Bridging the Historic Chasm (8)

IV. Responses

 GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 8 December) – Responses to an event reflect how the event impacts on the responders. Specifically, the how” shows the responders’ biases, prejudices, attitudes, stakes or plain interests as well as appreciations relative to the various causes and effects of the event – how they regard the causes and how they perceive the effects as affecting them, their advocacies and even fortunes.

 

By this contemplation, the responses to the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro from the time President Benigno Simeon Aquino III announced it on October 7, 2012 and its signing on the following October 15 elicit one question: Who really cares about Bangsamoro – about bridging the historic chasm?

 

The term “Bangsamoro” refers to (1) the autonomy and its government the FAB would establish; (2) the problem the FAB would settle politically and economically; and (3) the people, the beneficiaries of the political and economic settlement. The FAB promises to be the “One-for-Three” solution to the historic Mindanao problem. Who cares really?

 

International Responses

 

At the signing of the FAB, the international community joined in the euphoria over the long-awaited peace and development the agreement would bring to the Moros and other people of Mindanao. It may be inferred, the euphoria was not just an emotional outburst but more an expression of a sincere desire — a challenge. The euphoria is gone but the challenge to fulfill the promises of the FAB has remained.

 

Several foreign governments have congratulated President Aquino III for the historic breakthrough. These countries, mostly from Europe, have long been giving economic assistance to Mindanao either individually or as participants in the United Nations Development Program. They know the problem. With their congratulatory messages, they promised to continue their assistance.

 

Among these foreign governments, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States have many of the programs of their aid agencies concentrated in the ARMM. Japan, in particular, has assisted MILF-initiated projects. It is expected that these foreign aides including those from foreign agencies, particularly the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank funds, would be funneled into the Bangsamoro upon its establishment.

 

If done so, foreign governments and the international community really care.

 

National Responses

 

On the national level, responses come from prominent personalities of the academe, the legal profession including retired members of the Supreme Court, members of the Congress, business leaders and opinion columnists of the leading print and online media. Most, if not all, of the responses focus primarily on constitutional and statutory concerns – the FAB being a problem rather than the solution to a historical problem; a few question the timetable to implement the agreement.

 

The prevailing adverse opinion is any agreement with the MILF or any other Moro rebel group must conform to the 1987 Constitution and other laws like the Local Government Code of 1991, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, etc. Amending the 1987 Constitution to accommodate the MILF demands is unacceptable. This is confining constitutionality to the status quo.

 

Except for a few favorable opinions, the position of the government peace panel that the ministerial form of government for Bangsamoro is allowable within Article X, Sections 15 to 21 of the 1987 Constitution is generally doubted. The contrary opinion: That will need the amendment of the 1987 Constitution. That will deny MILF its bid to break away from the national unitary system of government and can abort the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

 

The national thinking is ever allergic to perceived violations of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Despite the provision in the FAB that Bangsamoro is an integral part of the Republic some view the FAB as leading to the dismemberment of the Philippines. Even if geographical areas proposed for annexation to Bangsamoro would only become parts of Bangsamoro through processes required by the Constitution, the proposal is being assailed as unconstitutional.

 

Many correctly point out that the FAB is just an agreement to agree, a framework of an agreement that will be complete and comprehensive only after the four annexes have been finally negotiated. As part of the FAB, the annexes are still inexistent. What Bangsamoro now is cannot be more than a perception. They are right in criticizing the President and his peace panel for building hope – “conditioning public minds” — on “a framework with missing agreements”, the annexes.

 

Should these responders not ask themselves: If it is wrong for the President and his peace panel to build hope on an incomplete agreement that is the FAB, is it right to criticize the same incomplete FAB for its unconstitutionality?    

 

Indeed, as they raise issues of constitutionality, they explain how they understand the FAB and the Moro problem — the FAB is “just a framework”, a “work in progress”; is “not yet the agreement” but a “good start on a long road to peace”. They imply that they want to see a comprehensive agreement within the framework of the 1987 Constitution.

On the national level the primary concern is still national sovereignty and territorial integrity – the status quo within the Constitution. How many up there really care for Bangsamoro – the autonomy and its government, the historic problem, and the people?

 

Mindanao Responses

 

In the ARMM and adjacent areas with significant Moro population, including Davao Oriental, the Moros “overwhelmingly” welcome the FAB as the ultimate instrument of peace and justice. The MILF has to caution them “It is not yet liberation day for the Bangsamoro” (Luwaran, November 15) and that much is still to be done. More and more assemblies are held to inform the Moros about the FAB – what has been done, what is still to be done and what they can do to make Bangsamoro a reality.

 

As gathered from Luwaran, the official website of the MILF Central Committee on Information, the FAB is enthusiastically received in central, southwestern and western Mindanao and in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan. In Sarangani Province, the Governor’s Office facilitates the FAB information campaign.

 

As reported in MindaNews, in Davao City, the Bishops-Ulama Forum held an assembly last December 3 with speakers from MILF and Government. In the morning there was a special session with Region XI Peace and Order Council as the council had officially requested. Region XI is committed to support the President on the FAB.

 

Not only Moro civilians but also MILF commanders and their men attended information assemblies. For instance, in Lanao del Norte Commander Bravo – he who broke into a rampage when the signing of the MOA-AD was aborted – graced the assembly of 3,000 in his home barangay together with about 300 men. He spoke endorsing the FAB and urging Government to keep its commitment.

 

At the special assembly the MILF held for its field commanders and men at their main headquarters in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao about 80,000 Moro civilians joined. They could not be held back, Luwaran reported.

 

MILF Panel Chair Iqbal led a group with some of the panel members to explain the FAB to organizations of Bangsamoro overseas workers in Qatar and United Arab Emirates (Luwaran, December 5). According to the Luwaran report, more than 100 attended the forum in Qatar and almost 400 in UAE.

 

On the whole, information campaigns on the FAB have been going on since after the signing until now especially for the Moros and the Indigenous People. The MILF peace panel and Central Committee officials with the local governments, MILF and military Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities and the International Monitoring Team have been undertaking these in various forums including kanduli.

 

MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar may have sounded the general call during the Grand Kanduli and Advocacy for the FAB at Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao sponsored by Mayor Zahra Ampatuan. He said: “I appeal to all to support the Framework Agreement because we are optimistic that when this agreement is fully realized then it will usher in our long-sought entrenchment of a Bangsamoro Government.” (Luwaran, November 29)

 

What do the responses of the Moros mean? The FAB should not end the way of the MOA-AD.  Bangsamoro must be the fulfillment of their pursuit of their right to self-determination. Another failure will be historic frustration

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OIC and MNLF Responses

 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC: formerly, “C” for “Conference”) like some foreign governments welcomes the FAB but proposes that it should be implemented with the GRP-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari is of the same mind. This will complicate the peace process, delay it or even abort its realization under the Aquino III presidency.

 

Evidently, they are more concerned of the peace agreements signed by the MNLF with the Philippine Government through the facilitation of the OIC. The concern is founded on legal and moral grounds treading on diplomatic relations with the OIC and MNLF feeling disrespected. Let us discuss this in depth in another series.

 

Recapitulation

 

President Aquino III has the full trust and confidence of MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim and the MILF peace panel. Government and MILF have agreed to entrench the New Autonomous Political Entity named “Bangsamoro” before the President steps down on June 30, 2016. The FAB sets the roadmap for entrenchment.

 

Support from some foreign countries and the international community is encouraging. That from the Moros in Mindanao, to quote Luwaran is overwhelming. But the FAB has to contend with impending constitutional and legal issues and looming time constraint against its implementation. The positions of the OIC and Misuari can further complicate the “well laid out plan” – to borrow from the poet Robert Burns.

 

Realism vs. optimism: There are still much hard work to do and high obstacles to hurdle. Bangsamoro is not on the path of roses. A group has already asked the Supreme Court to declare the FAB unconstitutional (Inquirer.net, December 3).

 

Who really cares about Bangsamoro?

 

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected])

 

 

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