Ms Arroyo arrived Tuesday for a “full cabinet” meeting at the Macaraeg-Macapagal ancestral home, a venue which was alternately chosen against the original choice — Molundo town in Lanao del Sur.
Among numerous concerns of the country, Arroyo talked of starting year 2009 as a mark for the “renewal of sustained, intense and vigorous efforts to ensure the fulfillment of the government's Mindanao Agenda, an agenda of two main planks and anchored on two Ps — Peace talks for all and Projects for Peace.”
Arroyo said that “an all-inclusive effort” should be waged where all stakeholders must have one mindset — a passion for peace.
“The stakeholders include local government units, non-government organizations, religious groups, separatists and federalists,” she said as posted in the official website of Office of the President Secretary (www.ops.gov.ph).
The OPS article said the projects for peace involve increased government investments in Mindanao and fast-tracking of ongoing development projects in the area.
It also stated that “these development projects will fully exploit Mindanao's ‘awesome asset’ of being typhoon-free, and will include the creation of agri-business processing zones.”
Arroyo also committed to “undertake a crash program to address the problem of illiteracy and poverty in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and give priority to the Mindanao provinces included in the list of the 10 poorest in the country.”
“Our objective is to realize the century-old quest for lasting peace. From the wreckage of war, we will fashion implements for progress and lasting peace,” the President said.
But 31 kilometers away from where Ms Arroyo held a meeting with her cabinet members, hundreds of Maranao youths marched around Marawi City, urging here to “respect and honor the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).”
Abul Alibasa, a non-government worker, said that “if the President pursued the original plan of conducting the cabinet meeting at Molundo, we could have also marched there to deliver personally our questions and our demands.”
The youth who staged a rally at Banggolo in the middle of town, identified themselves as ‘inheritors of an undying will to assert our people’s freedom and our sovereign rights over territories and our destiny as a nation,” crafted a resolution that raised six questions to the Arroyo administration.
“1. Wherefore have you come, Madame President?
“2. Do you come as the President of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, who has embroiled our representative in an eleven-year span of peace negotiation, with a historic final document that is certainly the best solution to the conflict, and right on its final approval, Your Excellency turned about and declared your determination not to sign (even at the point of a gun), a presidential declaration vehemently stated even long before the Supreme Court could issue its final decision on the unconstitutionality of the MOA-AD?
“3. Is your visit with the blessings of Justice Puno, and the permission of the three Kings of Mindanao — Piñol, Cruz and Lobregat? And like Alexander the Great, ride rough shod with no grass allowed to stand in his way?
“4. What are you bringing to our people? Can Your Excellency bring out hope in the nailed coffin of the MOA-AD? Do y
ou bring equal protection for us and if so, are you bringing at least 13,000 arms for our civilians as you did to non-Moro civilians in Mindanao?
“5. What can you do for us in the remaining months of your Presidential reign? Your Excellency cannot promise a constitutional change to legitimize the MOA-AD because your powerful opponents took that away from you. The only remaining option is the declaration of Martial Law. Have you come to use us, as Dictator Marcos did, to justify the declaration? Wherefore, have you come this late and no avail?
“6. What gift are you bringing to our people and to us, the Young Bangsamoro?”
Meanwhile, after day-long cabinet meeting, President Arroyo went to the village of Doña Maria here about 4 p.m. to distribute relief goods to flood victims who waited for her since morning, skipping lunch.
She left the city as the Moro youth's questions remain unanswered.
Alibasa said “that even as the President failed to read our questions, we hope that she will still know all these through the media. The media workers will bridge us to her office.”
In their resolution, the Moro youth also said they are “painfully conscious that all the peace treaties and agreements entered into by the Bangsamoro have not been honored or implemented by their counterparts in the negotiations, from way back during the American occupation down to the present administration of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, the latest of which is the deliberate abortion of the initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), carefully crafted over more than 10 years.” (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)