GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/31 Jan) –– What of FAB is CAB? To Government Peace Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer: An Introductory note.  To Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Peace Process Adviser: A cover. To MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal: Something Much More.

“FAB” is Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed on October 15, 2012. “CAB” is Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro still to be deliberated and signed.

FAB is the framework of an agreement to entrench Bangsamoro. Attached to the FAB are four Annexes and an Addendum to one, to define Bangsamoro in full extent, length and breadth. While as agreed CAB is the consolidation of FAB and the Annexes, in the present situation, it is in reality just the agreement to show, like a façade, the Bangsamoro as an edifice comprehensive and whole from which the Moros as one nation, bangsa, will vanquish political, economic and social oppression — their nemesis of more than a century.

As a façade, will CAB just be an elaborate cover or introduction – or, must it be more to give more strength to the edifice? 

Evolution of CAB Issue 

The FAB, basically, is the last revision of the 2008 MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain), the ill-fated agreement to entrench the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The CAB corresponds to the Comprehensive Compact (CC) that was to implement the MOA-AD but aborted with the scuttling of the Agreement.

The MOA-AD was a framework of agreed points like the FAB – a compendium of consensuses. Like the MOA-AD, the FAB is not implementable until covered by a comprehensive agreement. While the CAB is forthcoming, the CC was never born when the Supreme Court struck down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

How the FAB evolved from the MOA-AD is intriguing. For more than three years, GRP (for Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and MILF negotiated point by point based on an agreed matrix calling each agreed point a consensus. Hence, when initialed in late July of 2008, the MOA-AD was a compendium of consensuses or an incremental agreement. But the Supreme Court restrained its signing on August 5 following and killed it on October 14, 2008.

But the Court acknowledged the necessity to continue the peace negotiation according to the Tripoli Peace Agreement of 2001. This might be done by resurrecting the MOA-AD in another form or negotiating an entirely new agreement. When the Parties resumed the negotiation a year after, they agreed to resurrect the MOA-AD.

To hasten the negotiation, the Parties adopted on an outline to guide them write their separate peace proposals to be reconciled into a final agreement. The negotiations ended in a stalemate. MILF revised and reframed the MOA-AD as a “Comprehensive Compact” in the format of a constitution complete with annexes. GRP revived its thrice rejected peace proposal – the ‘Enhanced Autonomy’ focused on “doables” and the “massive economic development” of the ARMM to be handed to MILF as the peace settlement.

When the negotiations resumed under President Aquino the III, MILF handed to GPH – the revised initials of “Government of the Republic of the Philippines” – its peace proposal, the “MILF Draft Agreement 2011” which was a revision of the “MILF Final Working Draft on Comprehensive Compact 2010” based on MOA-AD for the negotiations in 2010. Even after some more revisions, GPH did not agree to adopt it as the “talking point”.

The GPH, after studying the MILF Draft, handed to the MILF in August 2011 its peace proposal – the “3 for 1 Proposal”.  The “Proposal” adopted some points from the MILF Draft; it focused on the reform and socioeconomic development of the ARMM through the partnership of Government and MILF. The reformed and developed ARMM would be the political settlement demanded by MILF.

MILF rejected the “Proposal”. Almost a year after, the Parties signed the “Decision Points on Principle” – culled from the “MILF Draft Agreement 2011” and the “3 for 1 Proposal”. The ten key points were drafted into the FAB signed on October 15, 2012. The entire year of 2013 and the first month of 2014 were spent in negotiating the four Annexes to enhance – supplement and complement – the FAB. In the Parties’ joint statement, the FAB and the Annexes will make up the CAB expected to be signed not later than March 2014.

Had the CC materialized, it would have been the Bangsamoro basic law draft for submission to the Congress. That is not the case with the CAB; in theory, it will be the basis of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). In reality, the BTC refers to the Annexes. As agreed, the Annexes are integral parts of the FAB; hence, the Annexes are the FAB.  

But as agreed also, the FAB and the Annexes are to be consolidated into the CAB. What is meant by “to be consolidated”? Certainly, it does not mean “to be re-written and reformatted”. In reality, with the Annexes in toto as its integral parts, the FAB is the comprehensive agreement.

Thus, the question: What of FAB is CAB? That should explain why Ferrer, Deles and Iqbal are at variance in their opinions as to what CAB will be? 

Mutual Commitments 

View the FAB against relevant events in the last two decades to see how the CAB can be the crucial difference. From what we will see, we will understand the MOA-AD fiasco and the frustrations of the Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Nur Misuari and other top MNLF leaders over the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement or Jakarta Accord.

First, the MOA-AD fiasco: The Agreement should not have suffered the fate it did. The GRP surrendered at the Supreme Court.  The Solicitor General was apologetic in her defense. She and the GRP legal team did not aggressively propound that the MOA-AD was not implementable until details basic to Governance and relevant to Territory and Resources were spelled out in the Comprehensive Compact; therefore, the issue of constitutionality was premature. They could have offered a compromise – call off the signing of the MOA-AD but continue the 15-month negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact. 

The principal petitioners to scuttle the MOA-AD were leading members of the ruling majority. President Arroyo should have prevailed on them to withdraw their petitions. But she shirked and abandoned the Agreement at the most critical hour. No political will!.

While GRP assured all that the Agreement was within the 1987 Constitution and the negotiations were transparent – the two main issues at the Court – there was no commitment to defend MOA-AD to the death.

Second, the MNLF frustrations: The 1996 FPA was constitutional. MNLF was euphoric that GRP had granted its demands and turned over the ARMM to it with Chairman Nur Misuari as the governor as part of the “transition” while the Congress was deliberating how to amend or repeal R.A. No. 6734, the existing Organic Law of the ARMM, with the FPA.

But the FPA did not contain specific commitments on (1) how to assure the integrity of the FPA in the amendment of R.A. 6734 [it was left to the absolute discretion of the Congress]; (2) on matters vital to the successful implementation of the Agreement — binding to the MNF, the Ramos administration and the succeeding governments – most important of which concerned the amount, manner and extent of financial and technical assistance [every year ARMM had to haggle for these in the Congress]

The ignominious exit of Misuari from the ARMM, the eventual loss of MNLF political control of the ARMM and the indeterminate tri-partite review of the FPA were consequences of failures due to the lack of specific mutual commitments. The GRP-MNLF bridge of confidence was fragile.

To the point: A similar bridge of confidence now buoys the MILF.

Back to the Question: What is CAB to FAB? 

As a cover or introduction, it may be like an executive summary. However, we agree with Iqbal: It should contain something more. According to the latest media reports, the Parties have already submitted their proposed CAB. What the CAB will be, we will soon know.

However, we hope it would address some imperatives. We will touch only two; there must be more.

The FAB and Annexes if faithfully drafted into the Bangsamoro Basic Law will provide the Bangsamoro a solid foundation. But its passage in the Congress as drafted will depend on how mutually committed the Government and MILF are in defending every word of it against all adversaries, particularly questions on constitutionality? And, do the same if questioned in the Supreme Court?

The BBL draft should not suffer the same drastic revision and dilution as Congress had done to the FPA and the draft of the Mindanao Regional Consultative Commission that was enacted into R.A. No. 6734; nor that of the MOA-AD at the Supreme Court. BBL must be as written in the FAB and Annexes and drafted by the BTC.

The FAB and the Annexes provide a form of government, support mechanisms and potential sources of revenues that will enable the Bangsamoro to truly fulfill the Moro aspirations. But all these will not automatically launch the |Bangsamoro into orbit. Two imperatives must be done. (1) Provide the financial and technical assistance to prime-start and stabilize the government and to tap the revenue resources to build the economy. (2) Unite the Moros behind the Bangsamoro.

The (1) is principally the responsibility of Government. While the Aquino III government has repeatedly emphasized that it will not sign an agreement it cannot implement, what he can do is limited only to the inauguration of the Bangsamoro by June 30, 2016. The responsibility to provide the necessary assistance until the Bangsamoro can stand on its own feet must bind the succeeding presidents.

The (2) is the primary responsibility of MILF. As it now stands, uniting the Moro factions and leaders looks like a grim impossibility even with intervention from the Central Government. But it is imperative.

Can the above imperatives and perhaps, more, be etched in the CAB as the mutual commitments of Government and MILF – binding governments after Aquino III – and pursued vigorously with strong political will?   

Unless done, we are afraid that the jubilations at the signing of the FAB and the Annexes and soon of the CAB and the inauguration of the Bangsamoro by June 30, 2016 can, not many years after – like the MNLF euphoria – turn into frustrations and strife.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. While in Cotabato City, he served as editor of Mindanao Cross and later Mindanao Kris. He is now based in General Santos City. 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 [email protected])