Less than two years before President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term ends in 2022, two of his promises on his peace agenda have been delivered: the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, repealing the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA).
“After almost two decades of peace negotiation, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was finally passed and ratified,” he said in his fourth state of the nation address (SONA) at the convening of the 18th Congress in July 2019. The Organic Law created the BARMM following years of peacenegotiations with rebel groups, mainly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), composed of minority Muslims fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.
On Feb. 26, 2019, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) officially replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that was established in 1989 after negotiations primarily with the Moro National Liberation Group (MNLF). This, after a majority of the Muslim communities in Mindanao voted in a plebiscite in favor of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in pursuit of lasting peace in Southern Philippines. (See SONA Tracker 2018: Peace Agenda)
The BTA, composed of 80 members appointed by the president, functions as a parliament to legislate priority measures during the transition period for the full operations of the BARMM. It will be dissolved after the Bangsamoro’s first regular elections in 2022, synchronized with the local and national polls.
On July 4, a day after Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said in a statement that he “fully respects” the decision of the president and that he looks forward to having a representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC). This is a walk back from the Bangsamoro parliament’s previous statement asking the president to veto it.
The anti-terrorism law took effect onJuly18, or 15 days after its signing and publication on the Official Gazette website, even before implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were issued. According to Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra, the promulgation of the IRR is “not a condition” to the effectivity of the law.
As of July 23, at least 16petitionshave been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of RA 11479. Some of the provisions in question in the new law are the broad definition of terrorist acts, warrantless arrest on mere suspicion, and extended detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a pre-SONA virtual presser on July 22, said the government will ensure that its implementation will focus only on “terrorists” and will not be used to infringe on human rights. Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, for his part, reiterated that the law “has enough safeguards against abuse.”
On July 7, barely four days after signing the anti-terrorism law, Duterte tagged communist groups as “terrorist organizations,” saying he had “finally declared them to be one.”
One of the principal authors of the bill, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, quickly pointed out in a statement posted on his website that the “president’s ‘declaration’ of the CPP-NPA as terrorist is a personal opinion and not official.” He added that the president’s “designation of a terrorist individual group or organization” is a mere signal for the ATC to request the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze accounts and assets. Lacson said it is still subject to “judicial” scrutiny.
See how the Duterte administration handled his peace agenda:
PROMISE: Fast-track establishment of a regional government in BARMM
“It is my hope that the Bangsamoro Transition will fast-track the establishment of regional government that will secure a comfortable life for Muslim brothers and sisters, and all indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Regions.”
Duterte inaugurated the BARMM in Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, Cotabato City on March 29, 2019.
On June 17, 2019, the BTA approved the proposed transition plan drafted by members of the government agencies such as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Civil Service Commission (CSC) and ARMM, as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
According to the first issue of its quarterly magazine for June 2020, “a fully operational BARMM government is likely to happen next year ” after it approved last November a P65.6 billion budget for 2020.
The House adopted the Senate version without any amendment, thus skipping the bicameral conference committee, to hasten its passage.
On June 1, President Duterte certified the anti-terror bill as urgent, paving the way for its swift passage.
Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the bill was “goodaspassed,” after Duterte certified it as urgent.
The House approved the anti-terrorism bill on final reading on June 4. It was transmittedby House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Sotto to the Palace five days later for the president’s signature.
Duterte signed it into law on July 3, 2020.
PROMISE: Resume peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF
“Kayong mga Left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?" (SONA 2017)
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks. I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately, and call on our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.” (SONA, 2016)
On April 27, in one of his press briefings about the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Duterte once again terminated peace talks with the CPP-NPA. He cited the groups’ lack of “respect” for their “spoken words and deeds” in killing soldiers who are doing humanitarian missions.
This came afterreportsof an encounter with the NPA during an aid distribution in Aurora province on April 21.
Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire from March 19 to April 15 to focus on the administration’s assistance on health workers and medical supplies, and in need for immediate medical attention, then Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
The National Democratic Front National Council and the CPP also declared a ceasefire from March 26 to April 15, heeding the call of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The truce was extendedbyCPP-NPA to April 30, coinciding with the relaxation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
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