A BOHOLANO’S VIEW: Nur Misuari’s Challenge to the Bangsamoro Peace Process

Misuari-MNLF declares Moro secession from RP.  The review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the MNLF and the Government of the Philippines (GOP) was to be concluded on September 16 in Jogjakarta, as brokered by Indonesia. But on August 12 Nur Misuari proclaimed the establishment of the “Bangsamoro Republic.” According to him, the Bangsamoro Republic comprises all of Mindanao and Palawan, plus Sulu, Tawi Tawi, and Basilan, and including Sabah and Sarawak. He declared himself the commander-in-Chief of the Bangsamoro Republic. He said he was asking the United Nations to recognize the secession as an act of self-determination and decolonization.

MNLF-Misuari rebels attack Zamboanga City on September 9. So far, the 12 days of fighting between the MNLF rebels and government forces have been devastating, as reported:  Deaths: 92 rebels, 12 soldiers, 3 policemen, and 7 civilians. Wounded: 110 soldiers, 13 policemen, and 9 rebels. The rebels seized about 200 civilians as they stormed five coastal barangays in Zamboanga City: of which 178 have either escaped or were rescued, but 20 remained with the rebels.

A humanitarian crisis has resulted by the displacement of 118,819 civilians or 23,794 families. Many homes have been burned or destroyed. Many of those displaced are staying in 57 evacuation centers or with their relatives. Hundreds of children show signs of trauma and stress. The government and private donors have been providing food, medicine, and relief to the victims of the uprising and fighting to end it. President Aquino III, who has been in Zamboanga City to personally oversee the military and government response to the rebel attacks, has pledged that government aid will be given to those who lost their homes.

Government refutes Misuari’s claims that the government terminated the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).  According to Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Indonesian Government and even the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Peace Committee on Southern Philippines supported the completion of the review of the 1996 FPA. It was Misuari who precluded the conclusion of the review of the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 in Jogjakarta on September 16. As reported, Misuari had declared the secession of his Bangsamoro Republic on August 9, and the rebels of his MNLF faction attacked Zamboanga City on September 9. The fighting goes on.

Even as Secretary Deles has been making contacts with international and local partners in the peace process in Mindanao, OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena has been meeting with other MNLF leaders to help resolve the fighting in Zamboanga City and prevent the reinforcement of the rebels there. Leaders of the Autonomous  Region in Muslim Mindanao have likewise been governing their local governments and communities.

The GPH-MILF peace negotiations go on. Secretary Deles made the assurance that the attack by the Misuari-MNLF faction in Zamboanga “will not in any way hamper the efforts  of the government and the MILF to complete the remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization and forge a Comprehensive Agreement within the year. The 40th Formal GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks continue in Kuala Lumpur.”

The Government panel and the MILF panel condemned the violence in Zamboanga City and affirmed their commitment “to pursuing the peace process to its just and rightful conclusion, in the belief that it is through partnership

that institutions reflective of the true needs and aspirations of the Bangsamoro and other peoples of Mindanao shall be installed.”

More and more people are committed to the peaceful quest for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao. Caring and peace-loving Filipinos committed to finally resolving the issues and problems that have prevented a just and enduring peace in Mindanao are committed to persevere in their efforts.

The Bangsamoro political entity envisioned in the Framework Bangsamoro Agreement, whose details in the appendices have been worked on, and whose draft basic law is being framed by the multilateral Transition Council are crucial to the hoped for success. The basic law will be enacted in 2014. If a constitutional amendment should become necessary, it should take place before President Aquino ends his term in 2016.

The Crisis of Our Political Leadership and Institutions. Nur Misuari’s challenge of secession and derailment of the promising Bangsamoro autonomous region comes at a very critical juncture in our history as a weak nation-state with an unconsolidated democracy threatened by lawlessness and rebellion.  Our legislative, executive, and judicial departments, and our military and police and bureaucracy, and local governments  are weakened  by endemic corruption, waste, inefficiency, the lack of accountability, and the impunity of their erring officials and employees.

The national pork barrel scandal has triggered mounting public protests against the massive dishonesty, corruption, delays, and waste of our government leaders.  More and more citizens see the connection between these evils in our leadership and governance and the widespread poverty, inequality and  injustice that plague our people. Especially the poor and vulnerable among us.

Our  leaders should lead.  Our citizens  expect President Aquino III, and our  Senate and House leaders and administrators not involved in the pork barrel scandals and thievery, to bring the nation out of its chaos of  corruption and waste with impunity. We want the crooks and scoundrels to be prosecuted and brought to justice without the usual delays that mark our judicial process.

Moreover, President Aquino III should strengthen the State through Charter change and reform legislation if he is to leave a memorable and beneficial legacy before his term ends in 2016. In particular here are the urgent fundamental reforms to be initiated by our national leaders and then approved by our people in a plebiscite.

1.Reform our Electoral System and Political Party System. Abolish all national elections because they are very expensive and unnecessary in the proposed unicameral Parliamentary Government to replace our Presidential Government. Elect members of the unicameral Parliament (MPs) in single-member parliamentary districts like our present congressional districts. Therefore, let’s abolish the Senate which is very costly and will become unnecessary.

2.Replace our Presidential Government with a Parliamentary Government. Unlike our Presidential Government with its separation of powers and checks and paralysis, Parliamentary Government will strengthen our political parties. It will ensure effective and accountable governance by the fusion of executive and legislative powers in the Government of the day formed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Government will be responsible to the Parliament and accountable to the people, unlike our President and members of Congress. It will make possible continuity of good governance as long as the party or coalition in power enjoys the confidence of the Parliament as a whole.

3.Restructure our highly centralized Unitary System by using “Bangsamoro” as the national model autonomous region for all our ethno-cultural regions in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

As I have often said, the Philippines is a country of many ethno-linguistic-cultural bangsas. What is good for Bangsamoro is good for all the other bangsa in our country: Bangsa Iloko, Bangsa Cordillera, Bangsa Cagayan-Isabela, Bangsa Tagalog, Bangsa Bikol, Bangsa Bisaya, Bangsa Ilongo, Bangsa Waray, Bangsa Davao, Bangsa Bukidnon, etc. The autonomous regions and their local governments will remove the concentration of  governmental powers, functions, and resources in our National Government in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), at the expense of our local governments and local communities across the country. Our citizens in our local communities deserve to be empowered and freed from the debilitating grip of “Imperial Manila.”

In the more than 60 years since our independence in 1946 our population has grown from some 40 million to 100 million. The great majority of our people live in scattered islands and local communities mostly far from Metro Manila, the political and business capital. Our people expect public services and assistance from their government through their local government leaders. But they don’t have the needed power and resources to respond, in spite of the Local Autonomy Code of 1991.

Our local governments have no control in the development of the natural resources in their own localities: the sea, water, forests, minerals, oil, and other forms of energy. They also lack the authority to mobilize the resources to invest in their local development. They should be given this authority. They should be entitled to a greater share of taxes or revenues collected in their jurisdiction. We should reallocate the tax bases of the National Government, the new Autonomous Regions to be established, and their local government units.

  1. At the opportune time, after demonstrating the capability and effectiveness of our  autonomous regions and empowered local governments, we can decide to change our present Unitary System into a viable and progressive federal republic. We may call it Nagkakaisang Bansang Pilipino (NBP) or the United States of Pilipinas (USP).
  1. Let us liberalize our constitutional provisions on the participation of foreign investors in our development and in the operation of public utilities. We can then compete more effectively with our more liberal countries in the rest of Asia.

It is inspiring and hopeful that our citizens are finally demanding good governance and that more government leaders realize they should regain the people’s trust. Our citizens must be empowered vis-à-vis their political leaders to make real the constitutional myth that “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” in our “democratic and republican State. (Art. II. Sec. 1) Citizens are empowered by enabling them to be educated and trained, to be gainfully employed and provided social security, to be well informed, to be involved in public affairs by joining private organizations and political parties.  All of these conditions presuppose good democratic governance. (Dr. Jose “Pepe” Abueva, former president of the University of the Philippines, wrote this piece for Bohol Chronicle, September 22 issue. He gave MindaNews permission to reprint)