Gov't denies Moro peace deal nearing collapse

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Aug 07 2014 01:43 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2014 04:34 AM

MANILA – Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer denied that the peace deal between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is nearing collapse.

Coronel-Ferrer said it may be wrong to say the peace deal is nearing collapse even after the MILF expressed concerns over some of the revisions and deletions made on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

She said the two panels are currently in Davao City to tackle concerns regarding the draft law, which was earlier reviewed by the Office of the President and sent back to the MILF-dominated Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

''We have withstood seven days of sitting down, so I think that the report that came out is very unfortunate. It sends a wrong signal as to what exactly is going on now which is a very constructive process,'' she told ANC.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier lamented that the Office of the President sent back a ''diluted'' draft law, with about 70 percent of it either deleted or revised.

Iqbal said the contentious issues involve the draft law's provisions on power-sharing and access to resources.

Iqbal said the MILF panel is still hoping that the impasse will be resolved, but he hopes the government will remain committed to finishing the process of submitting the draft law to Congress and not anymore renege on agreements that have already been made.

''As long as the two parties are really focused on these two principles, we can finish this one,'' he said.

The passage of the BBL in Congress will pave the way for the conduct of a plebiscite. Once the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This will be a holdover entity until officials of a new Bangsamoro government are elected in the 2016 elections.

The government is concerned that rushing the submission of the proposed law to Congress will only make it vulnerable to legal scrutiny, just like what happened to the Arroyo-era Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

There are also concerns that a total breakdown of the deal would result in a return to violence in Mindanao.

The Aquino administration has two years left to implement the deal.

Senate President Franklin Drilon is also apprehensive the law may not get passed by December this year.

According to Drilon, if the draft law does not make it to Congress by December, they will try to have the law approved by first quarter of 2015.


Meanwhile, Coronel-Ferrer downplayed the supposed deletions and revisions made on the draft law, saying this was merely a process to make it ''lean and neat."

''We know we get some kind of extreme articulations of what actually happened when we say 'deleted whole sections on territory, natural resources.' How can that be? The whole idea of a Bangsamoro government is to have a space where that kind of self-governance can be implemented,'' she said.

''Some of the deletions were made because there were repetitions in other parts of the draft law. There are so many provisions, for instance, that are replicated in the current part of the article, and that's the kind of cleaning up that we are doing now - to make sure it will be a lean and neat law without sacrificing any of the provisions or the principles that we have already upheld in the comprehensive agreement."

Iqbal said it has been made clear to the MILF panel that the government cannot pass a law that it cannot implement in the end.

However, he said the MILF expects for the government to ''be more flexible'' in its interpretation of the Constitution in reviewing the draft law.

''What we are looking for is the flexibility they have promised to us,'' he said. ''Most of their comments are really on the basis of the rigidity of the Philippine Constitution. That was the problem."

While Coronel-Ferrer acknowledges the wish of the MILF panel to explore the flexibilities in the Constitution in crafting the Bangsamoro law, she concedes that ''at the end of the day, there is still a boundary that we cannot cross."

''We are getting a clearer picture, how far more we can still go on in terms of accommodating the new ideas put forward in the draft."