of using arms and violence is “arguably, the most vital step in the comprehensive peace agreement process.”

“Peace in Mindanao will bring about political stability and socio-economic development in the entire country,” he also said.

The Senate President said that the Senate “looks forward to seeing and finally scrutinizing the proposed Bangsamoro law that will institute the necessary reforms called for in the Agreement,” and that the law will be given utmost priority in the Senate.

“The Senate is more than ready to work on the new Bangsamoro basic law – one that would be universally fair, practical and Constitutionally-consistent," Drilon emphasized.

“We would absolutely welcome the chance to be a part of this historic undertaking, and we look forward to cooperating with the various stakeholders in building the legislative tenets of what would finally represent our collective capacity for harmony and cooperation," he concluded.

Pimentel, who hails from Mindanao, said he would study every provision in the four annexes and addendum on the Bangsamoro waters so he can be an informed source on the complex issues.

“Next to the conclusion of the fourth and final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is the formal signing of the comprehensive peace pact that will be the basis of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. As legislators, I expect that we shall all do our homework in studying this comprehensive agreement while the draft law is yet to be submitted to us by the President,” Pimentel added.

Pimentel also said that he is willing to work closely with civil society groups and the legal community in bringing the comprehensive peace pact closer to the people.

“This peace agreement is not only for Mindanao but for the entire country. Mindanao comprises 1/3 of the Philippines. If we are successful in achieving a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, then we will emerge as a stronger, more united and therefore more competitive nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the MILF stressed the final peace deal will not only benefit the group in light of the pronouncement of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFF) that it will keep fighting for an independent Islamic state.

The BIFF left the MILF three years ago due to policy differences.

"May iba pang mga grupo ng Bangsamoro combatants na nakikipaglaban sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas ngunit lahat na Bangsamoro na nakikipaglaban, ang layunin nila maitatag ang gobyerno ng Bangsamoro," said MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar in a radio interview on Sunday.

He was also optimistic that the government and the MILF will be able to sign the comprehensive peace agreement by the middle of this year.

The MILF earlier said it will transform into a political party so that it can participate in the first elections in the envisioned Bangsamoro region by 2016.

The peace agreement with the MILF, a cornerstone of the current Aquino administration, hopes to end the long-drawn strife in Central Mindanao. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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