Why did a peace pact with MILF not materialize?

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MANILA: What was supposed to be one of outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s milestones of his administration was the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would lead to established peace between the national government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but this did not happen.

CNA Correspondent Aya Lowe finds out why in an exclusive interview at the Malacanang Palace.

AYA LOWE: A full established peace agreement between the national government and the MIlF wasn’t achieved mainly due to the failure to pass the BBL, but this is something that hasn’t been achieved in previous administrations because of the difficulties. Why has it been so hard and what do you believe are the foundations for long-lasting peace, hopefully in the future?

BENIGNO AQUINO: Why is it so hard? You go back to the root of the problem, sometime in the late 60s and often cited is, there was exploitation, unfortunately by Christian businessmen, of a situation where we had Muslim brothers and other indigenous people who were tilling the land but were unlettered, and therefore did not title the land themselves. So the issue of land-grabbing came about.

Of course, everybody is smarter (now) in hindsight but at that point in time if the government had what is now established as the indigenous people’s rights, if we had recognised that then and gave them solutions to the land-grabbing problem through law rather than the force of arms, then perhaps we would not have had that very long conflict that has engendered, shall we say, mistrust, because of atrocities created by both sides.

When I was still in the legislature, we were asking ourselves that question. People who are negotiating were probably combatants not too long ago. And without trust how do you move forward on this thing?

What we are proposing is that there is a body that sets the policy which represents all stakeholders, be they Muslim, Christian or ingenious people, who now function through a chief minister who does not make all the decisions but actually carries out the instructions of this body.

That’s why we pushed for the BBL in partnership with MILF and so many other stakeholders.

Unfortunately, because of Mamasapano (botched anti-terror raid that killed 44 Special Action Force officers), it got derailed and it brought to the forefront so many prejudices on both sides. But we are hoping and we have had programmes to show the dividends of peace.

This means basically giving the combatants, their families, et cetera, the wherewithal to again participate in a growing economy. What does that mean? People who have known only conflict throughout their lives are now being given technical vocational instruction so they have gainful employment, assistance in agriculture, delivery of basic services like health, like education.

AYA: You mentioned the issue of peace and order. On the periphery of this peace agreement with MILF, there are all these rebel groups in these areas. So what can be done to completely eradicate this issue? Would they have to be involved in the peace talks or would they just have to be dealt with separately?

AQUINO: We had a position that said, (if there are) those who are willing to talk, we are always ready to talk (to them). But to those who refuse to talk and carry all of these atrocities out against our people, you will face the full might of the state.

The military solution is not the solution. You have to get all of these people to believe in the system, that there is an address of grievances available in the system. that there is an ability to improve one’s lot in life by working through the system, and that’s what we’re trying to do and have been doing in so many communities – where the military and the police have given us a measure of peace and have managed to shelter the communities away.

Source: CNA

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