[PHOT0 -Muslim women stage the ‘Hijab Run for Peace: Religious Understanding Now’ at the People Power monument yesterday. Inset shows Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak arriving at Villamor Air Base yesterday.

MANILA, OCTOBER 15, 2012 (PHILSTAR)  By Delon Porcalla - President Aquino will soon issue an executive order appointing the 15 members of a Transition Commission after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign today at Malacañang the framework agreement outlining the roadmap for peace.

The 15-member commission, composed of eight representatives from the Muslim side and seven from the government, will draft a bill that will be sent to Congress to establish a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said Muslims could lobby with lawmakers and coordinate with them in crafting the bill.

Congress will also deliberate on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will govern the residents in the proposed region, but which will be bound by the 1987 Constitution and remain under the national government.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said the commission would conduct consultations in the affected areas to know the pulse of the people on the proposed Bangsamoro.

Leonen said that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will continue to exist until Congress makes a new law.

The Bangsamoro region is expected to be in place before President Aquino’s term ends in June 2016.

Officials of the Bangsamoro region would be elected in the May 2016 synchronized elections.

The Basic Law of the Bangsamoro will have to be signed into law before Aquino steps down in 2016. Deles said the President would certify as urgent the bill that will establish the Bangsamoro.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the signing of the framework accord will start at 1:30 p.m. after President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak hold bilateral talks in Malacañang, shortly after arrival honors for the foreign leader.

Expanded bilateral talks will also be held with members of Aquino’s Cabinet. A press conference will then follow.

Leaders of civil society organizations involved in the peace process, foreign leaders, particularly from third-party facilitator Malaysia, members of the International Contact Group, the International Monitoring Team will be arriving for the event.

Deles said the peace pact signing would not have any theatrics that may dilute its significance.

Leonen will sign for the government side while MILF spokesman Mohagher Iqbal would sign on behalf of the rebels.

[PHOTO By ROMEO RANOCO/REUTERS 9 hrs ago. Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre L) reviews a honour guard upon arrival at Villamor airbase in Pasay city, metro Manila October 14, 2012.]

The signing is to be witnessed by Aquino, Razak and MILF chairman Al Hadj Murad.

The framework agreement, which was made public last week, aims to end almost four decades of conflict in Mindanao, and which includes other Muslim groups that have been consulted, among them the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The agreement lays down the groundwork for achieving the “final and enduring peace in Mindanao” by enjoining all stakeholders to support the implementation of the needed “structural reforms.”

Under the accord, a new political entity will replace the ARMM and be named Bangsamoro, where several municipalities in Mindanao would be added, but will have to be approved by the Muslims in a plebiscite.

Valte said in her weekend radio interview over state-run dzRB that the new pact will work this time around.

“We’re very hopeful for this particular agreement. We’re very hopeful and both sides are committed to giving peace a chance to give hope a chance to flourish,” Valte said.

Valte gave assurance that the proposed Bangsamoro would not be a mere makeover or a name replacement for ARMM, which remains in poverty and where private armed groups had prevailed.

[PHOTO -Hopes of peace in Mindanao: Midway through his six-year term, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III can now claim the forging of the Framework Agreement as a landmark achievement of his administration. For the historic occasion, President Aquino has invited Prime Minister Najib ...Mindanao peace caravan rolls on to capital. Gulf AFP Philippine Star Gulf News]

Elusive peace

Senator Loren Legarda expressed hope that the agreement will be an opportunity to achieve the long-elusive peace in Mindanao and called on all Filipinos to support this reform process.

“Let us give peace a chance. Let us explore all possibilities within the bounds of our national sovereignty to achieve the long-elusive peace in Mindanao,” she said.

Legarda, who chairs the committees on foreign relations and cultural communities, also stressed that change will not come overnight.

“Ink on parchment cannot solve the problem. It will be a long and arduous process. Any peace agreement will not be successful without an economic package,” she said. “And it’s not enough that resources are made available. Resources must be translated into jobs, livelihoods, food, education, healthcare, and welfare for the Bangsamoro people.”

She noted that massive development challenges and socio-economic costs of conflict in Mindanao remain to be addressed.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile believes that the framework agreement does not violate any provision of the Constitution but there are some provisions that would have to be clarified when the matter is brought up to Congress for perusal.

Enrile said that he has gone over the agreement and saw nothing that was unconstitutional.

He said that the pact should not pose any problems right now since its signing would only be a first step before congressional involvement.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that he has a number of concerns about the agreement, particularly on the security aspects.

Lacson said that he would seek a clarification about the role of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Bangsamoro region.

As far as the Armed Forces are concerned, Lacson said that there should be no confusion because they would continue to be present in the entire country, including the proposed Bangsamoro region as provided by the Constitution.

Giant step

Meanwhile, leaders of the House of Representatives hailed the Bangsamoro framework agreement as “a giant step towards lasting peace” in Mindanao.

The lawmakers also urged the public to support the pact, and for authorities to thwart attempts to derail efforts to forge peace in Mindanao.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said the preliminary agreement “has been long awaited for the return of peace in Mindanao especially in the conflict-affected areas where more than 130,000 lives were lost and continue to suffer dislocation now and then and of course to encourage economic development.”

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone described the signing today as “a giant step towards the attainment of lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“All sectors should give that agreement a chance to take root first to ensure its success. Congress should be more than willing to enact all the necessary measures that will support it,” Evardone said.

Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman said every Filipino should be happy with the signing of the framework agreement.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco said the preliminary agreement between the government and the MILF is a historic breakthrough under the resolute “Daang Matuwid” vision of President Aquino.

He cited the efforts of Deles, Leonen, and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Ronald Llamas for steering the agreement to fruition and public approval.

“I have very high hopes and expectations for Muslim Mindanao led by the sincerity of different stakeholders and the MILF leaders,” Haresco said.

“After the signing of the agreement by both the government peace panel and the MILF, let’s hope that both parties are sincere on the implementation of the stipulations of the agreement in order to achieve peace in Mindanao,” Lanao del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said the agreement “should be given a chance to work.”

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the signing is a historic and long-awaited event.

“There will be those who will downplay its importance and who may even try to derail the agreement. What cannot be denied is that it’s a huge step towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao, which could lead to the full development of the region,” Angara said.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his older brother, Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez in a joint statement said they fully support the pact, “which will put an end to fighting in Mindanao and ultimately attain that elusive peace in Mindanao for centuries now.” With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy


Will peace really reign in Mindanao? SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Valeriano Avila (photo above) (The Freeman) Updated October 09, 2012 12:00 AMComments (1)


The big breaking news for the week is the announcement by Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III (photo) of the peace deal the government has supposedly hatched with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The problem here is that, when it comes to peace in Mindanao, we have become sort of jaded simply because there were similar attempts in getting a peace pact with the Muslim separatist group like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which did not really result in a peace deal, but in the end, it splintered the Moro groups and one of them is the MILF. What about the Abu Sayyaf, huh?

So the big question about the Aquino Peace Deal is, whether the MNLF is on board in this peace process because if they are not on board and the MNLF did not buy in on this peace deal, then who are we to say that there will be peace in Mindanao? Then what about the Communist Party of the Philippines who has New People’s Army (NPA) regulars in various parts of Mindanao? Are they included in this deal? We are for peace but for as long as armed groups roam freely in Mindanao, I will remain a skeptic!

* * *

The Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 has become the bone of contention between politicians and netizens all over the country… and I’m sure this includes Filipino netizens working abroad as Overseas Contract Workers (OFWs) who are considered our new “heroes”. It took some time for Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III to finally come out in the open supporting the very law that he signed last Sept.12, 2012. After the President defended this law, almost every elective government official from Senate Pres. Juan Ponce Enrile and down to the governors and mayors have come out supporting this controversial law.

It is very understandable that persons with authority, especially those who are elected or appointed into a government office may believe in the Freedom of Speech but with responsibility and therefore, they support the Anti-Cybercrime Prevention law as it criminalizes libel which many of them consider as the proper safeguard to prevent anyone from besmirching their reputations. But do these people in government understand the meaning of the importance of free speech?

First of all, the Philippines is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the agreement states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 contravenes this particular article of the UN Human Rights charter.

Here is the rub. When it comes to the implementation of the United Nations Population Control Program (UNPCP) we must follow it to the letter, even to the point of copying in toto their laws which is now included in the highly-controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. This is why those netizens who accused Sen. Tito Sotto of plagiarism when he made his privilege speech against the RH bill, did not saying anything when we turned the tables against them and told them that the RH Bill is also a plagiarized bill, copied from similar bills from the UN or the United States.

One thing that makes the Anti-Cybercrime Law offensive is its vagueness, which is open to various interpretations. Those of you who have not experienced being sued for libel do not understand that one of the principal reasons why people file libel cases against the media is because they can use to the hilt, the reality of the judiciary’s snail-paced system.

Thanks to that other law on “subjudice” wherein the media is prohibited to write, or speak on TV or radio about the person who filed a libel case against that particular journalist and the longer that our court takes to decide on the case, the better for them. In short, they used our courts of law to stifle our precious freedom of speech.

While I agree that our precious freedoms must carry with it some responsibilities, libel must be decriminalized. Alas, the Anti-Cybercrime Prevention Law elevates libel to include anyone expressing his or her opinion in the social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Now the big question is will the Supreme Court declare the Anti-Cybercrime law as unconstitutional as pointed out by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago?

If you ask me, the SC already failed in this first test case on Judicial independence when it failed to give the petitioners against the Cybercrime law a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). That no less than PNoy is supporting this law is a signal from the President to the SC to junk the petitions. We would certainly know in the next few weeks whether the SC is not considered fully independent from the Executive Branch.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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