Corruption in ARMM won’t entice neighbors to join the region

Pinol said that after the1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), “we were expecting the ARMM to perform but it did not.”

Unless corruption in the ARMM is addressed, “no peace agreement will succeed. We will never get anywhere.”

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, the MNLF secretary-general when the 1996 peace agreement was signed, said “after the signing of peace agreement in 1996, we had no autonomy.”

The ARMM was governed by MNLF leaders in succession – Nur Misuari from 1996 to 2001 and Dr. Parouk Hussin from 2001 to 2005. Since 2005, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan of the Ampatuan clan, has been governor, the first to be reelected.

Instead of an autonomous region, the ARMM, said Sema, who was introduced in the forum as MNLF chair, was an “autonomous administrative region.”

The peace agreement signed in 1996 was supposed to have led to the expansion of the autonomous region after  the transitional Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD).

The ARMM could be expanded only after the Organic Act, RA 6734, is amended. RA 9054 was supposed to have been the law that amended the Organic Act, to pave the way for an expanded ARMM but the MNLF  “rejected RA 9054 from the very beginning,” Sema said.

The MNLF leadership in rejecting RA 9054 then, claimed many provisions of the peace pact were watered down or not included in the amendatory law, thus  rendering the ARMM  “less autonomous than it a
lready was.”

While he spared Misuari and Hussin from criticisms, Sema did not spare their successor: “Why there is corruption? Because even those who would govern the ARMM are  people selected by Malacanang. They are not organic members of the Moro National Liberation Front. They are not organic members of any other revolutionary organization who had that vision 40 years ago, our vision for peace, our vision for good governance, our vision for progress.”

Sema noted that the  Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “may not have come to the extent of negotiating BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) if they had been satisfied with the result of RA 9054.”

He said the reason why people are not enticed to join the ARMM is “because of ignorance (on) what is good in autonomy, what is good in self governance. And the history of  Mindanao must be brought to the open,” he said.

Randolph Parcasio, one of  the legal counsels during the 1992-1994 negotiations of the MNLF with the government and later ARMM Executive Secretary, said, “that is not the autonomy envisioned by 1996 peace pact.”

Antonio Lavina, Dean of the Ateneo de Manila’s School of Government, who hails from Cagayan de Oro, said changing the system of government from the present unitary system to other forms is an option.  “Should we do it? I think we should. But I think we should do it not just for the Moro but for the whole country,” he said.

“I am a firm believer in local autonomy,” he said, adding there could even be three or four autonomous regions in the country, not just for the Bangsamoro.

Fermin Adriano, a Mindanao economic analyst said blame should not be just on the outside but also on the inside.

ARMM Governor Ampatuan could not be reached for comment but ARMM Solicitor-General Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi told MindaNews the ARMM leadership has been exerting efforts to get rid of corruption. “Of course you can’t get rid of it overnight. Even in the central government, there is also corruption. They’re even saying it’s already part of the Filipino culture but we do try to eradicate corruption. We’ve been getting rid of ghost teachers. What we can be proud of compared with past administrations is that we have more accomplishments,” she said.

Parcasio said the Bangsamoro struggle has been going by phases, citing autonomy, the 1996 peace agreement, then the higher expression of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination. “If you want to go higher, amend the Constitution.”

Datu Michael Mastura, senior member of the MILF peace panel, reminded everyone that the ARMM is “not a product of any peace negotiation” but a product of the Constitutional Commission.

In the 1971 Constitutional Convention where Mastura was a delegate, he said they pushed for a federal system of government.

Mastura also stressed the need for the Bangsamoro people to have “transitional justice.”

With that, he said, “we will be somewhere.”

“The question is, you’re killing ideas,” he said, apparently referring to the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The MOA-AD provided for a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that will initially be composed of the ARMM provinces and cities and seven towns in Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in 2001.

The BJE will be expanded later to 735 villages listed in Category A but the final  number will be determined only after a plebiscite is held a year after the signing of the MOA-AD. Under Category B, 1,459 villages are listed for inclusion but the final number will be determined only after the conduct of a plebiscite “not earlier than 25 years” after the signing of a comprehensive compact.

The initialed MOA-AD was not formally signed because a temporary restraining order was issued eve of its signing in Malaysia. During deliberations in the Supreme Court, the Philippine government announced it would not sign the MOA-AD “in its present and whatever form.”

The Supreme Court on October 14  declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)