TJRC Calls on Peace Panels to Seize the Bangsamoro Opportunity

In a speech delivered during the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission’s (TJRC) launch of two final and supplementary reports on land dispossession and the listening process on February 22, 2017 AT Camp Darapanan, Sultan, Kudarat, Maguindanao, TJRC Chair Mo Bleeker voiced the concerns of the communities that took part in their listening process.

“Over the past four decades, an untold number of people in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago have experienced immense suffering. They have lost family members; they have been driven from their homes; they have lost their lands and livelihoods. They are poor and they are tired and they want peace now: not words about peace, but actions indicative of peace,” Bleeker explains speaking to an audience that includes the chair of the peace panels, representatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the international community, and Listening Process facilitators and community members.

The TJRC reports state the three mutually reinforcing phenomena of violence, impunity, and neglect contributes to the complexity of conflict in the lives of the Bangsamoro. However, as the consultations took place in over 200 communities, the Commission was surprised to find that rather than seeing these conditions as part of the Bangsamoro Problem, the people earnestly recognized the Bangsamoro Opportunity, emphasizing that peace could be made possible with enough political will and ground action by a wider set of stakeholders.

In submitting these reports, the TJRC completes its mandate and hands over its findings to the peace panels whose main task now is to respond constructively to the recommendations forwarded by the Commission. Among the key recommendations of the body is the establishment of an Independent National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB). This autonomous body shall be responsible for listening to the victims of the conflict, investigate serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and enquire into specific events of the war; contributing to the resolution of outstanding land disputes in conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro and address the legacy of land dispossession with concrete measures to provide redress; engaging in the struggle against impunity by promoting accountability and strengthening the rule of law in relation to past and present wrongdoings, including crimes identified under the Rome Statute and under international conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory; promoting healing and reconciliation among the different communities affected by the conflict.

As dealing with the past is a whole of society endeavor, the TJRC likewise hopes that the future of the peace process involves effective collaboration between the government, the MILF, civil society and the Bangsamoro communities.

The first TJRC launch took place in Manila on 20 February 2017.