Cardinal Quevedo sees lasting peace in Bangsomoro agreement

By: Freddie G. Lazaro, PIA 1, Ilocos Norte

LAOAG CITY, April 15 (PIA) – Cotobato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo said the newly-signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was a solution to the decades–long peace crisis in Mindanao.

Quevedo, who was interviewed during a recent visit in his home province of Ilocos Norte, said he saw the truthfulness of national government officials in crafting the agreement.

“If this is properly implemented, it will attain its ultimate objective – to institutionalize a lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao,” the first Ilocano cardinal said.

The CAB is a five-page final peace agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27 at the Malacañang Palace in Manila.

The agreement signing was the culmination of the 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and will pave the way for a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity.

Under the agreement, the Islamic separatists would turn over their firearms to a third party, which would be selected by the rebels and the Philippine government.

The MILF has agreed to decommission its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. In return, the government will establish a separate Bangsamoro region.

The Bangsamoro autonomous political entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016. It will be presided over by a ministerial form of government. It is not an Islamic state. However, the scope of its territory will be settled after a plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

According to the signed documents, the envisioned core territory of Bangsamoro includes the current ARMM provinces and Marawi City; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; the six municipalities of Lanao del Norte (Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal) and villages (under the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap) that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in 2001.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is still being drafted, will define the relations of the local government units, the Bangsamoro government and the central government.

Meanwhile, the “annex on power sharing” states that the relationship should be “reflective of the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity and their aspiration for self-governance.”

Civil courts for non-Muslims will be maintained while Sharia courts for Muslims will be established. A judicial process for indigenous rights will also be allotted for.

The Bangsamoro government will have taxing powers similar to that of the ARMM. It will collect funds from fees and charges, grants and donations, loans and other sources of revenues.

Of the national taxes, fees and charges collected by the central or national government within the territory, 75 percent will go to the Bangsamoro government. In the long-run, the Bangsamoro should be less dependent on the national government.#