ARE peace agreements still relevant today? In today’s fast-moving and transforming world, how salient written agreements like a peace agreement really are? But what are peace agreements? In my work in the field of peacebuilding, I’ve learned that “peace agreements are documents produced after discussion with two or more parties of a conflict’s protagonists with a view to ending violent military conflict”.

According to Joshi and Darby, “Peace agreements also act as roadmaps for the broader peace process. They can seek to address the main causes of conflict, create institutional mechanisms to allow access to state power and economic resources, empower minority or oppressed groups, compensate victims and employ other mechanisms to avoid future conflict, either by demobilizing rival groups’ combatants or integrating them into the armed force (Joshi and Darby, 2013)”.

In our local context, the current peace agreement we have is the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB). This agreement was signed in 2014 by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Both parties also signed the Annex on Normalization which includes components such as the demobilization of combatants, camp transformation, transitional security measures, transitional justice and reconciliation, and confidence-building initiatives.

Although the CAB was signed in 2014, it was during the time of President Duterte that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was signed and ratified that led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The BARMM replaced the old set up which was the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BOL or RA 11054 provided the MILF the opportunity “to lead” the regional power-sharing government – the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA).

Under Article 16 of the BOL, Section 2 - Bangsamoro Transition Authority. - There is hereby created a Bangsamoro Transition Authority which shall be the interim government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region during the transition period. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front shall lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, without prejudice to the participation of the Moro National Liberation Front in its membership. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (under the Duterte administration) interpreted this provision to have 41 seats from the MILF, and 39 seats under the government side.

The transition period was supposed to end last May 2022. However, the BOL under RA 11054 as amended by RA 115931 has extended its transition to 2025.

These agreements and laws we have should act as a roadmap for the broader peace process allowing the communities that were once affected by conflict to build trust and confidence with the government and the families of former combatants.

The overall goal is for both parties to help to create institutional environments in which those involved in conflict can pursue their objectives and be part of agents of peace and development. Some people think that peace agreements are silver bullets that solve all societal problems. They do not. They contain rather than solve the conflict by creating spaces to continue disagreement through political means, like debates in the parliament or in an electoral process.

If peace agreements like the CAB are vital in establishing peace and security in Mindanao, what then is the move of the current administration? What are the concrete platforms of President Bong Bong Marcos Jr. in the BARMM?

PBBM should start first with having the right people in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. There will be challenges. He may take an easier formula in setting up the BTA by having the MILF — Murad led and so-called MILF — Salamat Wing, combined it with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - Misuari, MNLF - Sema group, and the family alliance.

This formula may mean to say, that it will not be based on merits - knowledge and skills, legislative track record of the possible Members of the Parliament.

This formula may lead to more delays in setting up the institutional reforms needed in the region. It may not lead to the overall goal of the said goal of the CAB.

We are all looking forward to the first one hundred (100) days of PBBM. We all believe that it MUST set the right direction for the Bangsamoro.

Hence, it cannot apply old ways of thinking and simply provide political accommodations.

Peacebuilding requires inclusivity of ideas, programs, and policies that can serve the Bangsamoro people better and help them improve their lives.

Moreover, it should not be based on exclusivity of interests of small groups, without a clear agenda for the Bangsamoro people. Also, PBBM must continue to recognize and respect the peace dividends that the previous administrations all worked for in the last two decades.

However, he MUST also require the MILF, since they lead this transition period to 2025 to sign a social contract with our people. A contract that will set REALISTIC TIMELINES and milestones that will lead to the path of signing the Exit Agreement. He should also require the MNLF and all other groups that are interested to be part of the BTA to lay down their legislative agenda.

Present to our people what role will they play in the Bangsamoro parliament during this transition period.

Can he do this?

Definitely, yes! He can do this if he devotes his mind and heart with a clear goal —set aside the conflicting political interests. He needs to emphasize that the Bangsamoro needs to have political maturity. This is the only way we can move forward.

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MP DATU MUSSOLINI SINSUAT LIDASAN

Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan is currently serving as Member of the Parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) of the BARMM. He was also one of the 21 Commissioners of the Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) who drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte which after deliberations in the Congress was enacted as Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia. He is a Fellow of the Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung (KAS) and the King Abdullah bin Abdulazis Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Programme of the US State Department focusing on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE).