GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 Sept) — Last Monday, while surfing the net for the latest on the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill now in the Congress, we netted an Inquirer Mindanao item dated September 22, 2014, “Don’t keep Misuari out of Mindanao peace deal—Duterte”. It is among the latest in our files emphasizing the need of MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari in the “Mindanao peace deal” to take part in the deliberation of the BBL bill.
What also caught our attention are statements of fact that must be clarified to properly estimate how relevant Misuari is to the GPH-MILF peace process now culminating in the BBL in the Congress. Misuari is perceived as “indispensable” and “necessary” to the peace process for lasting pace in Mindanao. He must have a say on the BBL. The Statements are the subject of the present article; we will write about Misuari in another article.
(1) “The Final Peace Agreement was the culmination of the peace talks in furtherance of the Tripoli Peace Agreement of 1976 but which frequently broke down over the years.”
This is stated in the title of the FPA, restated in the last “Whereas-clause”, and spelled out in Paragraph 153, the “Totality Clause.”
“Paragraph 153: (1) This Peace agreement, which is the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, embodies and constitutes the totality of the agreements, covenants and understanding between the GRP and the MNLF respecting the subject matters embodied herein. (2) This Agreement supersedes and modifies agreements, consensus, covenants, documents and communications not referred to or embodied in this Agreement or whose terms and conditions are otherwise inconsistent herewith. (3) Any conflict in the interpretation of this Agreement shall be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws.” (Numbering supplied)
(2) “The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had split from the MNLF in the late 1970s, was not a party to the 1996 peace accord.”
Not only was the MILF not a party to the 1996 peace accord, but to GRP-MNLF peace talks. In the 90-day (January 9, 1987 – May 7, 1987) exploratory peace talk – the GRP panel led by Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez, that of the MNLF by Habib M. Hashim — the MNLF would allow the MILF only as observer. President Ferdinand E. Marcos had this condition for the resumption of the peace talks — MNLF and MILF reunification in order to have only one peace agreement..
(3) “The Tripoli Agreement is a valid treaty signed by Imelda Marcos in behalf of the Philippine government.”
It was signed by Misuari. The Martial Law First Lady’s meeting with Libya’s President Muammar Khadaffy in November 1976 might have hastened the holding of the Tripoli negotiation.
(4) “The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was created under the so-called Final Peace Agreement signed by the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari and the Philippine government under President Fidel Ramos in 1996.”
How this fiction came about and how it has stuck in the minds of many, unfortunately among our national media people, dislodging the truth are difficult to understand. The ARMM was created in 1989 under RA No. 6734 by President Corazon C. Aquino. The “Final Peace Agreement” is genuine, not just “so-called”.
The FPA — it specifically provides in its Paragraph under “Part I: Implementing Structure and Mechanism” — was for the amendment of RA 6734. This is elucidated in the title of RA 9054, the Act amending RA 6734 according to FPA. RA 9054 lapsed into a law on March 31, 2001 and was ratified in the following August. Misuari was ARMM governor under RA 6734, September 1996 to November 2001. This should clarify that RA 6734, not the FPA, created the ARMM.
It is evident from the FPA that the three-year Jakarta Peace Talk was, in reality, to amend RA 6734. This gives the impression that the FPA was only a rehash of RA 6734. Anyone can see this by comparing closely the FPA with RA 6734, particularly their corresponding provisions..
We made a close comparison in Chapter VII of our book, What Ails Muslim Autonomy? (WAMA), published in 1998 with limited circulation. Following are samples.
FPA Part III.A (Legislative Assembly): “Of the 39 provisions or paragraphs of the FPA composing the Legislative Assembly (Paragraphs 23 to 61), two are entirely new, 22 are from Article VII (on Legislative Department), 14, from Article VIII (on Executive Department), and one from Article V (on Powers of Government) of RA 6734.” (WAMA, p. 69)
The 22 Paragraphs (provisions) of FPA from 15 of the 19 sections of Article VII of RA 6734: “Of the 19 sections of Article VII, 15 with their sub-sections were adopted for the 22 provisions in the Final Peace ‘Agreement. Of the 22, 17 were adopted in toto; two, from one provision with deletion and addition then split into two; one, with addition; one, with deletion; and one, with deletion and addition.” (WAMA, p.70).
How FPA adopted RA 6734:
(.a) RA 6734: Art. VII. “Sec. ; The Regional Assembly may create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of any municipality or barangay in accordance with the criteria laid down by existing law subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected. It may also change the names of such local government units, public places and institutions.”
(.b) FPA, Paragraph 28: After changing “Regional” of “Sec. 2” to “Legislative”, Paragraph 28 is exactly the same as Section 2 word for word, punctuation for punctuations.
(2.a) RA 6734: Art. VII. “Sec. 1. The legislative power shall be vested in the Regional Assembly, except to the extent reserved to the people by provisions on initiative and referendum as prescribed by law.”
(2.b) The FPA split “Sec. 2” into Paragraphs 23 and 26:
Paragraph 23: “The legislative power shall be vested in the Legislative Assembly” – the main clause of “Sec. 1” with “Regional” changed to “Legislative”.
Paragraph 26: “The people’s initiative, by way of a plebiscite or referendum, is recognized” – the “except”-clause of “Sec. 2” revised.
The above — showing the identicalness and similarity of the FPA and RA 6734 — are samples of the end-product of the three-year GRP-MNLF Jakarta peace negotiation. They reflect what had happened which may be relevant to the BBL.
The proposed BBL now in the Congress is the “agreed version between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front after long, tense, exhausting hours, days, weeks, and months of intensive discussion and bargaining,” Luwaran, the official publication of the MILF Central Committee on Information said in its editorial (Agreed Version Deliberation of BBL in Congress) dated September 25, 2014.The two other versions are the BBL original that the BTC submitted to the President; the other, the BBL revised by the Office of the President.
MNLF can say the same of the FPA. It is the “agreed version” of the agreement for the final solution of the Moro Problem according to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. There were several exploratory agreements leading to the FPA. The finality was spelled out in Sentences (1), (2) and () of Paragraph 153 of the FPA to set the FPA as the sole agreement to be adhered to.
We are not privy to the records of the negotiations. However, that the FPA was hewed closely to RA 6734 – the FPA identical, similar, supplementary and complementary to RA 6734 – shows that GRP and MILF agreed (1) to revert to the Tripoli Agreement as the Term of Reference in the establishment of the Muslim Autonomy – defining its territorial area of the Muslim Autonomy and the mode of its establishment; and, (2) to adopt RA 6734 as the matrix in the formulation of the Agreement with new MNLF proposals for genuine and more meaningful autonomy.
GRP and MILF must have agreed that adopting RA 6734 as the FPA matrix would make it easier and faster for the Congress to amend RA 6734. By this expectation, the FPA provided that the law amending RA 6734 had to be “submitted to the people for a plebiscite … within two years from the establishment of the SPCPD” – meaning October 1998 since the SPCPD was established on October 2, 1996. GRP and MNLF must have expected the Congress to abide by this FPA provision (I.Part 2a).
Incidentally, the two-year time span was not associated with the stepping down of President Ramos or to the inauguration of the Expanded ARMM as his legacy. In the case of the BBL, GHP and MILF submitted to the Congress the “agreed version” to ensure the smooth-sailing of the bill through the Congress and the inauguration of the Bangsamoro in June 2016 as the legacy of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III before he steps down. The reasons differ but not the expectations.
FPA, BBL, the Congress
The SPCPD (Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development) was established through Executive Order 371 issued on October 2, 1996. That fell on the first half of the Second Session of the 10th Congress. A bill was filed to amend RA 6734 before the adjournment of the Congress in the December following. More bills were filed after that but no amendatory law was passed before the 10th Congress adjourned sine die in 1998. RA 9054, passed in February 2001 as the Third Session of the 11th Congress was about to end, lapsed into law on March 31.
The FPA and RA 6734 compared with RA 9054 would show that the 10th and 11th Congresses could not be bound to the “version” of the Agreement “agreed” by GRP and MNLF to amend RA 6734. Revisions were made with the inclusion of provisions alien to the FPA and the rejection of some of the provisions envisioned by MNLF to make the Expanded ARMM “a more genuine and meaningful autonomy”.
Misuari and the MNLF rejected RA 9054, first, as not the full implementation of the FPA and, second, for rendering the Expanded ARMM less autonomous than the original. By 2007, to address the many complaints of the MNLF through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly “Conference”), President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo agreed to the tripartite (OIC-GRP-MNLF) review of the FPA for its full implementation. The review still pending may be rendered moot by the BBL and Bangsamoro.
Will the BBL fare better in the present 16th Congress, with or without Misuari’s participation in the deliberations? The FPA, fleshed and clad in the constitutionality of RA 6734, was never questioned on that ground. Ominously, despite the assurances of the President and the Palace, issues of constitutionality are looming over the BBL.
However, there is one big difference. GRP and MNLF left the FPA solely in the hands of the Congress. The Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process that oversaw the negotiations and the drafting of the BBL together with the GPH and MILF peace panels as well as the BTC that drafted the BBL are accompanying the BBL starting from the congressional committee hearings in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Next: Misuari: Relevant or Irrelevant?)