June 4, 2013
It is worrisome to note that that up to now, there is still no schedule for the next round of peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. As stated in its 11 April 2013 Joint Statement, “the parties agreed to meet again after the 13 May 2013 Philippine elections” but did not mention a specific date for the next meeting. It is almost a month from the midterm elections but up to now, there is still no schedule for the formal resumption of talks. Given the very limited transition roadmap between now and 2016, any delay in the signing of the Annexes will cause irreversible consequences on the viability of the transition period itself.
As primary stakeholders of the peace process in Mindanao, the grassroots communities can only afford to rest once the parties have signed a comprehensive peace agreement. No amount of Sajahatra scholarships, skills trainings, livelihood, Philhealth cards, appointments to government positions and outpouring of donors funds could ever substitute for the urgent need to have a final deal on the Annexes. The Transition Commission cannot proceed with the drafting of the Basic Law until and unless the parties of the negotiations conclude the negotiations on the Annexes. Despite the euphoria, pompous jubilation and extravagant publicities on the FAB and the transition roadmap, it is evident that the framework agreement remains a framework and until and unless the peace panels will overcome the outstanding issues on the Annexes, the transition period cannot realistically proceed.
The results of the May 13, 2013 election which catapulted into power majority of the administration candidates speak resoundingly on the approval of the electorate on the peace program of President Aquino. This overwhelming vote for the administration is a confidence vote that should embolden the President to make hard decisions that will put to rest the lingering issues on how much power and wealth this government is willing and able to share with the Bangsamoro people.
With the midterm elections behind us, we urge the President Aquino to conclude the negotiations with the MILF by completing the Annexes and signing a comprehensive peace agreement before he delivers his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 22 July 2013. We recommend and expect that during the SONA, the signing of the Annexes can already be reported as a major accomplishment of the Aquino administration and that he certifies that the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law should be a priority legislation for the 16th Congress of the Philippines.
We urge the peace panels to immediately schedule the next round of talks and focus all their energies, time and attention on the completion of the Annexes. This should be a priority and must be resolved at the soonest possible time. We also appeal to the peace panels to maintain openness, transparency and constant dialogue with all stakeholders of the peace process so that we can support one another in overcoming the remaining obstacles and challenges in the negotiations. (30)
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