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    Posted December 25, 2013 by

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    Will peace reign in Phl in 2014?

    PEACE remains elusive, but the Government of the Philippines (GPH) continues chasing it for more than three decades now. In fact, the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have already come into terms under a framework agreement that will establish the Bangsamoro government in 2016.
    Under the agreement, major issues on the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Wealth Sharing and the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the economic program that will provide basic social benefits to conflict-areas in Southern Philippines had been put in place.
    Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said these accomplishments for 2013 were based on the shared principles of mutual respect, devolution, inclusivity, harmony and good governance of both panels.
    ”In all our efforts at the negotiating table, we sought to find the good balance between what is just, practical and constitutional for this moment in our peoples’ history, and those other, higher aspirations that may find fruition and wider acceptability in some later future time but not now,” Deles said in her yearend statement.
    The GPH and the MILF signed the Annex on Transitional Agreements and Modalities in February 2013 that elaborated the roadmap to peace in Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippine Islands. Mindanao is dubbed the country’s Land of Promise.
    For the first time, Deles said, President Benigno Aquino III and his Cabinet entered the MILF camp in Mindanao during the signing of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro. This was held before leaders and members of the MILF and international dignitaries.
    In October 2012, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed.
    “By early next year, we aim to finalize the remaining Annex on Normalization, as well as an addendum on the Bangsamoro waters. We will also be working closely with the Transition Commission and Congress to ensure the smooth passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Deles said.
    The road to peace for Southern Philippines was met with political harassments in 2013. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway of the MILF, launched attacks against military outposts and personnel in Central Mindanao and Basilan Islands in Southern Philippines.
    The BIFF bombed some areas in Mindanao, particularly the cities of Cagayan de Oro in July, and Cotabato in August.
    But the most serious attack on peace was the Zamboanga siege carried out by forces loyal to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari last September. The 21-day siege killed hundreds of people, both combatants and civilians caught in the crossfire.
    Resolving the Islamic insurgency in Southern Philippines dates back to the late 1960s when a geopolitical revolutionary movement arose from the atmosphere of activism that characterized that decade.
    Sometime in 1968, at least 28 Muslim volunteers from Sulu who were being trained for a covert commando mission to conquer Sabah were massacred by government troops. It was popularly known as the Jabidah Massacre. The outrage that resulted from this butchery gave birth to the Islamic separatist movements in Mindanao, pioneer of which was Misuari’s MNLF.
    The Islamic insurgency in Southern Philippines began. Areas under the actual political control of Muslim separatists were painted with red in pursuit of an independent Bangsamoro (Moro Nation).
    To attain this goal, the MNLF engaged the government forces in extensive armed collisions in the early 70s and took control of a substantial number of municipalities surrounding Cotabato City and its airport complex. This move by the MNLF prompted the Marcos regime to beef up military presence by deploying almost three-fourths of the army in Muslim-dominated areas of Mindanao.
    Things took a different turn in 1976 when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered an agreement that led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement that introduced the concept of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.
    On August 1, 1989, under the mandate of the new 1987 Constitution, Congress enacted Republic Act 6734 authorizing the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). However, out of the 13 provinces and nine cities that participated in the plebiscite, only the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi opted to become part of the ARMM. The ARMM was formally established on November 6, 1990.
    The roadmap to a lasting peace in Southern Philippines has been put in place. But while the GPH and MILF panels continue ironing out some parts of the agreement, Misuari’s MNLF remains a threat.
    As both panels look forward to finally closing the decades-long Islamic insurgency in Southern Philippines, will peace reign in 2014?

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