The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels resumed talks at 9:45 a.m. today (Thursday) in this Malaysian capital in the presence of observers from the House of Representatives, Mindanao civil society and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
This is the first time in the 16-year history of the peace talks between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that observers from various sectors are represented. “We are also joined in today’s Opening Ceremony by an unprecedented number of observers – a glowing affirmation that we need the whole village to build peace,” GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said.
It is the first time since 2001 that civil society representatives from Mindanao are attending the GPH-MILF peace talks in Kuala Lumpur as observers.
OBSERVERS. Representatives from Congress, Mindanao civil society and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission are in Kuala Lumpur as observers in the GPH-MILF peace talks that resumed Thursday: From left, former Ambassador Akmad Sakkam and Johaira Wahab of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Mary Ann Arnado of Mindanao Peoples Caucus, Dean Talib Benito of the Transition Commission and Salic Ibrahim of C-CARE. Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong and Reps. Rufus Rodriguez and Jesus Sacdalan are also present. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
The panels are negotiating the last of two annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace pact: power-sharing and normalization. The parties signed the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities on February 25 and the annex on wealth-sharing on July 13.
Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez attended the closed-door opening rites with North Cotabato along with five members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and three representatives from Mindanao’s civil society — Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (Mincode); Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus; and Salic Ibrahim, chair of the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, Inc.
North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan arrived at noon.
The BTC members who attended the opening rites are former Ambassador Akmad Sakkam; Johair Wahab, former chief legal counsel of the GPH peace panel; Froilyn Mendoza, aTeduray who co-founded the Téduray Lambangian Women’s Organization, Inc. (TLWOI); Talib Benito, Dean of the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City and former Isabela City councilor Eisma of Basilan. All five were nominated to the BTC by the GPH.
The BTC (formerly referred to as Transcom), the body that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law for the new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro,” is composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the GPH.
The FAB provides that “the status quo is unacceptable” and that they would work for the creation of the Bangsamoro, the political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016.
The eight members who were nominated by the MILF to the BTC are Mohagher Iqbal, Maulana Alonto, Abdullah Camlian, Ibrahim D. Ali, Raissa H. Jajurie, Melanio U. Ulama, Hussein P. Munoz and Said M. Shiek.
Iqbal chairs the MILF peace panel. Alonto and Camlian are peace panel members while the rest are members of the panel’s technical working groups.
Aside from Sakkam, Wahab, Benito, Eisma and Mendoza, the other members of the BTC who were nominated by the GPH are Asani S. Tammang and Fatmawati T. Salapuddin. Tammang and Salapuddin were unable to come to Kuala Lumpur.
Sarenas told MindaNews at the end of the session at 10:25 a.m. that they have been allowed as well to attend the sessions of the joint technical working group on Normalization and the Special Team on power-sharing.
Sarenas quoted Malaysian Facilitator, Dato’ Tengku Abd’ Ghafar bin Mohamed, as saying civil society groups are “important people who are the bridge between the (peace) process and the people.”
In Mindanao, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman issued a five-paragraph statement reiterating his administration’s “all-out support to the Mindanao peace agenda.”
The FAB provides that once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, the ARMM will be “deemed abolished” and its functions turned over to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
“We made a covenant, that we will step down in case of a peace deal – and this will always be our standing principle,” Hataman said.