COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Various groups supporting the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are optimistic Congress will extend congressional mandate to the Transition Commission (TransCom) as required by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).



President Benigno Aquino III created Tuesday the TransCom, through E.O. 120, as a mechanism for the bilateral setting up by the government and MILF of a new political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


There are sectors here interpreting the FAB as “requiring” congressional mandate for the TransCom, through a resolution from Congress.


The chairman of the government’s peace panel, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, was quoted in a report Wednesday by a Mindanao-based news cooperative entity, the, as saying that a congressional resolution is not a prerequisite to the creation of the commission.


MILF officials said a congressional resolution is one “deliverable” the government can provide to hasten the peace talks.


“Any congressional resolution to that effect can be interpreted as manifestation that Congress will support all efforts meant to build lasting peace in Moro areas in Mindanao. Congress is to play a big role in the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said an MILF official, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the issue.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL will pave the way for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new governing mechanism, as espoused by the FAB.


Ferrer said TransCom “will need to put up its office and staff, convene, come up with work plans and agree on procedures.”


Members will also have to be officially appointed first, she said.


Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the Transcom’s creation is a big boost to the peace process.


The President is set to appoint the 15 members of the TransCom. The government is to select seven of its 15 members, while the MILF will recommend the rest, including the chairman, to make upits manpower composition.


An expert on Moro issues, Oblate missionary Eliseo Mercado Jr., said a congressional resolution backing the TransCom will put the legislature in the forefront of the government-MILF peace effort.


“That would be a good development. That will be a manifestation of commitment from Congress,” Mercado said.


Mercado, who is executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance based in Cotabato City, said there are eight Moro members from Mindanao of the House of Representatives, among them representatives Sandra Sema and Simeon Datumanong, of the first and second districts of Maguindanao, respectively, who can spearhead the initiative of drafting a resolution stating support for the TransCom.


Datumanong, a lawyer who hails from Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, helped craft, as government negotiator, the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front. The agreement, signed December 23, 1976 in the Libyan capital Tripoli, was to become a major reference, along with the Constitution, in the drafting of the September 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF final peace agreement.


Mercado, who was minority floor leader of the now defunct MNLF-led Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, the transitory mechanism for the ARMM’s expansion through plebiscite in 2001, said a congressional resolution supporting TransCom will also create the impression that there is cohesive cooperation between the government and the MILF in pushing the FAB forward.


“It will show [the unity] of Malacañang and Congress in the government’s dealings with the Moro community in Mindanao,” Mercado said.


Jaafar, told reporters the setting up of the commission, through E.O. 120, which President Benigno Aquino signed December 18, will also hasten the confidence of Moro sectors on Malacañang’s handling of the peace talks.


Jaafar welcomed the creation of TransCom.


Malacañang has initially allocated P100 million for the operation of the commission.


Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, in an emailed statement, said E.O. 120 is a presidential initiative that affirmed Aquino’s resolve to advance the government’s peace talks with the MILF.


Muslim clerics in the ARMM also asked Congress to state in “black and white” its recognition and support for the TransCom.


Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, a commissioner in the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, said Congress should manifest its full support to the GPH-MILF peace overture through a resolution backing the TransCom.


A police officer, who is also an imam (preacher), said MNLF founder Nur Misuari, while negotiating with the government in the 1990s, had complained about dealing separately with the executive and legislative branches of the government.


“There must only be `one’ GPH to deal with. A congressional resolution acknowledging the TransCom, expressing support for the attainment of its objectives, is one big step towards that goal,” the police officer, who is based in Maguindanao, said.