COMMENT: Forced-on heritage (1). By Patricio P. Diaz

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — If love is spurned, force it on her. That’s the desperate lover. If obsessed legacy is denied or might be denied, force it on the nation. That’s outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Peace in Mindanao with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that she had obsessively longed to be her heritage has been denied her by fate. Yet, she and her “wise men” have found a way to “immortalize” her name in the annals of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks – to let the nation know unmistakably that the peace talks continued beyond her term owing to her government’s interim agreement with the MILF.

Interim Agreement

This interim agreement – Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiation between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – signed last June 3 expressed the commitment of the Government and the MILF to continue the “Peace Process until they finally conclude and reach a comprehensive compact”.

The agreement contains six points of consensus as guides in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact. The six points:

• New formulas that permanently respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for just peace, freedom founded on parity of esteem, equal treatment for their identity, ethos, and rights and for the Bangsamoro as a whole to exercise self-governance on the basis of consent in accordance to an agreement framework which shall be negotiated and adopted by the Parties;

• In good faith, building on prior consensus points achieved, these negotiations and their results will proceed on the basis of consent and courses of action free of any imposition in order to provide the parties definitive commitment to their success for peace settlement;

• The ultimate goals of this talks is to consider new modalities to end the armed hostilities with responsibility to protect and for human security, in addition to resolve the legitimate grievances and claims for the people of Moro ancestry and origin;

• In reframing the consensus points on Ancestral Domain, respect the existing property and community rights taking into account in particular the rights of indigenous people in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

• As a general principle indigenous people who originally inhabit particular constituent units shall receive protection and enjoy equal rights similar to those enjoyed by the Moros, taking into account in addition to economic and geographical criteria, their individual and communal property rights, cultural integrity, customary beliefs, historical and community traditions;

• Agreed upon texts and signed instruments on the cessation of hostilities and security arrangements guidelines and development initiatives and rehabilitation guidelines to be subsequently incorporated in a comprehensive text of the compact agreement.

The agreement is good. Is it proper and necessary?

It is improper. No matter how this is justified, the Arroyo government signed an agreement for the incoming Aquino government telling it how to continue the negotiation. Why? The Ramos government did not do that for the incoming Estrada government.

It is unnecessary. Benigno C. Aquino III, even before his proclamation as president-elect, has committed to continue the peace talks. He has intimated the appointment of Teresita Quintos-Deles to her former position as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Why limit his options on how to continue the talks? What if the Aquino government has a better approach?

GMA Alone?

In truth, much of the progress in the GRP-MILF peace negotiation happened under the Arroyo government. That should be expected since nine of the thirteen years of negotiation took place under Arroyo. But for the Arroyo apologists, foremost among them GRP Peace Panel Chair Rafael E. Seguis, to credit all the gains to her to the exclusion of the Ramos and Estrada governments, of the MILF and the Malaysian third-party facilitator is distortion of facts. Credit should be given where it is due.

• In the first two years, from August 1996 to June 30, 1998, the Ramos government had done the crucial spadework: won the confidence of the MILF to negotiate; accepted the MILF talking point; and negotiated and signed the Ceasefire Agreement or the Cagayan de Oro GRP-MILF Agreement for General Cessation of Hostilities of July 18, 1997 and, subsequently, its administrative and implementing guidelines.

• From July 1, 1998 to January 20, 2001, the Estrada government had continued building on the foundation built by the Ramos government: continued the acknowledgment of the MILF bases; and on August 27, 1998, signed the General Framework of Agreement of Intent. Regrettably, President Joseph Estrada shattered the peace process with the all-out war on March 29, 2000.

• Ramos’ Ceasefire Agreement and Estrada’s General Framework of Agreement of Intent were two pillars of the peace negotiation. To these, Arroyo added the Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of the Peace Talk and the Tripoli Agreement of Peace of June 22, 2001.

• It takes two to tango. With each of the three governments, the MILF deftly tangoed through calm and stormy music to keep the negotiation and peace process going.

• The Malaysian third-party facilitator has steered the talks through walk-outs, suspensions, and impasses to save the negotiation from total collapse.

But Seguis, to force on the nation the gains of the peace negotiation or the peace process as the legacy of President Arroyo, — as MindaNews (May 29) reported — said that Arroyo “will leave behind a ‘basic architecture’ to ensure the ‘continuity of the talks under the newly elected President”. The June 3 interim agreement which is obviously being referred to is part of that “basic architecture” but not the sole piece. Arroyo is only one of the many architects.

To Blame

To be candid about credit and blame, Arroyo bungled the peace process when she failed to defend the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in August 2008, turning the golden chance to rotten fiasco. This was the core of the May 28 report, “Muslim rebels ‘disgusted’ with peace efforts under Arroyo”, published in national papers and circulated internationally by Yahoo News and Agence Presse France with MILF chief negotiator Iqbal as the main source.

In response to this report, Seguis issued that statement published by MindaNews on May 29. In his statement, Seguis called it unfair to blame Arroyo for MOA-AD fiasco as it was the Supreme Court that struck it down as unconstitutional. Was it unfair to blame her for not defending it – for abandoning it instead?

In fact, subsequent developments showed Arroyo had completely abandoned the MOA-AD. On July 29, 2009, the GRP and MILF jointly declared the resumption of the peace talks around a reframed MOA-AD as recommended by the Supreme Court. In their subsequent draft peace agreement proposals, the MILF adhered to the agreed outline to reframe the MOA-AD; the GRP offered Enhanced Autonomy not in reference to the reframed MOA-AD but to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

June 12 Celebration

As Arroyo’s apologists are forcing on to the nation the gains ignoring the losses in the peace process as the Arroyo legacy, so they are making sure that the achievements – skipping the failures – of the Arroyo presidency would not be denied of her as her legacy. They are devoting the 112th Independence Day Celebration on June 12 to remind the nation not to forget. (June 9: Achievements of Arroyo to be paraded June 12) said that “this year’s Independence Day will be the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Day”. This, the report continued, “all but threatens to push to the sidelines the primary spirit of the country’s 112th Independence Day celebration”.

A 10-float parade costing about P10 million at the grounds of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta,Manila, the said, will “showcase the outstanding achievements of the 10-Point Agenda of the Arroyo administration”. Incidentally, Arroyo has been promoting her achievements personally in television programs.

The Palace has seen nothing wrong with this. Gary Olivar, deputy presidential spokesperson, was quoted by “Since the President is stepping down after nine years, I don’t know if we would still take away from her the opportunity to communicate, even just a little bit, what she has done the past nine years.”

Can’t Wait

Presidents before President Ferdinand E. Marcos did not promote their achievements; President Marcos did. To proclaim his greatness and power, Marcos had an imposing bust statue of himself built beside a road to Baguio City. That statue now proclaims of Marcos what a similar statue of Ozymandias, by Ozymandias [the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Ramesses the Great] proclaimed of him in the of Shelley’s sonnet Ozymandias.

Ozymandias built for himself a statue. In the pedestal he etched his boast: “My name is Ozimandias, King of Kings;/Look at my works, ye mighty [mocking God] and despair!” Three thousand years after, what happened to Ozymandias’ statue and his vast kingdom? Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/ Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,/ the lone and level sands stretch far away”. Marcos, like Ozymandias, could not wait. Look at his statue.

No Presidents between Marcos and Arroyo promoted their achievements. The world acclaimed Cory Aquino and People Power for the peaceful restoration of democracy in the Philippines. Ramos was internationally honored for his peace efforts; after his term he became member or chair or international groups and an international speaker in economic forums in recognition of his economic achievements as president.

People are not blind; the world is not blind. They see; they judge; they appreciate. They bestow honors on honorable and outstanding achievers. Arroyo cannot wait for the Filipino nation to see, judge and appreciate her achievements. She and her apologists are forcing on the nation what they believe to be her legacy.

Forced-on legacy can backfire. (Next: Limiting Aquino’s Options)

[“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You may e-mail your comments to patpdiaz@mindanews.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ]