COMMENT: Best Arguments for MOA-AD (First of a Series) by Patricio P. Diaz

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (29 September) – The recent Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Peace Summit revealed signs that can lead the Moros either to or away from the realization of a political settlement as a solution to their problems in fulfillment of their right to self-determination.  How they read the signs and act accordingly is crucial.

First: Whether they are unaware of the fact — or just ignoring their awareness — the local and regional government leaders of the ARMM, when they identified eleven problems for the Summit to resolve, put up the best reasons for them to support the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the GRP-MILF negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact focused on the reframed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Second: Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, as chair of one faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, the Executive Council of the 15, in depreciating the GRP-MILF peace talks has, by his reasons, validated the significance of the MOA-AD to the MNLF’s quest for genuine autonomy.

The 11 Issues

The eleven issues identified by the ARMM local government leaders at their provincial consultations and resolved in the Summit were:

Leadership crisis.
Electoral system not suitable to ARMM situation.
Poor access to and control in the exploitation and utilization of strategic resources.
Weak fiscal autonomy.
Low agricultural and industrial productivity.
Land conflict.
Poor delivery and access to basic services and facilities.
Non-adherence to EO 125 and other existing laws over Official Development Assistance Management.
Unstable peace and order.
Inadequate representation of ARMM to the national government.
Insincerity of the GRP to implement the letter and spirit of the 1996 FPA (Final Peace Agreement).

The Summit has a recommendation to solve each issue. However, by inference, each solution would have to be separately negotiated among the Moro leaders or with the government. This piecemeal approach could be time-consuming, incoherent and complicated. And, in the end, considering the need for remedies through changes in the existing order and for the right leaders to properly implement the new order, the piecemeal approach could be inconclusive.

But why go into the piecemeal approach? All the eleven issues – and more that are vital to genuine autonomy — are covered in the political settlement and its economic, social and cultural components embodied in the initialed MOA-AD which the MILF has agreed to reframe [See: July 29, 2008 GRP-MILF Joint Statement] as the framework of the negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact. Why not just support the MILF in the Aquino GRP-MILF peace talks?

MNLF Pessimism

This brings us to the MNLF – both the Misuari and the Sema wings – pessimism about the prospects of the MILF quest under the Aquino government.  The ARMM local and regional leaders, most probably, are entertaining the same pessimism.

The grounds for pessimism: First, the MOA-AD has been declared unconstitutional; its state-sub-state set up, being also unconstitutional, will not materialize as a solution to the Moro problem. Sema said he could not imagine how an agreement can be forged between the Government and the MILF (MindaNews, September 21: MNLF not opposed to GRP-MILF talks but …; Luwaran, September 27: MNLF faction pessimistic about GRP-MILF peace talks).

Misuari said his faction will not recognize any GRP-MILF agreement. The government has an agreement with the MNLF – the 1996 FPA — which is also its commitment to the Organization of Islamic Conference.  The government must honor that (Philistar.com, August 7, 2008: “Nur scoffs at MOA”, in Palace to MILF: Bow to High Court).

To both Misuari and Sema, the only option for genuine autonomy is the 1996 FPA. Manila must fully implement it. This, too, is the prevailing opinion in the ARMM Peace Summit.  R.A. 9054 must be amended to conform to the 1996 FPA; other remedies should be legislated.

Evidently, the Court Decision of October 14, 2008 has not been read well. The prevailing notion is that when the Court declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional, it became null and void. The notion is erroneous. We will discuss this below.

The 1996 FPA has been overrated. We will discuss this later.

Unconstitutional, But …

The Court declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional but not null and void. This is clearly implied in Paragraph 4 of the Summary of the Decision. We quote: “The MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001.  Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that would contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.”

What does the first sentence say? First, the Court recognizes the GRP-MILF peace negotiation according to the June 2001 Tripoli Agreement of Peace. Second, it acknowledges the necessity of the MOA-AD in carrying out the TAP. Necessarily, the MOA-AD, while unconstitutional, is alive.

What does the second sentence say? First, the Court distinguishes the MOA-AD it has declared unconstitutional as “the present MOA-AD”. Second, the “present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up …” obviously to cure its “unconstitutionality” and use it “to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace”.

Obviously heeding the Court, this was exactly what the GRP and MILF panels did in their July 29, 2009 Joint Declaration to establish official contact, stating in Item Two: “Acknowledgment of the MOA-Ad as an unsigned and yet initialed document, and commitment by both parties to reframe the consensus points with the end in view of moving towards the comprehensive compact to bring about s negotiated political settlement.”

Open, But …

Contrary to what MNLF Misuari and Sema as well as pessimists among the ARMM local and regional officials think, the Moro Ancestral Domain is open for negotiation in the Comprehensive Compact within the framework of MOA-AD as recommended by the Supreme Court. The negotiation will be like scaling Mt. Everest.

The political settlement around Ancestral Domain with its economic, social and cultural components will be a one-shot approach to the Bangsamoro problems that include the eleven issues raised at the recent ARMM Peace Summit. The full support of all Muslim leaders will make the negotiation easier. (Next: Behind the Eleven Issues)
. (“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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