COMMENT: Implementation of 1996 FPA by By Patricio P. Diaz

(Seventh of a Series)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 October) – To restate, in the ARMM Peace Summit, eleven issues were identified as problems ailing the autonomy in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  While they could be good arguments for the negotiation of the GRP-MILF Comprehensive Compact within the framework of a “reframed” MOA-AD, they were really a call for the implementation of the 1996 FPA “in letter and spirit”.

Newspaper reports and speeches at the opening of the Summit suggested a subtle move to unite the MNLF and the MILF behind a peace plan focused on enhanced autonomy of the ARMM based on an amended RA 9054 augmented by the MOA-AD.  That the MILF had seen through the design and refused an invitation to take part in the Summit was implied in a Luwaran report last September 20.

Citing Summit organizers, the MILF website reported that: “… the two-day summit will discuss issues affecting peace and development in Southern Philippines and later craft a regional agenda containing recommended solutions” aimed to help create “a paradigm that may serve as reference of the Aquino administration and the MILF in their imminent resumption of peace talks”.

Insincerity of GRP

The eleventh and last issue – Insincerity of the GRP to implement the letter and spirit of the 1996 FPA – is most significant. The government’s alleged failure to implement key provisions of the agreement due to insincerity explains the present lack of development and progress in ARMM.

Insincerity of implementation encompasses six areas: (1) natural resources and economic development; (2) education; (3) Sharia’h and judiciary; (4) regional security; (5) political system and representation; and, (6) RA 9054 not responsive to the aspiration to Right to Self-Determination of the Bangsamoro. These reiterate previous issues.

Two remedies were recommended:  (1) resumption of the Tripartite Review of the FPA; and, (2) amendment of RA 9054 to fully comply with the provisions of the Final Peace Agreement.

How insincere has the Philippine Government been? The 1996 FPA and RA 9054 in close comparison with RA 6734, the original ARMM Organic Act, hold the answers.

Premises

RA 6734 and the 1996 FPA implemented the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 – the RA as the unilateral implementation by the government of President Corazon C. Aquino; the FPA, the “full implementation” negotiated by the government of President Fidel V. Ramos with the undivided MNLF under Chairman Nur Misuari.

The FPA, as provided in its Part I, Paragraph 2a, was intended to amend RA 6734 — the amendatory provisions consisting of 132 Paragraphs, Nos. 21 through 152. These were so legally constructed as to be readily adoptable by Congress in amending RA 6734.

The FPA was organized as follows: A. Executive Council, Legislative Assembly, Etc. (Paragraphs 21 – 72); B. Special Regional Security Force (73 – 93); C. Education (94 -125); D. Economic and Financial System (126-151); and, Sharia’h (152).  These corresponded to the Substantive Provisions of the Tripoli Agreement as follows: “A” to 9 and 5; “B” to 2; “C” to 4; “D” to 6 and 7; and “E” to 3.

RA 6734 provided for more concerns of the Moros than what the Tripoli Agreement did. The FPA provided just what the Tripoli Agreement did.  So, it followed that RA 6734 provided more than what the FPA did.

Close Comparison

In our book, What Ails Muslim Autonomy?, we made a close comparison – provision by provision – of RA 6734 and the FPA with particular reference to Substantive Provisions 9 and 5, 4, 6 and 10, and 3 of the Tripoli Agreement in that order. The significant finding: The Final Peace Agreement virtually adopted much of RA 6734.

Following is the summary of the comparison:

  • The provisions of RA 6734 and the FPA referring to the six provisions of the Tripoli Agreement above are identical, basically similar, complementary or supplementary.
  • Most of the provisions of the FPA on the Legislative and Executive branches of the Regional Autonomous Government as well as on the Administrative System have been adopted in toto or verbatim from RA 6734. Many legislative, executive and administrative matters provided in RA 6734 are not addressed in the FPA.

  • On the establishment of the regional educational system, the FPA reiterates, complements or supplements the educational principles, policies and other concerns provided in RA 6734.  In a few instances, the FPA shows more attachment to the national educational system.
  • RA 6734 more adequately covers the socio-economic concerns of the Autonomous Region and its people than does the FPA.  The latter, while focusing on financial and economic concerns, does not provide for the social component of the economy including the welfare of the indigenous cultural communities.

Manner of Amending

A close examination of RA 9054 would reveal that Congress, in amending RA 6754, used the FPA as provided in its Paragraph 2a: “The [amendatory] bill shall include the pertinent provisions of the final Peace Agreement ….” Congress must have deemed “not pertinent” the few provisions of the FPA it excluded. Just one example: Paragraph 68 provides for ARG sectoral representative in Congress.  This was excluded.

Applicable FPA provisions were either adopted in toto or modified. Where there were no applicable FPA provisions, Congress made amendments according to its discretion and wisdom. This, the exclusion of the few provisions and the modification of others must have led the MNLF to complain that Congress unilaterally amended RA 6734 and the FPA has not been fully implemented.

In fairness to Congress, no provision in the FPA required Congress to consult with the MNLF or not to modify its provisions; and, the Agreement provided for the inclusion of “pertinent provisions” only. Was there an unwritten understanding with the GRP about these during back-channel talks? 

Tripartite Review

In 2006, the government agreed to have the implementation of the FPA reviewed by the GRP and MNLF panels with the OIC PCSP (Peace Committee in Southern Philippines) as the facilitator. In 2009, the tripartite agreement was to amend RA 9054. Understandably, the amendment will consider the FPA provisions Congress has excluded.

Is the Tripartite Meeting, as the review is called, warranted and necessary? If the FPA were to be followed it is not. Nowhere is this tripartite review provided. Paragraph 12 calls for the OIC “to continue … monitoring the full implementation of this agreement during the transitional period”. The transition period ended in 2001 after the ratification of RA 9054.

Considering the MNLF’s complaints, the review was unnecessary. RA 9054 has the remedy — propose amendments (Article XVII) either to Congress (Section 1) or to the Regional Assembly (Section 2). The MNLF should have initiated the amendments in 2002 when they were still holding power in the ARMM.

How long will it take the Tripartite Meeting to submit the proposed amendments to Congress? How long will it take Congress to amend RA 9054? For that long, the full implementation of the FPA will hang.  For that long, too, ARMM will hang between life and death.

Questions

But it should be asked: What have the GRP and MNLF panels done at the Tripartite Meeting?  Are they just going to amend RA 9054 by the inclusion of the FPA provisions excluded by the Eleventh Congress? Or, are they going to have RA 9054 revised with new agreements – matters which the GRP and MNLF panels in 1993-96 overlooked or failed to think about?

In reality, amending RA 9054 with the excluded provisions of the FPA would not have much significance. Except for a few provisions, the FPA is an exact copy of RA 6734. Will the full implementation of the 1996 FPA make RA 9054 significantly better than RA 6734?

It should be admitted: There is insincerity in the implementation of the 1996 FPA. But the greater insincerity, we think, was in negotiating it.  Should the government alone be blamed?

(Next: Divided Concern)

(“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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