Mind da News: Aquino’s Second Push

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, February 8, 2013 – As reported in three national dailies, on the initiative of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, the government will launch on Monday, February 11, “Sajahatra Bangsamoro”, the special social welfare program for Moro communities. With foreign dignitaries expected to attend, the President and MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim will lead the inauguration at the Bangsamoro Management and Leadership Institute on Simuay Crossing, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said the program has three salient features:

First, it includes “projects on health, education, and livelihood that have been drawn up and agreed upon by the GPH and the MILF for implementation in the next twelve months”.

Second, it “is part of the continuing confidence-building efforts between the two parties as well as assuring the communities that they do not need to wait until 2016 to experience the benefits of the FAB”.

Third, it “may be a precursor of more basic services and livelihood programs for the MILF and their communities, and we can anticipate that this program will play an important part of the normalization process under the FAB”.

MILF and other Moro leaders should welcome the program and must do their utmost to help the projects succeed. They should not let Government use them as excuse for failures. The Moros will reap benefits they never have had before; that is, if projects are sincerely and properly implemented.

Most certainly, MILF will not take for granted the deeper motive behind the program – the President’s second push to make certain that Bangsamoro is established before his term ends on June 30, 2016. His first push was on August 4, 2011 when he met the MILF Chairman in Tokyo to make the peace process move.

Is Government finding some difficulties in overcoming some hard positions of MILF in the negotiation of the Annexes that by meeting again Chairman Murad and laying down a special social welfare program for the Moros, the President can expect MILF to soften and compromise its hard positions in response to the honor and the favor – in the spirit of give-and-take named “confidence-building”? The ground to speculate cannot just be dismissed. But that is now beside the point – moot as the cliché goes.

MILF, as shown in today’s editorial (Bigger struggle ahead) of Luwaran — its official online information organ  is fully endorsing the program for the Moro people to support. The editorial affirms: “The government is pouring millions of pesos to spur development in the Bangsamoro”, in obvious reference to “Sajahatra Bangsamoro”.

Following is the editorial endorsement in toto:

“But why is the MILF agreeing to this socio-economic deal with the government? The answer is simple; it is part of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Besides, it is to convey to our people and combatants, after signing of the FAB, that there is something that trickles to them as a way of peace dividends. More importantly, the MILF believes this will redound to their greater benefits which could also empower them economically and henceforth politically for more vigorous and sustained assertion of their right to self-determination.

“By the way, if the MILF agrees to this socio-economic deal, it is because it is a necessary component of conflict resolutions tried and tested in various parts of the world. It is part of the whole deal. The Aquino administration is not doing it unilaterally but in partnership with the MILF after it was discussed in the negotiating table with facilitation. Moreover, the MILF believes it is the right thing to do, after it bitterly engaged the government both in the battlefields and in negotiation, which did not end with the MILF at the losing side. This is the reason why the two Parties are now facing each other in the battle of the hearts and minds.

“Finally, we believe President Benigno Aquino III has no hidden agenda when he causes the implementation of these projects. Besides, our people, who have been ravaged and marginalized by 40 years of continuous war, need them to jumpstart their long journey to recovery.”

Yet, the program is a big gamble of Government and MILF, of President Aquino III and Chairman Murad. If it succeeds, they will win above all the confidence and gratitude of the Moros. However, if the program fails, besides losing the confidence of the Moros, they will lose face and bring a historic frustration. – (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)