COMMENT: Transition That Will Work Imperiled (4)

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 III. What Will Work (Continued 1: Past and Present)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 May)– Some shreds of the past show how Government and successive Presidents have handled the Moro Problem and Muslim demands. MILF has keenly seen them.

Looking Back

With reference to the 37-year Government-Moro Front peace negotiations, the MILF demand for a Moro autonomous government outside of the Philippine unitary system has been the Moro demand dating back to the GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976.  Yet, while heeding the 1976 TA, President Ferdinand E. Marcos (PD 1618), President Corazon C. Aquino (RA 6734) and President Fidel V. Ramos (RA 9054) established Muslim autonomous governments under the unitary system with Muslim cooperation.

It was agreed in the 1976 TA that:

(1) “The Muslims shall have their own administrative system.… [III.5].” This implied the rejection of the unitary system and the adoption of another system.

(2) “Foreign Policy shall be of the competence of the Central Government of the Philippines…. [III.1]”; (3) “The National Defense Affairs shall be the concern of the Central Authority… [III.2]”; (4) “The authorities of the autonomy … shall have their own economic and financial system …. [III.6].” These implied power- and wealth-sharing.

(5) “A Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council shall be formed in the area of Autonomy for the Muslims” [III.9], providing further that the Assembly, which will appoint the Council, shall be directly elected. This is a feature of the parliamentary system and ministerial form of government.

All the above were agreements in principle. As agreed [III.11], these together with other provisions [III. 3, 4, 7, 8 and 10] were discussed in detail by the Mixed GRP-MNLF Committee in Tripoli, Libya from February 5 to March 3, 1977. The issues were too contentious for the Mixed Committee to agree in details – breaking up without any final agreement. Subsequent meetings could not break the impasse’.

Three Presidents established Autonomy for the Muslims:

Taking “the necessary constitutional processes” provided in the TA [III.16], President Marcos set up two autonomies for the Muslims – Regional Autonomous Governments IX and XII. Each RAG had an elected Legislative Assembly which nominated the members of the Executive Council for appointment by the President. Under PD 1618, both RAGs were parts of the unitary system – their powers and funds under the control of Malacanang.

President Corazon C. Aquino had Regional Autonomous Governments for the Muslims and Cordilleras enshrined in the 1987 Constitution adopting essential ideas from some provisions of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and PD 1618. The ARMM was created under Article X.15-21 of the 1987 Constitution. The autonomy under RA 6734 was broader than that under PD 1618; still, the ARMM was part of the unitary system and, like the RAGS, its powers and funds were under the control of Malacanang and the Congress.

President Ramos concluded the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (also known as Jakarta Accord) with MNLF – purportedly, the full implementation of the 1976 TA. The FPA was virtually the rehash of RA 6734 except for provisions by which MNLF leaders could claim the FPA as granting “genuine”, “meaningful”, etc. autonomy. After the FPA had been enacted into RA 9054 amending RA 6734, MNLF leaders rued that RA 9054 offered less autonomy than RA 6734, still tying the ARMM to the unitary system.

Oddly, Chairman Nur Misuari, who headed the MNLF peace panel, did not aggressively pursue the 1976 TA provisions meant to give the Muslims their own “administrative” and “economic and financial” systems under a parliamentary system of government. [NOTE: Compare III.A.21 to 62 of the 1996 FPA with III.5,6,9 of the 1976 TA and with parallel or similar provisions in RA 6734.] And he did not defend the few provisions in the FPA intended for these ends that the Congress deleted or revised while amending RA 6734.

Lured by “power” and “promises” of funds, Misuari accepted the ARMM governorship and the chairmanship of a “semblance” of a “transitional government” while awaiting the amendment of RA 6734 law to expand and reform the ARMM according to the FPA. In reality, Misuari and his leaders fell into a scheme keeping the ARMM as still the Muslim autonomy within the unitary system under the control of Malacanang and the Congress.

Seeing the Present

MILF saw the scheme. In its 11 years of negotiation with Government – from 1997 with Ramos culminating in the MOA-AD under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008 – it adhered essentially, wittingly or unwittingly, to III.5,6,9 of the 1976 TA. Under Arroyo, before the MOA-AD and after its collapse, MILF rejected repeated Government offers of an enhanced ARMM as a political settlement.

Under Aquino III, MILF fended off the offer of a reformed ARMM through the “3 for 1 Proposal” as the political settlement; in the FAB, it negotiated Bangsamoro to have a ministerial form of government with asymmetric relation to the Central Government that, as a necessary consequence, will likely be outside the unitary system. How these features will turn out will soon be seen in the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement together with the varying Muslim autonomous governments established under them are the “shreds of the past”. They show how Government has accommodated Muslim demands within the status quo under the Constitution – 1972 and 1987; how Muslim leaders have been co-opted to cooperate only to bemoan seeing the Moros still chained to their status quo.

The FAB is the present holding the future of the Moros like the proverbial bird for the hand to crush or to set free. Principles for the drafting of a sound Bangsamoro Basic Law have been agreed. Yet, the Transcom is at risk of contending with elements that can have the BBL born with disabilities or aborted. Foremost among these elements are time, money and its fate in the Congress and later in the hands of spoilers.

(To Be Continued: Key to Transition)

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards 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


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