Peace deal a 'Trojan Horse' for Cha-Cha?

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2014 10:25 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2014 06:30 AM

MANILA -- Progressive lawmakers on Tuesday took opposing stands on the matter of charter change in the name of Mindanao peace.

Bayan Muna expressed alarm that the Bangsamoro peace agreement may become a "Trojan Horse" for charter change.

This, after House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II expressed readiness to amend the 1987 charter to accommodate the peace agreement.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the party-list group advocates for a just and lasting solution to the Bangsamoro issue in Mindanao.

He said a comprehensive peace settlement is always welcome if this will truly address the historical wrongs committed against the Moro people.

"While the GPH and the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] hailed the completion and signing of the final annex of the framework agreement, we view this development with critical caution as we still have to examine closely the text and context of the present agreement and the proposed basic law that will be submitted to Congress by the Transitional Commission."

"We must also guard now that so that the peace deal may not become a Trojan horse for charter change proponents, this is unquestionably bad and dangerous. This further highlights the need to closely scrutinize the framework agreement and its annexes as the same may be used by the unscrupulous groups and individuals with sinister interests."

Zarate warned that it is "very easy to be swept in the euphoria" that attended the recent signing of final annex to the framework agreement.

He pointed out that at least two peace agreements have already been signed in the past between the government and the Moro revolutionary groups, which were also euphorically hailed then as the final solution to the Bangsamoro's assertion of self-determination.

"The agreement apparently glosses over major issues affecting the Moro people, like the gross human rights violations due to militarization in Mindanao, the exclusion of other groups in the process like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Lumad people. There is also the unresolved issue of the full implementation of the GRP-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement," Zarate said.

On the flip side, rival progressive party-list, administration ally Akbayan party-list, expressed readiness to pass necessary legislation for the success of Bangsamoro peace.

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said, "I am optimistic that the Bangsamoro basic law, once submitted to Congress, will be immediately and swiftly taken up in the House of Representatives. We are ready in Congress to take up the challenge of providing the necessary legislative intervention that will give statutory 'teeth' to this historic agreement and flesh to the framework. We are prepared to work overtime to enact the measures needed to establish a long-term stability, reconciliation and development in Mindanao."

Asked if this meant readiness to amend the Constitution too, Gutierrez said, "For the specific and limited purpose of accommodating and institutionalizing key principles in the peace agreement, yes, definitely."

Akbayan had been against amendments to the 1987 charter in the past.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon pointed out Monday that the peace agreement may need some amendments to the charter, in so far as the Bangsamoro's police force and decommissioning of arms are concerned, among others.

Congress now awaits the initial proposed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will be submitted by the Transition Commission.

President Aquino previously expressed his personal preference against amending the Constitution, written during the presidency of his mother, Corazon Aquino.