Bangsamoro peace monitors see transitional justice, reconciliation as means forward in peace process

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PASIG CITY, Feb 28 -- The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) of the Bangsamoro peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) believes that transitional justice and reconciliation will play a vital role in the country’s continued quest for peace and development in Mindanao, following the failure of the 16th Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Speaking before members of the media during the release of its third annual report, TPMT Chair Alistair MacDonald said that while the basic law that would have established the Bangsamoro region has yet to be passed into a law, the peace process continued to score milestones that were essential in maintaining stability on the ground. “There has however been significant progress in a number of areas, including for example 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 (TJRC).”

The TPMT, established in 2013, is given the mandate to monitor, review, and assess the implementation of all signed agreements between the GPH and the MILF, primarily the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). MacDonald is joined by Huseyin Oruc from the Turkish non-government organization The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH); Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute; Rahib Kudto of the United Youth for Peace and Development; and Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation.

The TJRC finished drafting its report in December 2015. It was formally submitted to the GPH and the MILF negotiating panels during their meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia held on 10-11 February 2016. “The Parties received the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s report and thanked its members for their hard work. A discussion on operationalizing the report’s recommendations is ongoing,” said the panels of the report in a joint statement.

“The early publication of that report will be invaluable. Putting that report into the public’s awareness is important,” commented MacDonald.

When asked to elaborate, MacDonald explained that the TJRC’s report generated from various consultations across the country would be an important component in the country’s healing process from the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao and in dissipating prejudices between the majority Christian Filipinos and the Muslim minority in the Philippine south.

“Transitional justice and reconciliation is an important part of the CAB. The anger and hatred borne of the Mamasapano incident played into the deep-rooted prejudices among the peoples of the Philippines. It is therefore imperative that this be carried forward as a national effort.”

While suggesting that the educational curriculum of the Department of Education with regard the history of the Bangsamoro people would be worth revisiting, MacDonald said that a plan such as that would be for the long haul. “In the meantime, there are a lot of provisions in the CAB that can be done now, especially in the normalization aspect, which can aid in that regard.”

“Looking forward, it will be essential to build a path forward… so that the next Administration can hit the ground running, to work to sustain public confidence in the process during this period of uncertainty, and to reaffirm the commitment of all stakeholders to winning the prize of peace,” he added.

Tañada, meanwhile, stressed the importance of building one narrative of the Filipino people that would include the history of the Bangsamoro. Using the recently concluded 30th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power revolt against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, she said that “the stories of the Bangsamoro people during Martial Law still have to be told. That will be part of the TJRC’s recommendation and report. The Bangsamoro story is the Filipino story.”

Meanwhile, in a statement, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer expressed the gratitude of the government peace panel to the TPMT for its invaluable role "in ensuring that both the GPH and the MILF adhere to the signed documents."

"The TPMT’s third annual report and the recommendations therein will be taken with utmost consideration in line with our shared desire to sustain and nurture the Bangsamoro peace process and finish in due time the implementation of the CAB which includes the passage and ratification of a CAB-based Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)," she said. (OPAPP)