If politics is as has been said the art of the possible, then the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) as a political document is making peace-building an act and work of art. As main and only resource person of the
Peace Forum on the FAB held by Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) last Saturday, November 24, GPH Legal Team Head Atty. Johaira Wahab could not emphasize enough that FAB is not a legal but instead a political document – something somewhat like a memorandum of understanding as compared to a memorandum of agreement.
Atty. Wahab represented GPH chief negotiator Atty. Marvic Leonen, who had earlier committed to come to the forum but whose recent appointment as justice of the Supreme Court derailed the plan. However, Atty. Wahab acquitted herself very well. She gave a very insightful, coherent, and comprehensive discourse, easy to understand despite the complexity of the issues and processes involved.
The roof deck of Marcian Business Hotel, forum venue, was jampacked with about 400 Muslim and Christian attendees, to include Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat. That majority of the participants are from Zamboanga City and so not at all constituents of the present and future autonomous government reflects the magnitude of interest and concern people everywhere have towards the question of peace and peace-making in Mindanao.
Atty. Wahab is optimistic that the three annexes required to complete the FAB and make it executory/functional will be completed before this year ends – as scheduled. Much of the work on power- and wealth-sharing are done, she intimated, while the third annex on normalization requires far more spadework. Because of the seriousness of the PNoy government in this task, the number of advisers and staff of the GPH team in the latest round of the talks in Kuala Lumpur this November has reached an unprecedented 40 people, she disclosed. The MILF has a smaller group. Most of the remaining work – that is, fleshing out the annexes – is at the level of the technical working groups.
Atty. Wahab asserted that the FAB and eventual Basic Law that will create the new political entity called the Bangsamoro will differ radically from the 1996 Final Peace Agreement in terms of how political and other powers are understood and effectuated, and how the Agreement and the Basic Law would rely more on principles rather than a mere enumeration of rights and duties to make the Bangsamoro autonomy both workable and genuine.
She invited civil society take ever more active part in the remaining work of the peace panels since more than a few issues and concerns remain unresolved. Such as, “transitional healing and reconciliation”, trans-border mechanisms to protect the environment, and affirmative action for Muslim Filipinos residing outside of the future Bangsamoro region.
In his welcome remarks, PAZ president and IRSMP convenor Fr. Angel Calvo reiterated the commitment of civil society to the peace process, in particular to the Bangsamoro challenge since it affects all of Mindanao. ARMM Commission on Human Rights regional director Atty. Laissa Alamia was reactor to Atty. Wahab’s presentation. Mayor Lobregat was among those who directed questions at Atty. Wahab during the open forum, which was moderated by Dr. Grace Rebollos.
The forum is one of the pre-Week of Peace 2012 activities. The Week will be celebrated on Nov. 29 – Dec. 5 in Zamboanga and throughout Mindanao. (Note: With apologies to Sun Tzu, who wrote the classic “The Art of War”, in entitling this short piece “The Art of Peace”, although of course peace is not the mere absence of war, a notion which is now coming to full bloom in Mindanao. . . Alhamdullilah and ‘thanks be to God’.) (Rey-Luis Banagudos/Peace Advocates Zamboanga)