COMMENT: Divided Concern By Patricio P. Diaz

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 Oct) – Two speeches at the ARMM Peace Summit – those of Ambassador Dato Seri Dr. Ibrahim Saad of Malaysia and Ambassador Reslan I Jenie of Indonesia – were keynote addresses. Yet, neither one keynoted the Summit according to its theme.

Neither did Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process. She explained the peace policy of President Aquino — talk to both the MNLF and MILF; while negotiations are going on, consult all sectors; and develop Moro communities.

It was Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin G. Sema in his address who did. He took note of the significance of the Summit which was to “truly help us revisit our past effort and thereby renew or adopt new strategies to re-affirm further our collective quest for long and lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao” – alluding to the alleged failure to “fully” implement the FPA and the ongoing efforts to correct the mistake.

Dual Conviction

On signing the FPA, Sema said, the GRP and MNLF “convinced each other that a lasting peace and sustainable development is within reach” in Muslim Mindanao. He expressed regret that within the fourteen years after the signing the government had ignored the many reminders of the MNLF for the full implementation of the FPA. As seen in the eleven Summit issues Sema and the ARMM leaders were one in associating the woes of ARMM with the FPA fiasco.

They, too, were in agreement that the remedies called for the amendment of RA 9050 first. Sema, in his speech, revealed five of the many proposals the MNLF had submitted to the GRP-MNLF-OIC Tripartite Meeting to amend RA 9054 in order to enhance autonomy in ARMM:

  1. A provision for a transition government prior to subjecting the amendments to any constitutional process or plebiscite.
  2. For the ARMM to have its own electoral system to insure independence during elections.
  3. Fiscal autonomy should be accorded to the ARMM.
  4. For equitable sharing, strategic minerals by definition should be a shared right and their exploitation and exploration should be a shared power between the National and Autonomous governments.
  5. A review of diverse integration and regional security issues.

Essentially, Sema said this: The eleven Summit issues were contained in the proposals the MNLF had submitted to the Tripartite Meeting.

Divided Concern

While these and many other issues on the 1996 FPA should concern most the GRP, Sema observed that GRP’s “concern is directed towards forging another peace agreement” with the MILF. He clarified that the MNLF does not oppose the GRP-MILF peace talks since these would lead to “the most positive state that we should all be in — peace in Southern Philippines.”

But he said “the MNLF cannot … see any agreement … forged between the GRP and the MILF”. The MOA-AD, being unconstitutional, cannot be enforced; so, the state-sub-state political solution “firmly advanced by the MILF” in the MOA-AD “is then perceived to be unconstitutional”. Sema’s point: The GRP-MILF peace talks will not solve the Moro problem leading to “peace in Southern Philippines”.

Best Option

What is the solution? Sema’s answer: “What we in the MNLF have in mind is only the enhancement of autonomy already in place. … The GRP can resolve the problem by transforming the autonomy already in place into a genuine government with shreds of sovereignty … by amending the present organic act, Republic Act 9054. Without doubt, through such direct action, it can invite the MILF to join the mainstream.” (Emphasis supplied.)[Did Sema not know? The MILF had already rejected enhanced autonomy.]

Sema believes that this solution “will be acceptable to both the MNLF and MILF” since they “have been struggling for the same homeland and the same people”, explaining that the “MNLF has accepted autonomy as long as it is genuine, as a viable solution for the Bangsamoro Homeland”.

At this juncture, Sema compared what the MNLF and MILF have each achieved in their respective struggles. In the 1996 FPA, the MNLF obtained the Bangsamoro Homeland while in the MOA-AD, “the MILF is only negotiating for the remaining Muslim dominated territories … left out owing to the illegal plebiscite conducted unilaterally by the GRP in 2001 despite the MNLF’s opposition” — the same territories now in the agenda of the ongoing GRP-MNLF-OIC Tripartite Meeting.

Obviously, the Sema solution is this: The consensus points in the MOA-AD that are constitutional should be adopted to revise the 1996 FPA and subsequently to amend RA 9054 and to enhance the ARMM autonomy with the cooperation of the MILF. It must have been for this reason that the Summit organizers invited the MILF. Unfortunately, the MILF refusal spoiled the plan.

More Questions

The fusion of the FPA and the MOA-AD under the joint efforts of the MNLF, MILF and the traditional leaders is the best option for the Bangsamoro people. But more questions beg honest answers to expose realities by which to determine if this best option can be sealed.

Is enhanced autonomy of ARMM better than the state-sub-state proposition of the MILF? Why be contented with “shreds of sovereignty”? Why not negotiate for the well defined “fully shared sovereignty”?

The eleven Summit issues and the MNLF proposals submitted to the tripartite review of the FPA were in the pre-1976 Tripoli Agreement demands which the MNLF failed to obtain in the 1993-96 Jakarta negotiation. They were among the MOA-AD consensuses. Now the MNLF wants them to patch up the 1996 FPA. To fulfill the Bangsamoro RSD, is the patched-up FPA better than the Comprehensive Compact based on the Ancestral Domain aspect of the 2001 Tripoli Agreement that the MOA-AD is?

The FPA was negotiated by the MNLF united behind Chairman Nur Misuari. Since 2001, according to various reports, five groups have broken away from Misuari. While they have all disowned Misuari, the OIC still recognizes Misuari as the MNLF chairman – allowing him to address the OIC-ICFM in 2008 and to lead the MNLF in the Tripartite Meeting. Is the Manila Government taking the MNLF seriously? Which MNLF?

All the leaders of MNLF are or have been with the government. How could they have allegiance with and at the same time rebel against the government? How can they fully stand for the Bangsamoro cause? Is the MNLF an ally or adversary of the government? This looks like a real case of divided concern, isn’t it?

Under these circumstances, which will serve better the Bangsamor RSD dream – review the FPA, amend RA 9054, enhance the ARMM autonomy then invite the MILF to join; or, negotiate the Comprehensive Compact and let it supersede the FPA?

ARMM Peace Summit Footnote: The speeches of Sema and Deles hinted the direction of the peace process in Mindanao under the Aquino government.

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently 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