MIND DA NEWS: The Only Solution

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 October) —  Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema said during an interview last Wednesday that the “only solution” to the problem of achieving long-lasting peace in Mindanao is to “harmonize” two peace agreements entered into with the Government – one by the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and the other by the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). (MindaNews, October 26, 2012)

He was referring to the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed last October 15 and to the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (also known as Jakarta Accord) signed on September 2, 1996 – both in Malacanang. As secretary-general of the MNLF, Sema was part of the panel chaired by MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari that negotiated the 1996 FPA.

The proposal is sound but impractical. What is there to harmonize?

The FAB is just a “framework” or an outline to guide the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law – a charter or organic law like R.A. 9054 that amended R.A. 6734, the original Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The FAB is still to be written.

On the other hand, the 1996 FPA a completed document consisting of 154 provisions was obviously intended to amend R.A. 6734 by substitution; that is, the Congress would repeal R.A. 6734 and adopt in its place the 1996 FPA in toto without alteration as the New Organic Act of the ARMM. But the Congress did not want to be a rubber stamp.

What should be harmonized is (1) the 1996 FPA and the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law – which is still to be written — before its submission to the Congress for enactment; or, (2) the Bangsamoro Basic Law and R.A. 9054 supposedly the 1996 FPA after amending R.A. 6734.

But this is impractical. Who will do the harmonizing?

Will it be a joint commission of MNLF and MILF? Which MNLF faction – the Misuari, the Executive Council of 15 headed by Sema, or any other MNLF group which splintered off after the signing of the 1996 FPA? But Misuari is not in the mood to harmonize?

Will it be a quadripartite committee composed of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), the Philippine government, the MNLF and MILF? Again, which MNLF faction will participate? In all probability, the OIC and the Philippine government will co-chair the committee. Can the harmonization be done before President Aquino III steps down? The tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 FPA steered by the OIC started in 2007 and is still floating in the air.

The only solution is for all Bangsamoro leaders in the MILF, MNLF and the government to harmonize and – if not chosen as members of the Transition Commission – help the Commission draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law to empower the Bangsamoro to function as the autonomous political entity and government that will fulfill the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

In harmony, they should be vigilant to ensure that Congress enacts the Basic Law as drafted by the Commission. And vigilant too to have in the Basic Law a provision enjoining administrations after Aquino III to continue assisting the Bangsamoro as needed.

As a footnote, Misuari, Sema and all other MNLF leaders might as well let the 1996 FPA and its Tripartite Review fade away and harmonize with all other Bangsamoro leaders behind the establishment of Bangsamoro. Haven’t they realized that the 1996 FPA is a rehash of R.A. 6734? We will discuss this in depth later. — (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)