Hundreds invited to signing of Bangsamoro accord
MANILA, Philippines—The government has invited more than 1,000 guests, including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, to next Thursday’s signing of the comprehensive peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Malacañang said Friday.
Najib, now preoccupied with the search for a missing Malaysian Airlines plane, has yet to confirm his attendance. His government facilitated the Philippine peace talks.
The government has also invited members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 and was largely left out of the negotiations with the MILF, which had broken away from it in the late 1970s.
“We are expecting more than a thousand guests to witness the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro,’’ presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a news briefing aired over government-run radio.
The government was still waiting for confirmation from Najib, he said.
Diplomats, members of the International Contact Group and the International Monitoring Team, and personalities who played a crucial role in the negotiations topped the guest list, Lacierda said.
“We’re also inviting congressional leaders and the House of Representatives and the Senate also to witness the historic signing,’’ he said.
The government and the MILF forged the accord on normalization in late January, paving the way for the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement.
The normalization document, which spells out the gradual disarmament of the rebel group and the decommissioning of its 11,000-strong forces, and three other previously signed annexes comprise the comprehensive agreement.
The Transition Commission, led by Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF, had vowed to craft the draft of the Bangsamoro basic law by March 31 for submission to Congress.
Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives had predicted that the basic law would be enacted by year-end, to be followed by ratification in a plebiscite.
“They are giving us an entire guest list to invite,” Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, said in a text message, referring to the MILF.
Deles o said that leaders of the major factions of the MNLF, as well as some “independents’’ were also on the guest list. She did not say if Nur Misuari was among those invited.
Misuari’s followers laid siege to seaside villages in Zamboanga City in September last year, leaving more than 100 dead, and forcing close to 120,000 people to flee their homes. President Aquino flew to the war zone to oversee the military offensive against the rebels, who were eventually flushed out.
Misuari, who felt left out of talks between the government and the MILF to forge a new peace agreement by year-end, was suspected of instigating the attacks.
In the briefing, Lacierda underscored the importance of Congress’ eventual approval of the proposed Bangsamoro basic law.
“This is a very important bill—it’s not only historic, but it’s also a very, very vital to the development in Mindanao. It has been for the longest time neglected,’’ he said. “I would imagine that the Mindanao congressmen will call on the support of the other regional legislators because the improvement and development in Mindanao will redound to the benefit of the entire Philippines.’’
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