Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles expressed her gratitude to the support and attention that the international community is giving to the Bangsamoro peace process, noting that these indicate the level of success the Philippine government has achieved in pushing peace in Mindanao.
“The level we have on our interchange and conversations with other countries regarding the Mindanao peace process is different [from the local mood],” Deles said in a meeting with media on January 12. “Some of the works that we have done caught the interest of the international community.”
Deles said that such level of international discourse on the Bangsamoro peace process has not happened before in any of the government’s previous peace tables. The level of attention and engagement of the international community in connection with the Bangsamoro peace process only showed that the negotiations are progressive and productive.
“This is a milestone in the peace process. What we went [through] last year only showed the profound understanding of the [interested] sectors on the peace negotiations,” Deles noted.
Because of such support and the commitment of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III in ensuring that lasting peace will be put in place in Mindanao, Secretary Deles is positive that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be passed under the Aquino administration.
“We will continue to work towards the successful conclusion [of the Bangsamoro peace process], towards a bright new dawn of peace, of prosperity, of harmony, for the Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the Philippines,” she said.
Bangsamoro peace process, a model in peacemaking
During a visit to the Philippines last July, Colombian Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla said his government considers the decommissioning and normalization processes being implemented by the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a model in the ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).
“The situation in the Philippines between the government and the MILF is the same with the Colombian government and the FARC. After 25 years of armed conflict, we have come to the peace table and it came to our interest on how the Philippines did the ceremonial decommissioning,” Pinilla stated.
“In the past six months, we are working hard on [our own] peace process but we have not reached our end goal which is the transitional justice and decommissioning as we see that we may face a [difficult] situation in that topic,” Pinilla explained, thus his government’s interest in studying the Philippine experience.
Decommissioning and the normalization process
Last June 16, 145 MILF combatants and 75 crew-serve and high-powered weapons were decommissioned in simple ceremonies in Sultan Kudarat to signal Phase I of the normalization process under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the Philippine government and the MILF.
The International Decommissioning Body (IDB), a multinational independent body led by Turkey, supervised the decommissioning process of the MILF forces and weapons as stipulated in the CAB.
Pinilla said he planned to propose to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to use this as basis for their government’s own negotiations with FARC the current peace framework between the GPH and the MILF.
According to the ambassador, their current peace talk covered agenda points such as land reform, political participation, drug trafficking, ceasefire, and transitional justice, most of which were tackled in the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
Thailand, Myanmar, Afghanistan support
Meanwhile, other countries in conflict situations such as Thailand and Myanmar have also sent delegations to study the Bangsamoro peace process.
In July last year, 16 members of the Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) went to the Philippines to study the peace process, especially in upholding the role of women in the peace talks.
“I am very happy that the Afghanistan peace council’s delegates are coming here to learn from the Philippine experience about the peace process,” HPC Secretary and head of delegation Shaila Samimi said. “We need to learn how women’s roles have been defined and recognized within the peace process in the Philippines.”
Samimi said that the meeting provided a good opportunity to exchange experiences between the two countries on their own peace talks and on promoting gender equality and women empowerment in the peace process in response to the gender sensitive issues and problems within the peace negotiations.
New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI) hailed both Deles and GPH chief peace negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer as ideal women peacemakers for their key roles in the government peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the MILF. Deles is the country’s first woman presidential peace adviser while Ferrer is the first female to chair the MILF peace negotiations and the first female chief negotiator in the world to sign a major peace agreement.
Ferrer also accepted the 2015 Hillary Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The said award honors Ferrer for her “indefatigable work to bring about peace in the Philippines and for [her] historic role as the first female chief negotiator to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.”
Pass BBL now
Meanwhile, Ferrer commended members of the international community for their support and contributions to the peace process as these would help in the establishment of a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro.
“Nagsisimula pa lamang po tayo sa pagkamit ng hinahangad nating kapayapaan sa Mindanao. Matuto na tayo sa mga mali ng nakaraan at ating itama ang mga ito sa pamamagitan ng Bangsamoro. Hindi lang tayo kung hindi pati ang buong mundo ang kasama natin sa daan patungo sa kapayapaan (We’ve just started the process of reaching our goal of peace in Mindanao. Let us learn from the mistakes of the past and correct them through the Bangsamoro. The whole world is with us in this road to peace),” she said.
Despite the legislative delays the BBL faced last year, Ferrer remained hopeful that the Congress would pass the bill, faithful not only to the Constitution but also to the socio-economic and development needs of the Bangsamoro people.
“Umaasa po tayo na magpapasa ang Kongreso ng isang BBL na sasagot sa mga pangangailangan at makikinig sa mga hinaing ng Bangsamoro upang matapos na ang mga kaguluhan sa Mindanao (We are hoping that Congress would pass a BBL that answers the needs and listens to the call of the Bangsamoro people in order to put an end to the conflict in Mindanao),” Ferrer said.