COMMENT: Misuari: Relevant, Necessary?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, October 6, 2014 – Is it necessary for Founding Chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front to participate in committee hearings of the Congress on the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill? Corollary to this is: How relevant is he to the solving of the Moro Question that will lead to the attainment of long and lasting holistic peace in Mindanao and Sulu Archipelago particularly in the Muslim provinces?

Misuari’s participation is seriously urged in the House and Senate Committees hearings and in the Mindanao peace settlement.

From the Congress

In the House, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law is most insistent in inviting Misuari to the BBL committee hearings believing that Misuari (1) “would greatly help the lawmakers in fine-tuning the BBL” and (2) in making it “compatible with the [GRP-MNLF] 1996 peace agreement”.

In the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said the Senate may invite Misuari to one of its hearings (3) to allow him “to give us his ideas” since the MNLF’s inputs are “definitely” needed to make sure that Bangsamoro Basic Law will be fully implemented and (4) to make the hearings inclusive.

Besides Rodriguez, several other legislators believe that including Misuari, as well as all other rebel leaders, in the peace talks particularly in the deliberation of the BBL bill is (5) necessary to attain long and lasting peace in Mindanao. The Moros are not all MILF.

Misuari has a pending warrant of arrest – wanted for allegedly masterminding the MNLF “invasion” of Zamboanga City in September last year. His attendance depends on, first, the suspension of his warrant by the court and the grant of a safe conduct pass from the military, and, second, the willingness of Misuari to attend.

Mayor Duterte Warns

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned last September 21 that the government should not keep Nur Misuari out of any new peace settlement in Mindanao (Inquirer Mindanao, September 22nd, 2014:Don’t keep Misuari out of Mindanao peace deal –Duterte). Duterte explained that:

(6) As the leader of the Moro rebels at the height of their secessionist revolt in the 1970s Misuari is “still a man to reckon with” and has an equally valid and internationally recognized peace agreement with the government.

(7) The government cannot now just ignore Misuari, who can still invoke the Tripoli Agreement as a valid agreement brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, then the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The seven points above – perhaps, there are more — deem Misuari relevant and necessary to the peace that the Bangsamoro seeks to attain. Let’s look into them.

Already Done

Re-Point 1, it took four and a half months, first, by the legal team of the Office of the President; then, by the GPH and MILF peace panels; and, finally, by the BTC, MILF., OP and the Executive Secretary to “fine-tune” the BBL draft. Can Misuari do better? The Ad Hoc Committee should sit down and see how finely tuned the BBL is. If his own 1996 Peace Final Agreement be the gauge, Misuari is not the person to help fine-tune the BBL if still necessary.

Re-Point 2, why should the BBL be made compatible with the 1996 FPA? Compatibility must be of the Organic Act or Basic Law with the essential features and demands of the Moro Problem. If the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is really a “failed autonomy” as rated by the President, the 1996 FPA enacted as RA 9054 in amending \RA 6734, is incompatible with the Moro Problem. Making the BBL compatible with the 1996 FPA is a formula for failure.

GPH and MILF negotiators did not ignore R 9054. They agreed in Part Four.4 of the Annex on Power-Sharing: “All other powers granted to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which are relevant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro Government.”

Article V (Powers of Government), Section 4 (Other Exclusive Powers) of the BBL draft bill is composed of 19 provisions adopted from RA 9054. A close examination of the BBL draft bill shows many of its other provisions are similarly provided in RA 9054.

It should not escape the members of the Congress that the BBL in repealing RA 9054 adopts the latter’s provisions which are compatible with the objectives in establishing the Bangsamoro. Misuari’s presence in their deliberation is unnecessary for them to see that. It’s clear in the draft.

Visit MNLF Website

Has Senator Marcos been misquoted? How the “MNLF’s inputs” are necessary to ensure the full implementation of the BBL defies sense and logic. Just like the belief of other legislators (Point 5) that Misuari’s participations is necessary to have long and lasting peace in Mindanao.

The MNLF must not be ignored; but to say that the BBL cannot be fully implemented and there will be no long and lasting peace without their inputs in the law is giving them undue importance. If they are that indispensable, why were they voted out of power in 2004 – only one term after the implementation of RA 9054?

Re-Point 3, the better way for the Marcos Committee to avail of Misuari’s ideas is to visit the MNLF website and download all the speeches and statements of Misuari and all other documents, including the Declaration of the Bangsamoro Republik. That will save the Committee precious time.

This goes true, too, for Point 4.

Irrelevant

Re-Points 6 and 7, it is true that Misuari was the leader of at the height of the Moro revolt in the 1970s, that the 1996 FPA is valid and internationally recognized and that he still invokes the Tripoli Agreement. But do these make him “still a man to reckon with”?

His fiery speeches and his volatile temper endeared him to his worshipping followers. But he exposed his true qualities as a leader during the Tripoli and Jakarta peace negotiations. The first produced agreements in principles to be “discussed later”, “fixed later” or “determined later” which could not be immediately implemented. In the second, the “later”, the agreements in principle were fleshed out with provisions copied from RA 6734 – the Organic Act that he had vehemently rejected for 20 years.

In the Tripoli Agreement, he made one mistake of allowing Paragraph 16 that tied all negotiations and agreements to the Philippine Constitution. Reasoning that the paragraph was inserted at the last minute betrayed his vigilance. But he allowed the same provision in the 1996 FPA: “Any conflict in the interpretation of this Agreement shall be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws.”

As ARMM governor for five years and after, he exposed his “leadership” for long lasting peace in Mindanao. The MNLF splintered. When dissatisfied, he would lose his patience, threaten, convene the MNLF Congress and declare the “Bangsamoro Republik”. Is this the leader still to reckon with relevant to the establishment of the Bangsamoro?

Regrettable

We agree with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. It would be difficult to suspend or lift Misuari’s warrant of arrest; there are means other than at committee hearings to get inputs from Misuari if these are really necessary. Besides accessing the MNLF website, questions can be relayed to him through his spokesmen.

But Misuari is not the MNLF. The committees will hold public hearings in ARMM capital towns and cities and most probably in Tubod, Lanao del Norte and the cities of Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. They should invite MNLF leaders if they are interested in the MNLF thinking.

Granting that the committees can get inputs from Misuari and other MNLF leaders will the committees revise the BBL draft bill with those inputs? That might be regrettable. [“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You may e-mail your comments to [email protected].]

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