Press briefing by Presidential Spokesperson Lacierda and GPH Peace Panel Chairman Leonen, October 8, 2012

Press briefing by Secretary Edwin Lacierda and Government of the Philippines Peace Panel Chair Marvic Leonen:
On the Framework  Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro

[Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacañan Palace; October 9, 2012]

SECRETARY EDWIN LACIERDA: Good afternoon, Marie. Good afternoon, members of the Malacañang Press Corps. We are privileged here today to have the members of the government peace panel headed by Dean Marvic Leonen. He will be introducing to us the members of the peace panel. They just came from a courtesy call to the President and informed the President of the discussions and some details on the successful negotiation of the framework agreement. So we would like to ask Dean Marvic Leonen right now to give an opening statement as well as introduce the members of the peace panel. Dean Leonen?

GPH PEACE PANEL CHAIR MARVIC LEONEN: Good afternoon to everybody. It is a pleasure for me to introduce to you the members of the government’s panel in [the] talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Of course, with us today is Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles who is the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The members of our team starts with Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. She is here from the University of the Philippines Political Science Department. Seated next to her is former Secretary Senen Bacani, formerly a Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. And then, to the right of Secretary Deles is Undersecretary Yasmin Busran-Lao who is a Maranao. And then, to his right is Ustadz Dr. Hamid Barra who is also part of the panel. He is also a Maranao.

It is a pleasure for me to report that, of course, what has already been announced by the President that the GPH [Government of the Philippines] and the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] agreed on the final text of what we are calling a framework agreement. The framework agreement is the mother agreement that is a roadmap and contains a set of principles and values that would guide the process for the final political settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

As reported by the President, it contains the idea of creating a Transition Commission. This will be a group of citizens that will craft a proposed basic law, the Bangsamoro basic law, which will then be submitted to Congress thereafter approved by the President and the commitment is to submit it back to the people affected to ratify the law as well as their inclusion into what the area now being called as Bangsamoro. The entire process, as the MILF has requested—that it take place within the administration of President Benigno Aquino and, of course, therefore we are working on a timetable to achieve just that.

The agreement also contains provisions on power-sharing, initial provisions on power sharing, specifically the principles of sharing power. The second would be on wealth-sharing and revenue generation. It also contains provisions on normalization, which is, of course, the process of bringing back a more normalized life in the country.

I am sure that most of you have copies of the framework agreement. It is downloadable I think from the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. It is unsigned and we are now engaged in a public dialogue on the contents of the framework agreement. With that, I am now ready to take your questions.

Q: Sir, can you just give us an idea of the formula that you’re using for wealth sharing?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Wealth-sharing. The provisions are quite broad now. The formula is not yet specific but the principles are there in terms of the wealth sharing. So wala pang specific formula.

The framework agreement contains principles. Ang susunod na pag-uusapan ng mga partido ay ‘yung tinatawag na mga annexes. The annexes plus the framework agreement contains the entire package, which we are now calling the comprehensive agreement.

Q:
Sir, Chairman Murad issued a statement and he said na parang this would be… The greater challenge now is the implementation. How do you see this agreement being implemented in light of the elections next year? How will you be able to ensure that the new law would be required to craft that Bangsamoro entity would be passed?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
The agreement was that the ARMM elections continue in 2013. We did not touch that in terms of the negotiation. After the framework agreement is signed, the idea would be to issue an executive order creating the Transition Commission. We, of course, know that the Transition Commission will be recommending a draft bill to both Houses of Congress. They are, of course, informed that the general plan for the Transition Commission is that consultations will happen within the area that will be included within the prospective Bangsamoro. And, therefore, people will be engaged and therefore they will have expectations, and therefore after the draft is actually completed, it will then be submitted to the House and the Senate. It is there where there will be further deliberations on the proposed basic Bangsamoro—the Bangsamoro basic law—and hopefully by that time there is enough political momentum not only from the present administration but also from the people in the area to move in order that the bill sails through both the House and the Senate. We are expecting, of course, that the Transition Commission while they are doing their work would be engaging the legislature as soon as they are created.

The ARMM will continue to govern the region. As soon as the law is passed and ratified then, therefore, we will now have a new law governing that particular area. To us, it is the equivalent of an organic act in the Constitution. Remember that Republic Act 9054, which creates the ARMM, is also an organic act, which passed through a similar process. Therefore, when the new law is enacted, it will replace the existing ARMM. So that is the process.

What is our assurance? You know, peace agreements are political commitments made by one party to the other. Although we can put numbers, we can put dates in the agreement, in the ultimate analysis it is the good faith of both sides. It is in the good faith of both sides that the agreement is implemented. Of course, this is a political compromise that is struck with the MILF. And, as you can see, that compromise is constitutional. It is inclusive, it is people-driven, and it will undertake a lot of consultations with the people that will be included in the region that is called the Bangsamoro.

Q:
Sir, last na lang. Does it help your cause that it appears that Mujiv Hataman is running unopposed for ARMM governor? And can you tell us ‘yung phasing ng normalization?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Mujiv Hataman has, I think, issued a statement that he is supportive of the framework agreement and supportive of this process, and that is all that I can say. I do not know if it’s election period, so may I not say more than that. I will just say that he is supportive of this and we welcome more support from those that are running for governor of the current ARMM. After all, who is not for peace?

With respect to normalization, at least what was struck were the principles of normalization and the agreement that the timetables for decommissioning and an annex on normalization will still be further negotiated. Please look at the section on normalization, you will see in paragraph five: a commitment by the MILF for gradual decommissioning. I think this is the first time that they have made that commitment on paper and they will sign this agreement. Therefore, there will be a gradual decommissioning of MILF forces until they are put beyond use.

Then the next statement there is logical. In an area where there is insurgency, where the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] is so deployed, then certainly as we normalize, it can be logically inferred that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will transfer some of its law enforcement functions to a reform police. As you know, our Philippine National Police also is undergoing a transformation program. This agreement adds to that by creating an independent review commission of experts to make recommendations from their own knowledge as well as, of course, collating information coming from the public in order to be able to find a way that our existing police in the area would become more effective, more efficient, and more independent, and professional, and community-based. So I think these are the parameters of the normalization. So the timetables will still be negotiated.

Q:
Sir, based on the section on transition and implementation, can we take it to mean that the government is open to constitutional amendments to implement the agreement?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
There is a provision there, which says that part of the powers of the Transition Commission would be to work on proposals for amendment of the Constitution, but there is no commitment there that such proposals are going to be acted upon by Congress. Like every citizen, Article 17 is open—of the Constitution—any citizen can make proposals to amend the Constitution. Any group of citizens, in fact, may cause a petition for initiative in order to amend the Constitution. Any group of citizens could lobby Congress in order to pursue a constitutional amendment.

So the MILF have requested and we have said, “Why not?” The Transition Commission may tackle that, may discuss that, may even propose it but it is up to Congress to so amend the Constitution. As far as we are concerned, insofar as the major political commitments that were made by this administration in that Framework Agreement, we see no necessity for now to amend the Constitution. We think that the commitments made there by the government [are] indeed within the parameters of the Constitution or, should I say, within the flexibilities of the existing Constitution.

Q:
Sir, and is it right to describe the Bangsamoro as an amended ARMM?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
I think what they want, what the MILF, what that representation wants to say, is that they want to replace the entire ARMM. Of course, realistically we should understand that there are already institutions within the ARMM. There are local governments there and, if you notice, the local government structure is not touched. And, therefore, it is important for us to understand that it is, well, a replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

You see, in political negotiations, the language of one party is different from the language of the other. The language of the Government of the Philippines is, of course, the language that we find in the Constitution in our Republic Acts. The language of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is their language. And, as you can imagine, as we are working on a draft it is important to remember that a peace agreement is a political document. It is a document that lists the political commitments to each other in order to reach an end state, and that end state is a situation that will be beneficial to all the peoples there.

Therefore, I will not read the peace agreement as if it were a very strict legal document. I would read the peace agreement as a set of political commitments made by one party to the other. And, therefore, of course, it will be signed by Mohagher Iqbal, the chair of the MILF; it will be signed by the chair of the government’s negotiating panel. As far as I remember, I am not a legislator. I only derive my authority from that of the President. The President will not sign the agreement nor will it be signed by the chair of the MILF. This is a political commitment by the representations of these two parties.

I will not read the agreement in a very strict legal sense. Again, I will repeat, there is language of one side and language of the other. If you want to strike a bargain between the two so that both are in the same roadmap towards a more peaceful accommodation of their interest and decades of war then, therefore, we will have to accommodate the language of each other in order to reach that kind of a framework agreement.

Q:
Sir, last. Sir, would the peace deal in any way reduce the threat of the MILF breakaway faction and the Abu Sayyaf?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Well, Abu Sayyaf is not MILF. And, therefore, regardless of the peace deal there will be those kinds of threats. There are other armed groups in the area. And with respect to the other armed groups in the area, they will be treated as law enforcement problems. And, therefore, the police supported by the army will continue to lay down law and order in that area. In areas where the MILF may be present, there will be a coordinating mechanism and that is also contained in the aspect on normalization building upon our existing ceasefire arrangements.

Please remember that from January 1 of this year to today, there has absolutely been no skirmish between the MILF and the government. As a matter of fact, there [have] been cooperation de facto between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF to implement certain or to do activities in order to get certain objectives of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Q:
Sir, on the possibility of amending the Constitution: you said that as far as the panel is concerned you work within the parameters of the mandate given to you by the President and that, in effect, refers to the Constitution—the powers given to the President. But the framework agreement speaks of a ministerial form of government, which will necessitate, I guess, an amendment to the Constitution.

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: No, it does not. If you read the Article 10 which contains the provisions on autonomy—the provisions of autonomy are found in Sections 15, 16 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21—there is nothing there which says that a ministerial form of government in an autonomous area is prohibited. In fact, the wordings there—this part of the Constitution is very sparse—the discussions in the Constitutional Commission point to the idea that there should be accommodated certain kinds of forms of government within the area within a national structure. And, therefore, I beg to disagree. There is nothing in the Constitution which prevents that area from having a ministerial form of government—unless mayroon kang provision na naisip.

Q:
What do you mean by “ministerial form?”

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: “
Ministerial” means that political parties will dominate—genuine political parties will dominate and try to capture seats that are allocated maybe to various geographical areas or probably the representing certain sectors. And then, these political parties will select who will execute, who will be the chief minister for now, maybe; who will act with the powers of the governor.

Q: 
So not a parliamentary form of government within that area?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
It is similar to a parliamentary form of government within the area. The Constitution says that whatever government is in the autonomous region, it shall always be under the supervision of the President. So, therefore, even that will be under the supervision of the President.

Q: 
On the territory, you mentioned six in Lanao and barangays in North Cotabato. How many barangays exactly?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
The barangays that voted “yes” in the 2001 plebiscite for the approval of Republic Act 9054. I’m sorry that right now I do not have the number of barangays. However, again, core territory is mentioned there. But please notice that it is very clear that the two parties commit that there’d be a ratification of the Bangsamoro basic law and a plebiscite with respect to the core areas that will be included within, which means that even those that are currently under the ARMM will be asked again: Do you want to be part of the Bangsamoro? I don’t think that you can be more democratic than that. And the MILF, being a serious partner, to be able to found a society that actually looks at pluralism and democratic values, have agreed to that particular provision. So when the Bangsamoro basic law is crafted, the areas that will be included in the Bangsamoro basic law—‘yung nakalagay sa provision na ‘yon—will be asked the question whether they want to join the Bangsamoro.

Q:
Sir, and also, how will this agreement address the structural violence in the area?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
What do you mean “structural violence?”

Q:
The poverty, the historical atrocities between both sides…

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Immediately upon our announcement of a framework agreement, there were many statements of support not only coming from foreign governments but also international organizations. Immediately upon the announcement of the President of the existence of the draft of the framework agreement, hope in the region immediately came.

You know, part of the reason that—perhaps there is no fiscal autonomy in the area—one is collection, the second is tax base.

Just to give you an example of how it can help: The tax base is very small because there are no businesses wanting to invest there. But fix the peace and order problem in that area, that area can have a lot of businesses that would come in. Please note the speech of our President two days ago when he mentioned the possibilities of tourism and many other things in the area that we are talking about. So, therefore, that can address that imbalance.

Q:
And also on the provision on basic rights: You mentioned about reparation for those lands taken historically from the Muslim people, how would you go about this?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
First—maybe to read it in context. The first sentence reads, “Vested private property rights shall be respected.” Do you agree with me? Yes. So, therefore, that is the fundamental bedrock of that particular provision. Vested property rights shall be respected. And, of course, those that will claim that the title issued to another person is not legal can always go to a court of law. But if that person does not succeed and, in a process to be agreed upon by the party, it can be fully shown that some of the titles were not taken in a just manner then, on the basis of the evidence that will be perhaps presented by the parties, then they will decide on that right can be repaired or compensated. In other words, the titles and the vested property rights shall be respected.

Q:
So you’ll provide for some kind of a fund if ever there are a lot of lands to be paid, the huge sums and they were taken away?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Yes, if ever. Yes.

Q:
And then, last, how could you differentiate the much-maligned MOA-AD [Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain] from the framework agreement?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
You know, the MOA-AD is part of the entire process but was declared as null and void by the Constitution. So what we are dealing with is the final political settlement and the framework agreement is the roadmap towards the final political settlement. The MOA-AD dealt with ancestral domain or natural resource rights. But, insofar as this agreement is concerned, it deals with the final political settlement.

First and foremost, first distinction, there is no mention of ancestral domain in any of the four corners of the document. And you will agree with me that that already makes this very different. Second, with respect to territory, there is no… In the MOA-AD with respect to the core area, it can be read as if the government committed to deliver already without a plebiscite. In this agreement, it is very clear that the democratic mandate is necessary. The legal or the constitutional requirement of an organic act is also agreed upon also by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that there be plebiscite in the area. Third, the government is more specifically defined. It is now a ministerial or would be or could be a ministerial form of government. Fourth, the process is important. What do we mean by “the process?” That there will be a Transition Commission that will craft a deal that will be submitted to Congress. Hopefully, it will be called or it should be called the Bangsamoro basic law and then Congress passes it, deliberates over it, passes it. And Congress is composed of elected representatives in various districts, the senators are elected nationwide; and, therefore, they have the representative mandate. And then, after that, again it will be submitted for ratification.

Parang nakikita ko doble-dobleng democracy dito. Parang nakikita ko dito napaka-inclusive ng proseso. So that is what makes it different from that agreement.

The MOA-AD to the government has been declared as null and void. This framework agreement is a framework agreement. It is a roadmap where political commitments can be met by both sides.

Again, as I said, please do not read it strictly as a legal document. Please see it as a political document—a document that contains the political commitment of two sides.

Puwedeng nag-usap ang dalawang panig at nagsabi, “We are going to the commission. In exchange for that, please give us this.” Nag-commit ang gobyerno natin pero dito lang sinulat lang natin sa isang papel.

Q:
Hi, sir, good afternoon. Sir, categorically, did, in any way, U.S. in any way helped in the formulation or crafting of the document?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Categorically, no. Categorically, no foreign government pressured our government or perhaps the MILF to agree to certain kinds of concessions in this document.

Q:
Sir, you mentioned… of the normalization…

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Sandali lang, ulitin ko lang: Categorically, no.

Q:
Thank you.

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Gusto ko lang ‘yung, Categorically, no.

Q: 
Thank you. Sir, categorically, thank you. [Laughter] Sir, you mentioned the normalization wherein there will be a gradual decommission[ing]. [Are we] speaking of the regular fighters of the (authorities)? And what about those reported armed civilian[s] in that area, also a commitment from [their] end?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: We must remember that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has an army but it is a guerilla army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, kasama ‘yon—kasama ‘yung mga militia. So kasama dito sa usapan na ito. If what you mean are the other armed groups then, therefore, maliwanag din doon sa agreement na may pagkilala doon sa other armed groups that this shall be the subject of law enforcement action; kailangan magtulungan. There is, in fact, a commitment by the two groups that we will work towards the reduction and control of the proliferation of firearms in the area.

Q:
Sir, I understand there is no certainty yet on the result of the expected plebiscite. What if—I mean, God forbid siguro because we’re all hoping for the success of this negotiation—what if, in the plebiscite, the people reject this Bangsamoro entity? Is there any option now that we could propose or present?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Well, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to this document, which contains that particular commitment. They are willing to put it to a vote. They are willing to put it in a plebiscite. If it is not agreed upon by the people themselves, there is no mandate, then therefore, that’s it. It will mean that there will be no Bangsamoro and that is the consequence.

Pero, sandal lang. Bakit natin uunahan ‘yung negative. In other words, ang sa amin lang, why don’t we give this a try? Why don’t we give hope a chance? Meaning to say, let us just see what comes out of the Transition Commission. Tignan natin gaano ka-democratic ‘yung consultation process na lalabas. Tingnan natin kung paano sila mag-lobby doon sa ating Kongreso and then tingnan natin later ‘yung ratification.

Naiintindihan ko ang sinasabi ninyo. But, of course, again finally, alam niyo sa dulo nito, there is something that cannot be put in writing in a peace agreement and that is the element of trust. Hindi namin puwede isulat dito: trust, trust, trust; sincerity, sincerity, sincerity. This agreement was made possible because the MILF trusts the President’s Daang Matuwid. So sa dulo nito, of course, we will know that in good faith both sides will try to accommodate it.

Q:
Last point. Sir, you’ve been asking the general public to read and participate [on] this activity. But how could the other people, like us from another region, participate when the plebiscite is limited to the people in the [autonomous] region? I mean, [practically], how could we participate?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
The Constitution is very clear. The Constitution says that when an autonomous region is created, the plebiscite shall only be in the areas affected—doon sa autonomous region. So I would say that perhaps you can participate by reading this, giving your own comments, and then be responding to those comments.

Q:
Sir, may we know ‘yung composition nitong Transition Commission? Who will head this Commission? And mayroon bang timetable kung hanggang kailan dapat ika-craft ‘yung Bangsamoro basic law?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Ito po ang sinabi sa amin ng MILF:

Ang gusto namin ‘yung paglabas ng Bangsamoro basic law sa loob ng administrasyon na ito, ayaw namin na lumampas sa susunod na administration. Ang gusto namin makita ang lahat ng mga ito ay sana mangyari within the present administration, so we’re working backwards. So hindi nilagyan ng timetable sa loob. The timetable, however, is that there should be an exercise to ratify the Bangsamoro basic law prior to 2016 which is the time when this administration will have to hand over the reigns of government to a new set of elected officials. So, therefore, the timetable is before 2016, working it backwards, kaya ho kami nagmamadali. Kaya ho nagmamadali sa framework agreement para mas malaki ‘yung tyansa na makabuo ng isang Transition Commission.

Sa Transition Commission hindi ko pa masasabi kung sino, specifically kung anong mga pangalan, ang bubuo nitong Transition Commission. We just agreed that all the members of the Transition Commission shall be Bangsamoro which means coming from the area, which means having some relation to the area. You know, ang sinasabi po sa amin ng MILF, “Bakit sa organic act ng ARMM ang gagawa una ay ang ating Kongreso?”

In our Congress, the people coming from that area is a minority in the House of Representatives. Bihira sila magkaroon ng senador. “Bakit palagi ang paggawa ng batas ay nanggagaling sa Kongreso, hindi galing sa amin?” And this is the answer: a Transition Commission that is all Bangsamoro collating information and ideas from the area, crafting a Bangsamoro basic law, submitting it to Congress and, therefore, following the constitutional process of actually coming out with an organic act.

Q: 
But who will appoint these Bangsamoro, sir? I mean, sino ang magtatalaga sa kanila? Will [they] be parang appointed—ia-appoint ba sila ng Pangulo or ie-elect sila ng mga parties?


PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
No. The Transition Commission will come out, will be created by an executive order coming from the President. The President’s power, therefore, is to create that commission and therefore the members should be appointed by the President.

Q:
Sir, under this Bangsamoro, anong mangyayari doon sa judicial system sa ARMM? I mean, under this Bangsamoro, will they have independence from (the Supreme Court)?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
No. There is no statement here that they will be independent of our Supreme Court. From the government’s perspective, in the points that are silent here, it will be our Constitution that will govern.

Ganito kasi po ‘yon: After a political commitment is struck with the insurgent group, normally any peace process must go through the legalization process of the government in which it is in. At sa atin, sa legalization process na ‘yon, sinusundan lang po natin ang ating Constitution. Therefore, if it is not mentioned here that there will be another Supreme Court, there is always one Supreme Court over which it exists.

Let me, again, approach it in another way. Sa ARMM ngayon mayroon hong mga korte—may civil courts, mayroon pong sharia courts—at in effect po din ‘yung ating alternative dispute resolution law at saka in effect po din ‘yung ating Local Government Code provisions allowing indigenous processes to actually settle disputes. According to the Constitution, courts may be created by law. Ang Bangsamoro basic law is a law. Therefore, what we’re saying is that therefore, ‘yung dadaan sa Kongreso, siguro nandoon na rin ‘yung hugis ng judicial system na papasok dito. But definitely, the civil courts will be maintained. Definitely sharia courts will be there, and sharia, of course, will apply only to Muslims and not to non-Muslims, obviously. And mayroon ding proseso para sa indigenous rights.

Q:
Sir, sorry, in layman’s term, sir, can you describe lang—siguro, paki-simplify na lang—kung ano ba ang magiging mukha nitong Bangsamoro na ito as compared to the current, ano, system?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Hindi ko masasabi, kasi mayroong Transition Commission na gagawa ng Bangsamoro basic law, mangongonsulta sila, ibibigay ito sa Kongreso, ipapasa ng Kongreso ’yung batas, tapos ibibigay ulit sa tao para i-ratify. In other words, the specific contours, ‘yung specifics nito, hindi namin puwedeng pangunahan. I think what is important is to know that the MILF agreed, number one, to the process. Pangalawa, mayroon lang silang hinihiling na, siyempre, division in terms of revenue, power-sharing and so on and so forth.

Q: Sir, ang ibig sabihin ko lang sabihin doon, sir, compared sa umiiral ngayon sa ARMM, ito bang Bangsamoro na ito, sir, under this Bangsamoro, magiging mas independent sila, hindi po ba?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Hindi sila… Well, it will operate as an autonomous entity and maybe kinakailangan lang na ilagay ‘yung mga istruktura para ma-realize kung anong nakalagay sa ating Constitution; that it actually operates as an autonomous region or an autonomous entity. Kaya’t ‘yung mga kinakailangan na kapangyarihan ay kailangan i-devolve by law to the autonomous entity.

Q:
Sir, last na lang, sorry. Mayroon bang commitment sa MILF? Kasi kanina, mayroong decommissioning na pinag-uusapan. Pero bago pa po itong pirmahan then everything, mayroon ba silang commitment na isu-surrender na nila ‘yung kanilang mga armas?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Well, may commitment sila sa decommissioning, and I think it goes as far as that and that by itself is a breakthrough. That there’s an agreement that at a certain future time, kinakailangan wala na ‘yung Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. There is a recognition that there’d be a reformed police in the area. There is a recognition that we will have only one Armed Forces of the Philippines. Ngayon, kung kailan ‘yung umpisa nito, ini-negotiate natin but, along the process, masasabi lang natin na mayroong mga tinatawag na confidence-building measures. Kailangan po na kapag in-implement na itong agreement, maya’t-maya sa negotiation ng mga partido ay kailangan magpakita na sinsero ‘yung dalawang sides. And I must say that not everything is up here in terms of an agreement but on the ground you can see a lot of goodwill that is created among the two groups as they try to implement certain projects, they try to implement certain ceasefire mechanisms, and so on and so forth.

Q:
Just going back to the decommissioning of the BIAF [Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces]—because the framework agreement mentioned that they will decommission the BIAF and then, at the next paragraph, it mentioned that there will be a police force for the Bangsamoro. So is it correct to interpret that, to mean that the fighters from BIAF—you will decommission the organization but members of BIAF will be tapped to, you know, be part of that new police force?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
That’s one possibility. And, as you can see here, the configuration of the police force has not yet been determined. That’s one possibility. But, insofar as we are concerned, you know, policing is very technical kaya sinabi na lang namin na pag-usapan natin sa annex kung anong hugis ng ating police force.

There is a police force for Iloilo. There is a police force for the Cordilleras. So ganoon po ‘yung pinag-usapan natin. May mga detalye po, halimbawa, how much of the actual members of the BIAF maybe qualified to run the police? Or siguro ang mga tanong doon: Ano ba ang pwedeng gawin para pwedeng magkaroon ng reintegration ang mga fighters ng MILF? So ‘yon po ang mga kailangan i-resolve doon sa annexes natin.

Q:
And then the annexes will be ready in time for the signing on the 15th, tama po ba ‘yon?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Only the framework agreement. But, if you look at the last provision, there is a commitment by two parties here. Let me read it:

 “The parties commit to work further of the details of the framework agreement in the context of this document and complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

So by the end of the year, kumpleto na po sa annexes. But let me just tell you, mayroon nang technical working groups that have been on the annexes of power-sharing and wealth-sharing. And there is an implicit agreement that, of course, there will be a technical working group on decommissioning; also a technical working group on normalization.

Pagpasensyahan ninyo na ho. Hindi bigla-bigla ito. This is a centuries-old problem and this is a decades-old war, and many generations of fighters have evolved on both sides including that of the BIAF. Hindi po madali na magtiwala. Hindi po madali na i-surrender ‘yung firearm immediately upon the signing of just a document. Kailangan po may makita na delivery ng political promises on the side of the government. And then later, siguro may exchange of how much of their arms and how much of their personnel will decommission. Ito po ‘yung tinatawag natin na decommissioning process sa isang peace process. Noong araw po ang tawag dito DDR: disarmament, demobilization, and ‘yung “R” po tatlong ibig sabihin: reinsertion, reintegration and rehabilitation.

Q:
And then there was also a mention of dismantling private armies.

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Yes.

Q: But in Mindanao you don’t need to be part of a private army to, you know, have a firearm in your home—a number of them in your home.

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Yes.

Q: How does that agreement address that?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Mayroon ding provision na nagsasabi that the parties will work towards the reduction and control of firearms in the area. Importante po ‘yon kasi mahirap hong mag-decommission ng isang grupo na ‘yung ibang armed groups ay hindi din nagde-decommission. So there is an aspiration to that effect. I think you should look at it from the point of view of the status quo. Today, you have an agreement where the MILF clearly states that it will decommission; clearly states that it will assist in the reduction and control of the proliferation of firearms.

Sa tingin ko ‘yon po ‘yung isang breakthrough na pwede nating makita from this agreement. Ngayon, of course, for people that really want to see everything, maybe what we can say is this is a process because peace is a process. Now we have to sit down, work on these principles, and work on the details. Sino ba ang unang magde-decommission? Kailan ba kayo magde-decommission? Ano ba ‘yung timetable natin? On the other hand, here is government’s process of delivery of all its political commitments. What’s important is that we are making public and, therefore, having the public witness that these are the commitments of one group to the other.

Q:
Just curious how you will dismantle or collect the firearms from private citizens when you are also decommissioning the—which comes first?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Alam n’yo dahil hindi ho tayo eksperto, it is hard to believe. But it has happened in different areas. The United Nations have principles based upon their best practices of the DDR process. So kaya nga dito kailangan natin i-involve ang ating mga eksperto kaugnay ng decommissioning process. To us, it seems impossible. But some of you did say that this was mission improbable noong umpisa. But now we are facing you after two years, showing you that there can be a framework agreement. There can be in good faith, a desire for peace. So kaya siguro ho ’yon pag-usapan kung paano ’yung process. If you look at it very broadly, mahirap ho isipin ‘yon. But if you look at it per small locality, halimbawa, his village first, the next village, and so on and so forth.

Q:
Sir, when it was mentioned that the expansion of the sharia courts will be—the sharia courts’ jurisdiction will be expanded—anong klaseng expansion? Will that include criminal cases?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Siguro basahin natin Republic Act 9054. Do you know that in the organic act of ARMM, the RLA of the ARMM may expand sharia to criminal cases.

Q:
And ang relationship ng sharia to the SC will be—appeal will be to the CA or directly to the SC?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN: Do you know that there is [an] appellate court for sharia created by the organic act? And that, therefore, if it’s an appellate court, since the Constitution says that there is one Supreme Court then therefore it will all be under one Supreme Court.

Q:
Tapos, sir, it was also mentioned that the relationship will be asymmetric. I wanted to ask the meaning of “asymmetric.”

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Asymmetric. Ano ang ibig sabihin ng asymmetric? Ibig sabihin hindi symmetric. First, state autonomous government—very important. And, therefore, they conceded that the relationship would be: one is central and the other is only autonomous—una. Pangalawa, asymmetric means primus inter pares. Like, for instance, here is a province; here is the autonomous region kaya asymmetric ‘yung relationship. Because an autonomous region includes provinces, OK. So, therefore, that would mean that it is asymmetric.

As an autonomous region, it has more responsibility than an administrative region, according to the Constitution. As an autonomous region, it will be covered by a very special law and that special law can be called an organic act. The Constitution says that organic acts need not be named organic acts. You can call it a Bangsamoro basic law. And, by the way, that area need not be called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. ‘Pag tiningnan natin ‘yung Constitution, small letter ‘a’, small letter ‘r’. There shall be autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and in Muslim Mindanao. Therefore, the choice of the term is a political decision. And, by political decision, we have agreed with the MILF that it be called “Bangsamoro.”

By the way, if you follow this very closely, dati ang tawag nila “Bangsamoro state.” Pero ngayon ang tawag natin “Bangsamoro.” Nasaan ‘yung “state?” I think there’s progress there insofar as the GPH is concerned. Very clearly, there is an intent to remove all the other confusions based upon slants of various advocates. Ngayon, ang tawag lang doon sa area Bangsamoro and, of course, makita natin ‘yung process it’s very clear in the transition mechanism.

Q:
Last question: Doon sa Section 6, the “central government shall ensure the protection of the rights of the Bangsamoro people residing outside the territory of the Bangsamoro.” What does that phrase mean?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
That phrase means that if you were an Ilocano living outside of the Ilocos, the state will also take care of you. If you were a Bangsamoro resident in Greenhills, the state will also take care of your rights.

Q:
But, sir, that’s assured in the Constitution, right?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Precisely, that’s we agreed to it.

Q: 
Why did it have to be put in there?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Because they requested. Alam n’yo po sa negotiation, alam nila that we are abiding by our Constitution. And sometimes, sasabihin namin, “Hindi na kailangang ilagay ‘yan kasi nandoon na sa aming Constitution.” “Hindi, gusto naming ilagay.” You know why? It’s a political document and, therefore, the MILF is saying we have not… Well, we know that there are many other people who consider themselves Bangsamoro in different areas.

Q:
Sir, good afternoon po. Sir, I just want to know kung ano talaga ‘yung definition ng Bangsamoro constituents. Would that include like the other IPs? How about the MNLF or what?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Yes. It includes the indigenous peoples in the area. It includes those that belong to a political organization called the MNLF. It includes all peoples who have been there prior to conquest or colonization. In other words, Bangsamoro means descendants of original inhabitants within the area that will be included within the concept of Bangsamoro. So wala nang “Islamicized” but, in any case, sinasabi natin that is the definition of Bangsamoro. Notice the two words: by ascription or self-ascription. That comes from international legal instruments. Be patient with me. Ibig sabihin po n’on, ‘pag binansagan kang Bangsamoro, may option ka na sabihing, “Hindi ako Bangsamoro.” Kapag hindi ka Bangsamoro pero tingin mo Bangsamoro ka, pwede mong tawagin ang sarili mong Bangsamoro. So there is Bangsamoro, the place; there is Bangsamoro, the identity.

OK, the identity, that’s not a citizenship. MILF acknowledges that they are Filipino citizens. But they are asking that they be given also recognition that they have become a political identity. And that political identity is Bangsamoro—parang Kapampangan, parang Ilokano. There is no card attached to it. There is no additional privilege attached to it. And, therefore, the government easily acceded to that concept. But it’s historical. Kasi noong nakaraan people were oppressed on the basis of where they came from and on the basis of the religion that they professed. Kaya po sinabi ng ating Pangulo, the name of that region is something that it deserves and it acknowledges a historical past. That name being Bangsamoro.

Q:
Sir, kaya ko tinatanong kasi there could be another group na maging splinter, for instance, and they will raise up arms once again. So that’s why I’m asking kung sino-sino ‘yung mga kasama?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Hindi, kasama ‘yung buong—lahat ng tao within that particular territory. Alam n’yo pwedeng magkaroon ng kahit na anong grupo na sumulpot. The question is: Will government negotiate with them? As far as this government is concerned, it ends here. This is who we are talking to. Have we talked to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters? Siguro diretsuhin na natin ‘yon, ‘No.’ They have been dislodged from Camp Omar. If full operation launched by the Sixth Infantry Division was able to dislodge them—and, by the way, the MILF did not come into the fray. They moved aside as the army operated. And now, ano ang nangyari sa mga leaders ng BIFF? They are now the subject of law enforcement actions. Warrants of arrest have been issued against them and, soon, rewards are going to be announced in order that they be captured.

Q:
Sir, doon sa Transition Commission, would that include for instance ‘yung mga IPs also and MNLF and other people in the areas aside from…

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Definitely. Sa government side, we are hoping to be very inclusive, and we have heard that the MILF is going to be inclusive also in terms of their part within the Transition Commission.

Q:
Sir, on the normalization naman. Do you have any estimate as to how many are the BIAF members as well as the militia there?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Yes, we have been estimates by the army and the police.

Q:
So how many po ‘yung estimate?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Nag-iiba. Ayaw ko mag-announce ngayon kasi nandito na ‘yung framework agreement. Alam ninyo bahagi dito mag-i-inventory. Ngayon, ‘pag magbigay na ako ng number ngayon, baka ma-commit ako doon sa number na ‘yon. So it will depend on the process of decommissioning. So, pardon me, I will not give a number. You can ask perhaps the AFP or the Philippine National Police as to their estimates.

Q:
Sir, ‘yung police force sa Bangsamoro would that be part of the Philippine National Police or that’s separate?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
The Bangsamoro is part of the Republic of the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines is governed by one Constitution. The police force if it is created now will be part of the national police system.

Q:
Sir, you have mentioned earlier that you’re hoping that the new sets of officers or officials there will take over before the President steps down. So would that mean those people who will be elected in 2013, their term would be shortened?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Not their term but their office will be abolished. In other words, there is a Republic Act that creates the ARMM, defines the offices. It is created by special law, ratified by the people. That law can at any time be repealed. And if there is a law that comes out called the Bangsamoro basic law and it is ratified by the people then, therefore, that new set of officers will come in. The Bangsamoro basic law, the bill I suppose, will provide for transitory mechanisms in order to be able to have a government prior to the regular elections in 2016.

Q:
Sir, last point. You have mentioned here that the draft Bangsamoro basic law submitted by the Transition Commission shall be certified as an urgent bill by the President. So if ever… Kasi once the bill is already with Congress, there’s a possibility na there could be changes just like what happened in ARMM Organic Law kaya nagkaroon ng medyo confusion. So ano ‘yung assurance that whatever will be the draft basic law that this Transition Commission will provide to Congress will be the same or, if ever, hindi ganoon kalaki ‘yung changes.

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
Hindi ko alam kung anong level ng guarantee ang hinahanap natin. Pero ang masasabi ko lamang ay ‘yung Transition Commission will be inclusive and participative. In other words, magko-consult siya. Pagkatapos n’on, maybe during the existence of the Transition Commission, there will already be representations made to certain members of the Senate, certain members of the House of Representatives, and so on and so forth. I mean, the Transition Commission will be part of this governance structure and, therefore, kailangan siguro maging proactive sila at kumonsulta na sa House at saka doon sa Senate.

Q:
Sir, last na pala. ‘Yung annexes are you going to make it public before signing the comprehensive compact?

PANEL CHAIR LEONEN:
This is how the government now will operate which means that it will make it public before we actually sign and, by the way, hindi “comprehensive compact.” ‘Yun po ang termino ng MILF. Sa government po, “comprehensive agreement.” Wala po kaming compact.

SECRETARY LACIERDA:
Thank you, Dean Marvic. I hope it addressed all your concerns. Next few days, if there are other concerns or questions, Dean Marvic Leonen will be more than happy to address your concerns. So during my briefing, don’t ask me about the Framework Agreement. We have agreed that Dean Marvic Leonen and the peace panel will be speaking for and giving answers to any concerns on the framework agreement.

Thank you very much.

ENDS 

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