Philippines peace process monitors looking forward

Monitoring team chair says government should work to sustain public confidence during transition period between presidents, underlines problems 2015 shootout between two signatories caused

Philippines peace process monitors looking forward

World Bulletin / News Desk

A third party team monitoring the Philippines peace process has underlined the need to immediately start building a path forward so that the next Philippines leadership can pick up where the previous administration left off when Congress reopens in June.

In its third annual Public Report released Friday, Alistair MacDonald, chairman of the Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) formed in 2013 as part of the process between the government and the country's one-time largest Moro rebel group, said the government should work to sustain public confidence during the transition period, and underlined the problems that a 2015 shootout between government officers and the Moro group had caused the process.

President Benigno Aquino III steps down June 30 having reached his term limit, with the country presently in the thick of political campaigning to vote for his successor and other positions in the May 9 vote.

Macdonald said that his team remains confident that the prize of peace can be attained, since no Administration can afford to ignore the costs of conflict in Mindanao – "the human costs, the developmental costs, the security costs, or the risk of worsening a climate conducive to the spread of violent extremism".

"The FAB [Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro] and CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro] will therefore remain the cornerstone of peace, and it will be the responsibility of the next administration and the next Congress to bring this process to a successful conclusion,” Macdonald stressed.

He underlined that the past year had "been a difficult one, with the tragic events at Mamasapano [in which 44 commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and five civilians were killed] casting a dark shadow over the peace process throughout the year, and leaving Congress unable to complete its deliberations on the BBL."

The BBL would have implemented a 2014 peace deal, which encompasses the FAB and the CAB and would have brought 17 years of peace negotiations in southern Mindanao island to a close.

"There has however been significant progress in a number of areas, including the successful completion of the first, ceremonial, stage of decommissioning on 16 June, or the completion of the work of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission,” Macdonald emphasized.

He noted that there has been an upwelling of both domestic and international support for the peace process and both parties have remained fully engaged – as confirmed by the most recent meeting of the peace panels in Kuala Lumpur on 10-11 Feb. and in the Feb. 18 statement of MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim.

"Nevertheless, the failure of this Congress to complete its deliberations on the BBL has meant that confidence in the peace process among the wider Moro community has taken a knock," he said.

MacDonald noted that this setback -- "with its attendant frustration" -- could increase the risk that some young people may become more attracted to violent extremism – against which risk the most effective vaccination is a successful conclusion to the peace process.

The government and MILF have been close to signing off on the 17-year process, but stalling by Congress has led to many questioning if the deal to end a separatist conflict that has killed around 150,000 people will ever be signed.

Congress does not reconvene until June 30. On Jan. 25, 2015, police commandos descended on the remote town of Mamasapano in the south's conflict-ridden Maguindanao province to arrest two wanted militants.

The officers ran into the MILF and one-time allies the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, resulting in the deaths of the commandos, MILF and civilians. 

The BIFF, which is opposed to the ongoing peace talk between the government and the MILF, broke away from the MILF in 2011 due to differences with the MILF leadership in handling the peace negotiations.

The TPMT is an independent monitoring team created under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012. Since July 2013, it has been regularly monitoring the implementation of the agreements signed between the Philippines and the MILF.

Outside of Alistair MacDonald (the former EU Ambassador to the Philippines), the TMPT’s other members are Zainuddin Malang, Executive Director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Centre, Steven Rood, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation, Karen Tanada, Executive Director of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, and Huseyin Oruc, Vice-President of Turkey's IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Şubat 2016, 15:10