EU funds publication of Bangsamoro law primer

bangsamoro basic law
Bong S Sarmiento

A PRIMER on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), funded by the European Union (EU), was presented to the public on Friday.

The BBL is the measure now deliberated in Philippine Congress to legalise the creation of the new Bangsamoro government in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which crafted the BBL, presented to the public the BBL primer during a ceremony in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila.

The primer will be in English and six local languages, and more than 50,000 copies will be published.

“As part of the EU’s long-standing support for the peace process in Mindanao, we are very pleased that EU funds have enabled the production of this key publication,” EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux said in a news release.

Attending the public presentation were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal and Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.

Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF).

The GPH and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), their final peace agreement, last March after 17 years of negotiations.

The key feature of the CAB is the creation of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The BBL is a tool which can be used to organise conversation, debate, and dialogue with all the stakeholders.

It will again prove to be an excellent tool in the preparations for the future plebiscite. It will help to describe, explain, and clarify the various aspects of the law and how this will affect the everyday life of the Bangsamoro people, the EU Philippine Delegation statement said.

The publication of the primer has to be considered a further effort of the BTC to make the peace process as transparent as possible, by enabling everyone to clearly see its benefits.

It has the ultimate objective of inclusiveness so that the negotiated peace settlement would be truly sustainable, it added.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, November 30, 2014

bangsamoro map


MILF forms political party for 2016

Mohagher Iqbal

Mohagher Iqbal

Germelina Lacorte

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is now starting a political party that will bring the group waging over four decades of war in Mindanao to participate in the 2016 elections.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, told reporters in a side interview during the launch of the European Union’s Journalism Awards here on Friday that the MILF’s involvement in the political exercise would finally shift the group’s paradigm away from bullets and toward ballots by participating in the elections.

“We have already started to organize the MILF political party because as a group coming from a conflict situation to a peace settlement situation, we have to engage in a regular political exercise—meaning not through bullets anymore but through the ballot,” said Iqbal, who heads the MILF panel in the talks with the government that ended with the signing of the peace agreement early this year.

He didn’t know yet who would run and for what positions, Iqbal said. It was premature to divulge the details, he added.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission would help prepare the MILF leadership for the prospect, he said. “In the interim, there will still be the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, but after that, it’s free for all,” Iqbal said.

“Whoever wins will run the Bangsamoro government,” he added.

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), or the law that will provide how the Bangsamoro shall be governed, has to be passed and ratified by Congress before it is submitted to the people in a plebiscite.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles earlier said in an interview in Davao City that both panels hoped to complete the decommissioning of MILF forces before the 2016 elections to allow the group to participate in the elections.

“I hope the decommissioning will be completed before 2016 because it would be unthinkable for an Army to participate in the elections,” Deles said.

Although the symbolic decommissioning of MILF forces already started as soon as the draft BBL reached Congress last month, the MILF can only effect the decommissioning of 30 percent of its forces once Congress ratifies the law.

Iqbal said that the decommissioning of another 35 percent will take effect once the Bangsamoro police is established; and another 35 percent, after all the signed agreements and documents are fully implemented.

“Decommissioning does not mean you have to surrender or destroy your firearms,” Iqbal said.

“There are conditionalities attached to each of its phases,” he said.

“[In] the first phase, which includes the symbolic decommissioning once the draft of the proposed law is submitted to Congress, [it is] only when Congress passes and ratifies the BBL that the MILF will undertake

30 percent of its arms,” he added.

He said that another 35 percent will take effect once the Bangsamoro police is established.

“Full decommissioning, which takes place after the MILF undertakes another 35 percent of its forces, can only begin once all the agreements and documents [they have signed] are implemented in the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Iqbal also expressed confidence that Congress will pass the BBL before

June 2015.

“I think the BBL will pass through Congress,” Iqbal said.

“We have been very consistent in saying that we trust the collective wisdom of the members of Congress,” he added.

He also described the reception of the peace agreement among Christian communities as generally “warm,” noting the enthusiasm and the warm reception expressed by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo and Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. in Cotabato City, although fears are being expressed in Basilan province and Zamboanga City, which Iqbal said were unfounded.

About critics and spoilers, he said: “That’s a reality for all peace settlements, but what’s important is, at the end of the day, we’ll be able to handle all those issues and move forward until we finally settle them.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer

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MILF chief: Bangsamoro to bolster Islam in Mindanao

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Benigno S Aquino III

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Benigno S Aquino III

Bong S Sarmiento

THE creation of the Bangsamoro government will not only bring peace and prosperity to Muslim Filipinos but, more importantly, will advance and bolster Islam as a way of life in Mindanao.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), issued such pronouncement as he greeted the entire Muslim Ummah in the celebration of the holy feast of Aidil Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice.

October 6 was a national holiday in the Philippines for the celebration of Aidil Adha.

“Alhamdulillah, our more than 40 years of long struggle for freedom and self-determination is now gradually bearing fruits,” he said.

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF signed last March 27 the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), their final peace agreement after 17 years of negotiations.

The CAB envisions the creation of the new Bangsamoro region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“With the help of Allah, Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, our hope for justice, peace and prosperity for the Bangsamoro people and homeland and most importantly the advancement of Islam as our way of life is bolstered and strengthened,” Murad said.

The Bangsamoro government will be legalised with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and its ratification by the constituents in the proposed territory, the core of which is the ARMM.

ARMM comprises the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

President Benigno S Aquino III submitted a BBL draft mutually agreed by the GPH and the MILF last September 10 to the Philippine Congress, which is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Aquino and Murad had met twice in Japan to push the peace process forward, which has gained support not only from the domestic front but also from the international community.

The President has certified the BBL as a priority legislative measure of the administration. The leadership of both houses of Congress has vowed to support the bill.

Murad said it is vital for the Bangsamoro people to carefully examine the BBL “because ultimately, we will all be beneficiaries to the dividends of the fruit of the peace we have been striving our level best to attain and preserve.”

He also called on those who have not yet registered to enlist so they can participate in the plebiscite.

Murad said they expect the plebiscite to take place “before the end of 2014 or early 2015.”

The MILF had agreed to decommission its firearms as part of the normalisation process.

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mindanao issues fatwa on TB

Bong S Sarmiento

A FATWA (Islamic edict) to fight tuberculosis (TB) was issued to help and guide Muslim Filipinos fight the deadly disease.

The religious edict came out after the Department of Health (DOH) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) sought the help of Muslim religious leaders and scholars in the fight against TB.

The fatwa on TB was officially launched last Wednesday in Davao City, one of the highly urbanised cities in Mindanao.

It was crafted in partnership with the Darul Iftah (House of Opinion) and the association of Ulamas (Islamic scholars) in the country, said ARMM Health Secretary Kadil Sinolinding Jr.

He said the fatwa is their “coordinative strategy to hasten the bringing of right information, diagnosis and attitude towards TB”.

The fatwa encourages people suffering from symptoms of TB and those diagnosed with it to consult a doctor or any qualified health professional and observe proper medication, citing certain Islamic injunctions and examples of Prophet Mohammad (SWT) himself, the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information said.

It is intended to be propagated with the help of the Ulamas and other Muslim religious leaders in their khutbah (sermons), especially during congregational prayer on Fridays.

Sinolinding said the fatwa and the keen support of the Ulamas would be very helpful in combating TB particularly in the autonomous Muslim region.

He noted they recognise the strong influence of the Ulamas and other religious leaders. “Our people look up to them and tapping them in this campaign will merit trust among our Muslim constituents.”

Based on the data of DOH ARMM, TB cases in the region went down by 60 per cent from 4,275 in 2011 to 1,700 in 2012.

Sinolinding said the fight against TB requires the support and active collaboration of all stakeholders.

The Brunei Times
Sun, 10 August 2014

Muslim Filipino professionals join peace calls for Gaza

moroBong S Sarmiento

A NETWORK of Muslim professionals in the Philippines has joined the global calls for the peaceful resolution of the Gaza conflict.

In a manifesto emailed to The Brunei Times this week, the Young Moro Professionals Network, Inc (YMPN) urged Israel and Palestine to avoid the path of violence and instead thread the peaceful way through dialogue.

A 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza negotiated by the United States and the United Nations took effect Friday morning, but was quickly brokened when the Israelis accused the Hamas of kidnapping one of their soldiers.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet in Cairo, Egypt for formal talks on how to end the conflict in the duration of the truce, reports said.

However, as soon as the truce took effect, Israel renewed shelling that killed at least 50 Palestinians and wounded 220 others, after Hamas reportedly captured an Israeli officer and killed two others.

“We call on the concerned parties, Israelis and the Palestinians, to resume the peace talks on an acceptable, fair and democratic resolution creating a genuine and far-reaching solution towards an end to the sectarian violence and sporadic armed confrontation,” the YMPN said.

It said the recognition of the Palestinians’ quest for their right to self-determination leading to a “two states” resolution or a federal government system “is seen as a viable resolve.”

“We support them as we the Bangsamoro people in southern Philippines (Mindanao) share the same aspiration for right to self-governance, justice, and peace through a genuine autonomous government,” the group said.

YMPN also commended the efforts of various organisations, government institutions and individuals who have given humanitarian aid and have called for a peaceful resolution in Gaza.

“It is a blunder to world peace if other nations play blind and deaf on the sufferings and anguish for peace and justice in the Israel-Gaza conflict,” it said.

For her part, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao said they are praying for the people of Gaza, and called on Israel to value the life of civilians and to uphold international laws.

“The State of Israel must stop the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people,” she said.

Israel drew flak after it stepped up military offensives in Gaza starting last month, which sparked protests in different parts of the world.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also urged Israel to once and for all uphold international laws and stop escalating its “mounting war crimes, as its illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people continue to fuel an endless cycle of violence.”

“The Moro people stand in solidarity with Gazans, all Palestinians and other innocent victims of war…Let us offer a prayer to those who have perished and to the parents who will never see or hold their children again,” he said earlier.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, August 3, 2014


Brunei invited to join body for decommissioning of MILF fighters

bru minda Prime-IMT-ContigentBong S Sarmiento

ASIDE from its membership to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Brunei Darussalam was invited to join the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) that will oversee the transformation of MILF fighters into productive and peace-loving citizens.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim disclosed this development on Friday after a high-level delegation from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), led by Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohd Tawih Abdullah, paid a visit Thursday to Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s main headquarter in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“Brunei is honoured for the invitation to join the IDB and the Brunei Armed Forces are optimistic about this invitation,” Pehin Major General Dato Mohd Tawih said in a statement released by the MILF. The parties reiterated their commitment and cooperation to realise the success of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the MILF and Government of the Philippines last March 27, 2014 in Malacanang, the seat of the Philippine government.

In his statement, Murad said the coming to Camp Darapanan, particularly during the blessed month of Ramadhan, of RBAF Commander Pehin Dato Major General Dato Mohd Tawih is a clear manifestation of the strong commitment and support of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the Philippines-MILF peace process.

“On behalf of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people, kindly convey to His Majesty’s government our heartfelt gratitude and appeal for a more comprehensive participation and support from the Government of Brunei to the peace process,” Murad stressed.

Along with Brunei, the Philippines and MILF have also invited Norway and Turkey to be part of the IDB, whose major mandate is to oversee the decommissioning of the MILF forces and put their weapons beyond use.

Since the start of the deployment of the IMT in 2004 to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF, Brunei has been a member-state sending the second biggest contingent on the ground.

The RBAF commander reiterated the strong commitment of Brunei for the success of the CAB signed by the government and MILF.

“We congratulate the government and MILF for [signing the] CAB, which we truly believe is going to be a just and lasting solution to the conflict, and will certainly bring unity and prosperity for the entire country,” he said.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, July 13, 2014

T’nalak Festival in Mindanao begins week-long celebration

Bangsamoro_TnalakBong S Sarmiento

THE famed T’nalak Festival of South Cotabato province, one of Mindanao’s major festivals, formally opened yesterday to once again showcase its unique and diverse cultural heritage and promote the business and tourism potentials of the area.

A colourful and lively thematic parade in the main streets here in the morning, witnessed by thousands of people, signalled the opening of the festival that will run for eight days.

The T’nalak Festival is now on its 15th year. It will culminate on July 18, the province’s 48th founding anniversary.

South Cotabato governor Daisy Avance Fuentes led the formal opening of the festival, which was named after a cloth made by the T’boli tribe.

T’nalak is a dream-inspired fabric woven by women members of the T’boli tribe using abaca fibers intricately designed with natural dyes.

Fuentes noted that meticulous preparations, in consultations with various stakeholders in the province, were made to ensure the success of the festival, which this year promises to be a grand and lively celebration more than ever.

“We have shown to ourselves and to our people that if we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Today, our people have shown novel ideas that we can be proud to the world,” she said.

Fuentes was referring to the thematic parade, which is the first time to be introduced to the T’nalak Festival where contingents paraded with certain themes, such as on agriculture.

Fuentes invited local and foreign tourists to join the festivities to savour the best that the province can offer.

Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar, the invited guest speaker, described the T’nalak Festival as “a reflection of the vibrant and dynamic spirit of South Cotabato and its people”.

“It is also a reflection of your uniqueness and unity as a people, which you can be proud of and share to the world,” she said.

For the duration of the festival, tourists may dine out and drink in the T’nalak strip that features live bands, shop for locally made products or marvel at the bahay kubo (thatched houses) representing the province’s 10 towns and this lone city.

There will also be a plant fair, techno trade exhibit, beauty pageant, motorcross competition and other sporting event in the duration of the festival, among other activities.

During the culmination on July 18, a street dancing cultural showdown in the morning and a street party in the night await the tourists.

Stricter security will be observed in the duration of the festival, with uniformed police and military personnel manning strategic locations to ensure the safety of revellers.

Police Senior Superintendent Jose Briones, provincial police commander, said at least 313 policemen will be rotationally deployed in various locations for round-the-clock duties.

The Brunei Times
Sat, 12 July 2014