ADVOCACY MINDANOW: MILF Peace Pact: What if….?


 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 April) — There are many questions that since have arisen after the signing of the comprehensive agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB). Most of them are questions projecting worse case scenarios.  Or are just  plain and simple apprehensions of people who want to see the CAB succeed.  It  may be helpful  if we confront  those questions this early so we know how to deal with them when the time comes.

Here are some “what if” scenarios (I refer to them as obstacles that we must hurdle) and some practical recommendations to deal with them. I do not wish to appear presumptuous. These are my own preliminary thoughts and given for whatever they may be worth. Some, I admit, may be misplaced.   I am sure there are many out there who can further enhance or suggest more scenarios.

I am listing those “obstacles” with some personal recommendations on how to “hurdle” them.

A) CONGRESSIONAL. What if Congress will not approve ” en toto” ( in its  entirety)  the agreement that was a product of long and tedious negotiations between the government and the MILF that  spanned about 17 years?

What if Congress writes  its own version of a  peace deal and will change, alter or vary substantive provisions of  the CAB in the proposed basic law —  as  what Congress earlier   did in the laws that implemented the MNLF  Tripoli peace agreement of 1976 and the final peace agreement of 1996 which MNLF’s Nur Misuari denounced?
What if the MILF will not agree to the changes or alterations or enhancements that Congress will unilaterally approve –
given that the tedious negotiations crafted precise language and provisos that were mutually acceptable  taking into account their respective negotiable and non- negotiable  positions?

Recommendation:  During congressional deliberations, the MILF must be involved somehow so that the final approved version will be acceptable to them. Some sort of a   “negotiations table” be opened by Congress to  continue engaging with the MILF during congressional action to assure that the MILF will not “walk away” or reject it  when the law is passed. MILF must also telegraph somehow to  congressional leaders, especially in the Bangsamoro, that the CAB is “inclusive” and not intended  to dislodge them politically or for the MILF to entrench itself at their expense.

                 

B) CONSTITUTIONAL. What if legal action is filed in the Supreme Court questioning the CAB — with initial noises about constitutional issues now being raised?

What if the case drags or its resolution delayed in the Supreme Court — knowing how long cases are resolved?

What if the Supreme Court declares, partly  or wholly, the CAB or the organic law as unconstitutional —  as what happened in the MOA-AD in 2008?

Recommendation:  Knowing MILF’s principled stand of non-adherence to the Philippine legal processes and therefore its expected non-involvement in any judicial proceedings, it may be best nonetheless that in the Supreme court case,   the MILF must be impleaded as an affected/interested/adverse  party or at the least, its legal  legal  representatives invited  in the legal panel of the government to protect the CAB, so that it  will be duly informed of the issues  and understand fully  the final ruling when it comes. It will also signal MILF’s transition into eventually recognizing constitutional primacy which is the end game of the peace accord.

                       

c) POLITICAL. What if in the plebiscite, the incumbent political leaders who have the command votes and who will feel threatened to be sidelined by the new Bangsamoro regime will campaign against it — given that  political leaders and their supporters  in offices  in the ARMM  are more politically savvy and  entrenched?

What if in the plebiscite, it will not be approved by the citizens?

What if  after a vote in the plebiscite, the Bangsamoro territory that votes “yes”  will only cover a smaller area that will render it not viable as a governance unit as envisioned — given that some areas now within the ARMM even prefer to get out of the ARMM?

What if in the 2016 elections, the MILF candidates   will not win in the elections — being  now still  in the process of organizing itself into a political party and is expected to  compete with well-financed and more experienced non-MILF political players in the field?

What if the MILF aligns and fields its own candidates with a political  party in the 2016 elections — given that the issues on Bangsamoro aspiration ought to stay above the divisive  political fray?

Recommendations:  The MILF must moderate or calibrate its political plans. To win the support of the traditional political leaders and mainstream constituencies and eventually win the votes in the plebiscite and the elections, the MILF must initially focus on the regional  or the Bangsamoro governance entity and leave the  LGUs to mainstream political leaders to show “inclusiveness” and of course get their support. Most important is for President Aquino to invest political goodwill and capital  to see to it that the MILF “takes over” the governance leadership of the new Bangsamoro entity, at least in the regional level.
              

D) INTERNAL. What if the MILF cannot exercise effective command and control of its forces who are “gung ho” in dominating the areas anticipating a full “takeover” of the Bangsamoro areas — given the experience in the failed MOA-AD when aggressive MILF elements forcefully dislodged occupants of  their claimed ancestral domain lands in anticipation  of the MOA-AD implementation?

What if  certain MILF commanders start enforcing their own Islamic rules and laws effectively and prematurely  challenging regular law enforcement agencies in some Bangsamoro areas and hence contributing to more alienation and lose of support of the masses?

What if due to expected delays in implementation timelines, some   MILF elements take unilateral forceful action to express dissatisfaction or impatience that will be disruptive of the process?

What if the MILF leadership cannot address the growing internal bickering or competition that are always normal in empowered or enhanced opportunities that may not be equitably available for all MILF?

Recommendations: The MILF headed by Kagi Murad must exercise firm leadership and control and  be the moderating force to preserve the gains of the peace efforts.
               

E) TRANSITIONAL. What if the MILF will not be able to meet the high expectations of the Bangsamoro  during the  short transition
 period or beyond — most MILF elements now  still adjusting  and needing  longer  time for capacitation and preparation  for  governance?

What if there are not enough resources and development
 support to quickly bring results —  there being  now very high expectations amongst the Bangsamoro for the dividends of peace to improve their
 live?

Recommendations:  With the MILF ‘taking over’ the ARMM governance level in 2016,  it  must  show its capability and sincerity in improving the lives of the Bangsamoro. To assure initial or start up budgetary support, Congress before it bows out in 2016 must pass annual budgets with continuing appropriations to support on a long term the new Bangsamoro entity (some sort of a ” mini Marshal Plan.”) International donor communities, while the peace euphoria is still strong and before donor fatigue sets in,  must be convened to  do a pledging session to commit specific development and capacity building fund support on  long term.

     

F) SECURITY. What if the MILF, in the decommissioning phase, will not declare its actual strength?

What if, as envisioned in the decommissioning stage, the former identified MILF camps cannot be restored or returned —  given that IPs or non-MILF elements now  claim they were the original occupants and rightful  owners thereof?

What if the MILF , being not disarmed and still with their firearms,   will use threats and violence to win the plebiscite and win the votes in the regular elections?

What if the MILF eventually  decides not to disarm at all —  the phased disarmament being dependent on  how the implementation of the CAB is achieved or that their disarmament is dependent on whether other armed groups are also effectively disarmed?

What if armed non-MILF elements will continue to disrupt, making MILF unable to bring peace to the Bangsamoro  area — with so many other  armed  groups operating and the proliferation of firearms?

What if Islamic extremists or fundamentalists and others  continue their aspiration for Islamic independence and continue their armed struggle?

My recommendation:
                 

The AFP and the PNP must prepare for the worst case scenario  and craft options and not be lulled by the “prospects of peace.” Moreover,  the MILF is only one  of the many security threats the nation faces.  (Sorry, I have no sufficient strategic, tactical and operational competence to give specific recommendations on this.)

               

G) INCLUSIVITY. What if some  MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and Misuari groups still  feel sidelined and will disrupt or undermine the MILF peace efforts?

What if the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) of Umra Kato (now under Commander Karyalan) and other so-called MILF rogue armed elements will continue to operate?

What if there are peace-loving Muslims who do not believe in the MILF as truly representing their aspirations as a people?

What if other Muslims feel lack of  ownership in the CAB, the proposed basic law and other outcomes of the peace agreement?

Recommendation: The MILF must not assume that they represent the whole Bangsamoro. It must “win” the support of as many by the manner they will perform.
while several NGOs are helping, more involvement of others  must be done in the next steps in Congress in the crafting of  the basic law through extensive public hearings not only in manila but on the ground in the field to win widespread support and ownership.
                     

H) BEYOND 2016. What if due to the delay in  Congress or in the Supreme Court, the timetable will not be met and the next Philippine president makes the judgment call?

What if MILF politically aligns with the administration party and the opposition wins?

What if   the successor of President Aquino in  2016 will  not be as supportive to the CAB ?

Recommendations: During  the 2016 elections campaign,  all candidates or those running for public office in the national and concerned areas in the local  level must be made to commit to a peace agenda and  sign a “Covenant for Peace” which will at least guarantee  continuing support to the peace process beyond 2016, whoever wins.  The MILF must decide  whether or not to align with the administration party. If it does, to perhaps insure victory in 2016, it  must reach out to all other  political parties for support akin to a common candidate scenario.  It has to make a crucial decision on whether it is best to openly support a particular candidate or not so it does not put in jeopardy the future of the Bangsamoro  entity and  dependent on the outcome of the  elections in 2016. Although it is preparing to be a political party, it must at this early stage try to remain “apolitical” as much as it can to insure wide and sustainable support to survive.  Truth to tell, the MILF will still be a neophyte by 2016 to engage in the rough and tumble of realpolitik.  A final shot: MILF must get  savvy political advisers  this early.

                       

LAST CHANCE. I’ll stop here for the meantime. I am sure there are still many “what if” situations outside of what I have preliminarily mentioned. But let’s all keep in mind those “HURDLES” so we all help in seeing to it that the CAB succeeds  as envisioned.

This is our last chance, folks, for a peaceful settlement. If we mess this one up, we may never get the same opportunity again. Mark my word!
 (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. The author was formerly GRP Peace Panel Chairman, Presidential Peace Adviser and Presidential Adviser for Mindanao under former Presidents Ramos and Arroyo. This piece is from his syndicated column, Advocacy MindaNOW).   

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2014/04/20/advocacy-mindanow-milf-peace-pact-what-if-%e2%80%a8/

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