MALACAÑANG PALACE, MANILA (APRIL 30, 2019) — In another historic move, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 79 or the Annex on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

(See CAB here)

The President’s approval of EO 79 marks another milestone in the decades-long Bangsamoro peace process and signals the full implementation of the Normalization track, particularly its various mechanisms and components that have initially been established on the ground.  

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr said that by affixing his signature to EO 79, the Chief Executive is sending a strong message that his administration is determined to sustain the gains and push forward the Bangsamoro peace process to its successful conclusion.

“This is the moment we have been waiting for. It is another testament of the President’s firm commitment to fulfill all signed agreements with the various Moro fronts and finally bring genuine and enduring peace to the Bangsamoro,” Galvez said.

(See EO No. 79 here)

Normalization: A multi-pronged peace and development strategy

The formal operationalization of the Annex on Normalization, which is part of the CAB, comes five years after it was signed by members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Panels.

(See Annex on Normalization here)

According to Galvez, Normalization is a multi-faceted strategy which encompasses the key aspects of security, socio-economic development, sustainable livelihood, political participation, confidence-building, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

“What EO 79 actually does is to consolidate all of the government’s different peace-building initiatives under the Normalization track,” he explained.

Galvez pointed out that the Normalization phase shall compliment the political track of the CAB.

“The Normalization track compliments the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which was signed into law by President Duterte in July 27, 2018 and ratified through plebiscites held on January 21 and February 6, 2019,” he said.

Galvez said the passage of the BOL resulted in the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is led by an interim government called the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). The 80-member body is headed by the MILF.


From former warriors to agents of peace

He noted that the beneficiaries of the Normalization track does not only cover the MILF’s combatants, but will also be extended to members of other armed groups who are willing to rejoin mainstream society.

The Normalization process will also include the families and communities of the combatants. This track’s main goal is to help them transition into peaceful and productive members of society, while transforming their camps into progressive and resilient communities.

Galvez said the key to the successful implementation of the Normalization phase will largely depend on the involvement of the MILF-led BTA, which will be at the forefront of this major undertaking.

“More than anything else, the BTA, under the leadership of its Chairman Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, can serve as a symbol of solidarity, reconciliation and more importantly, inclusivity in the region,” he said.

Galvez said that under the Normalization track, former rebels such as the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), as well as members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) will be given chance to turn a new leaf and return to mainstream society.

“At the heart of the Normalization track is the principle of inclusivity. Everyone, regardless of tribe, religion or ideology should be part of this process,” he said.

Galvez said the Normalization phase shall cover the six MILF-recognized camps which include Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, Camp Omar ibn al-Kattab in Maguindanao, Camp Rajamudah in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur and Camp Abubakar as-Siddique in Maguindanao.

He added that other locations where decommissioned combatants are residing may be identified for inclusion later on by the GPH and MILF Implementing Panels.

“The main goal of Normalization is to help these former rebels return to the folds of the law and regain their lives,” Galvez said.

“We must, therefore, help create a conducive environment that will finally convince them to lay down their weapons and become agents of peace and development,” he said.

“I, therefore, urge members of other armed groups to take advantage of the sincere efforts being shown by the Duterte Administration to finally put an end to this decades-long conflict,” Galvez said, adding “Let us all partake of the dividends of peace.”


Key components of Normalization

The Normalization track’s four main components include: security, socio-economic development, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Under the EO 79, an inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN) shall be created to implement these components. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Office of the Cabinet Secretary shall act as the body’s co-chairpersons.

The OPAPP shall act as the Secretariat of the ICCMN and will be supported by other member- agencies in carrying out its mandate. Member-agencies are required to submit reports on their various initiatives to the Secretariat.

The Secretariat shall, among others, provide technical and administrative support to the inter-cabinet cluster, as well as coordinate with the other concerned agencies regarding plans and programs to be implemented under the Normalization track.

Under the security aspect are the transitional components of the Normalization phase which shall be handled by the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) and the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST). This aspect also includes the decommissioning of MILF forces and their weapons.

The JPSTs, which shall serve as the operating units of the transitional components of the Normalization Phase, will be composed of representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

(PHOTO: Ceremonial Decommissioning of 145 combatants and 55 high-powered and crew-served weapons of the MILF on June 16, 2015 MILF at the Old Provincial Capitol of Maguindanao.)

The decommissioning process shall be carried out by the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). Its members include three foreign experts led by a chairperson and three local experts designated by the government and MILF panels.

For this year, the Normalization track targets to decommission at least 12,000 combatants and their weapons during the first phase of decommissioning. This is among the major agreements contained in the CAB.

Moreover, the socio-economic development aspect of Normalization shall focus on the implementation of development efforts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the BARMM, particularly communities that have ravaged by armed conflict.

Specifically, these programs are community-based and designed to foster social cohesion and strengthen solidarity among the people. The Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Families shall closely coordinate with the ICCMN regarding the delivery of services.

In the meantime, the Normalization Track’s confidence-building measures and transitional justice shall cover the creation of a Presidential Commission on Bail, Release and Pardon. The body shall be tasked to study and recommend grants of pardon and amnesty, and identify processes that will lead to the resolution of criminal cases against persons charged with crimes.

Meanwhile, the ICCMN shall take the lead in carrying out the recommendations made by the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) in order to finally address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices and resolve human rights violations and concerns on marginalization. ###