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Two tracks of the Bangsamoro peace process

Much of the discourse on the proposed extension of the transition period covering the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has focused on its justification. While some groups in Mindanao have expressed their reservations, both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) have backed the call, citing the need for more time to fulfill their responsibilities and mandate.

Other stakeholders also recommended the creation of a roadmap that would specify the tasks to be completed during the extended period, identify the people accountable for the work, and define the structures, mechanisms, and milestones to ensure that promised goals are delivered.

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Any roadmap crafted for this purpose should be properly contextualized against the larger Bangsamoro peace process, and should prioritize specific milestones that need to be completed to determine the end of the transition period.

Specifically, the Bangsamoro peace process entails the completion of two distinct but interrelated tracks: the Normalization Track, found in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which refers to the transformation of armed struggle to peaceful political participation, citizenship, and livelihood; and the Political Track, as stipulated in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which outlines the steps leading to the creation of a new autonomous entity.

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However, confusion seems to arise when stakeholders refer to the noncompletion of the milestones under CAB’s Normalization Track to justify their support for the extension. This is an erroneous assertion.

Article XVI of the BOL already provides relevant guidance and lists the priorities of the BTA during the transition period: (1) the passage of priority legislations; (2) the setting up and organization of the BARMM bureaucracy to ensure continued delivery of services; (3) the disposition of the personnel of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); and (4) the full transfer of powers and properties of the Autonomous Regional Government in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro government, except those properties, land, and structures located outside of the ARMM.

Hence, under these provisions, one may argue that the transition period should end once the listed priorities have been achieved. Consequently, regular parliamentary elections can be held.

Meanwhile, CAB’s Annex on Normalization identifies the milestones that the Philippine government and the MILF must accomplish before an “Exit Document” can be signed, certifying that all the requirements have been met. The Normalization program has four key aspects: (1) Security, which includes decommissioning, policing in the Bangsamoro, dismantling of private armed groups, redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and detection and clearance of explosives and ordnance; (2) Socio-economic programs for decommissioned forces and their communities; 3) Transitional justice and reconciliation; and (4) Confidence-building measures, including the camp transformation of MILF camps, and amnesty.

However, the noncompletion of these milestones within the transition period is not a valid argument for granting the extension. As Article XVI Section 1 of the BOL states: “The transition period shall be without prejudice to the initiation or continuation of other measures that may be required by post-conflict transition and normalization even beyond the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

In other words, the work on normalization and other facets of post-conflict transition contained in the CAB may and should continue even beyond the transition period defined by the BOL.

It is important to clarify the connection between the two tracks to ensure that the extension, if approved, will be for the right reason—that is, to complete the Political Track.

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The Bangsamoro peace process requires the completion of the two tracks, signifying that both the Philippine government and the MILF have stayed true to their commitments to each other and to the country for a final political settlement to the decades-long armed struggle in Muslim Mindanao.

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Luisito G. Montalbo, MBA, is a member of the Board of Trustees of INCITEGov, a policy research and advocacy center in the Philippines. He is also a former undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Download the full think piece on incitegov.org.ph/thinkpieces.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro peace process, BARMM, Mindanao
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