PEACETALK: Why the euphoria of FAB and CAB did not last long: What comes next for BBL?

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COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 05 March) — The euphoria for the GPH-MILF (Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front) agreements (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) was a short-lived advantage to get a chance to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). According to standard of conflict resolution, we have not steered away from two tracks: political violence and modality of achieving political ends.

No legislative currency is achieved for now to enact BBL in a derogative form. In the aftermath of that bloody Sunday (January 25, Mamasapano), no closure of a political route is in sight, but it has created a public space for the political project in which something else than BBL is vetted into play. As things currently stand, old bogeyman Moro is resurrected as arena of political clans and metro-centric authorities fight their intramurals in the primacy of politics and largesse.

Public responses reinforce the fault-line of conflict so that “double-speak” rather seems like a sort of Orwellian spell — we are for peace but with so many conditionality. A language of distrust (hate?) with overarching anti-BBL themes has likewise stoked fears about MILF. TV-Radio anchors who maintain it routinely, plug similar montage. Whereas I must deliberately use vocabulary of terms familiar to conflict-resolution negotiators opposite insurrectional popular and immediate politics.

What is next expected for BBL is to enter into new commitments of partnership as the staging post for phased-steps toward transitional arrangement.

Congressional legislation and administrative action are centrally biased towards a presidential unitary system. We can assess the outcome of the “talk process” judging its potential to entrench Bangsamoro right to self-determination. Against a backdrop of historical injustice, an “irreformable” constitution is not what MILF’s long armed struggle fought for to achieve full devolution. This issue was perfect for the peace panel. It is about the charter’s imperfection that MILF interlocutors engaged in to deconstruct the status quo. Writing the people of “Bangsamoro” status in asymmetric structurally crafted framework is not repugnant to any constitutional contemporary republican ideology.

We are embarking on a new departure from radical politics. Hon. Marcos and Hon. Rodriguez pick your battles for peace for bipartisan support. Lawmakers must not confuse the Truth about accountability with Trust in pursuit of ‘a new beginning’ for policing in Bangsamoro with police service capable of attracting support from the local community.

Managing congressional politics around passing the BBL in June is feasible, but with no assurance of conforming to the peace pacts. On what basis then do we realistically draw lines between the pro-BBL constitutional fold and schismatic anti-BBL radical fronts, skeptics or critics? Opponent accounts that Hon. Cayetano and Hon. Lobregat claim obscure the truth and erode trust being selective with the facts.

The Aquino administration’s “criminalization-pronged” modality is bound to produce ambiguous results to meet or reverse political violence toward the end state. DOJ Secretary De Lima takes the procedural steps for the two-pronged approaches to Government-MILF peace process. Once complaints lead to mass arrests, it can conflate unbridgeable gaps in the “normalization-pronged” modality to which the parties have signed up in the Annexes to FAB and CAB and BBL.

For MILF ordinary perspective, this first prong translates to criminal prosecution for ‘prison victimhood’. Talking peace to the MILF was not having any effect in the ground because of common apprehension that the Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) pattern of ‘unwarranted arrests’ (with renewed order of battle lists) would repeat itself.

The MILF Central Committee response to secure peace was a “normalization” process with a phased decommissioning. The second prong means nuanced gesture of putting arsenal of ‘weapons behind use’ to end political violence. As in earlier phases of GRP-MNLF peace initiative, GPH-MILF thematic agenda to disarm, demobilize, reintegrate (DDR) is predictably a tense task. Because DDR is ineffectual tool for demobilization, there is risk of derailing the components of normalization laboriously constructed as a substantive part of FAB and CAB. Chairman Al haj Murad said in a TV interview no decommissioning can take place without BBL.

So if OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) keeps too close focus on decommissioning and security-related questions, it does not create political confidence. And so, what concerns the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) command posts was about the counterinsurgency side of politics via normalization process with no clear leverage for United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the political self of MILF. While en route into navigating the parliamentary roadblocks for UBJP, there is a vacillating response from the ulama ranks. There is speculation that MILF volunteers could just be trapped into non-participatory basis in the 2016 electoral process.

State coercive power inflicted through AFP-PNP forces is a crucial dynamic, yet clearly distinct sort of attachment that makes uniformed men hold to public life almost absolute. I will reduce this explanatory argument to a less rigorous analysis. Normality of more benign Military-Muslim relations is being reverted to soldiery attrition in Muslim Mindanao rather than “peace-building roles” among noncombatants. And more immediately offensive atrocities can subvert a true reconciliation process with a “humanitarian tragedy” after renewed hostilities. State duty toward MILF as armed non-state actor (ANSA) under Protocol 2 (Articles of War) is to balance how important this status issue works: for reduction of the role of the Army troops under normal politics.

Are we nearly reaching the stage of “hybrid wars”? Despite BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) turned their attachment to an active extremist group (as did Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah subvert MNLF political legitimacy), however, it makes normal politics impossible, and thus undermines MILF interest.

Normality of more benign Military-Muslim relations is being reverted to soldiery attrition in Central Mindanao rather than “peace-building roles” among the noncombatants. And more immediately a true reconciliation process is subsumed in a “humanitarian tragedy” after renewed hostilities. Abnormality and unstable politics they justify not only benefit them but sustain organized crimes just as the security sector (Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police and why not the warmongering politicos, too!) reap rewards under certain circumstances. That is why, the BIAF functioning as a main backbone of the revolutionary force remains in tack as the dominant structure.

Armed non-state actors assume that there is a reality behind politics. I want to complete this discourse with the democratic arguments. To get the results they collectively want is not so different from nation-state democratic will to sustain the ideas and premises of their Accords (translated: Hudnah). A common and dominant narrative is rooted in the right to correct historical injustices. Thus, the BBL is a statutory instrument of conflict-transformation. The MILF revolutionary leadership signed up to FAB and CAB to “renegotiate” and “to reframe” MOA-AD without derogating from their prior agreements.

Most of the press, opinion editorials, talk shows or social media have not picked up the substance of this political dimension intertwined with transitional justice and reconciliation. To grasp the overlapping contexts of the process of weaning MILF Islamic resistance and addressing the legitimate grievances is pivotal. How is the struggle of Bangsamoro to connect with the community of faith (ummah) they value? MILF dedicates enormous social capital to a model that re-situates itself and that suits transformation of its own reality. For crucial to MILF top leadership thinking is to shift from any form of radical political activity to signing accords (hudnah). Making treaties with non-Muslims is sanctioned and permitted by Islamic legislation.

What justificatory cause is behind the collective thinking of the MILF founded by Salamat Hashim that has galvanized other impulses toward Islamic resistance? A smart Bangsamoro self-image to build Muslim self-protection point to: MILF preparedness to use force in self-defense against attack from any sources, to back the oppressed, to spare no effort to bring about justice and defeat injustice. “They act and strive to make the word of Allah supreme,” Salamat used to preach repeatedly. My discernment deepens only why we have to embrace the signpost of MILF pathways which is “endurance” (sabar)!

We have to live with the fact that there exists also private loss behind those uniformed victims of the legitimate targets or “war-on-terror-killings” directed by forces of the state. Dateline in Maguindanao: the 44 Special Action Force was nearly wiped out, except a lone survivor. Dateline in Sulu: the PC Nenita Unit was totally felled during the 1950s Kamlon pacification era. Fifty years on from that constabulary siege, how can we today reflect calmly and wiser as Muslim and Christian witness with a “culture of grievance”? How can we, as citizens all, establish guarantee of non-recurrence?

Our readers may feel that someone outside the MILF community cannot understand their politics, their vision, or their argument. But hostile reaction to the BBL could reinforce other emotional impulses that are simple but definitional anti-neocolonial sentiments. (Datu Michael O. Mastura is President of the Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy. He was a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, and served as Congressman of the 1st district of Maguindanao from 1987 to 1995. He served as senior member of the MILF peace panel and chairs its Advocacy Committee. He contributes analyses and commentaries to MindaNews.)

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