PEACE TALK: Message of Peace and Hope on the Day of the Corregidor Infamy: Implications

The martyrdom of these Moro youths sparked the Bangsamoro peoples struggle (jihad) for freedom and national liberation from, and against, the oppressive and decadent neo-colonial regime of the Republic of the Philippines. The expose that prompted investigation of the incident in the Halls of Congress were followed by rallies and
assemblies by Moro youths and students in Metro Manila, at Malacanang and before the congress, and by the Bangsamoro masses all over major capitals in Mindanao and Sulu that generates mass resentments from the Bangsamoro people to clamor not only justice for fallen Moro youth martyrs but ignited the long dormant Moro aspiration for their own
country and homeland. Moroland as an aftermath of the Corregidor infamy was never the same again.

This period witnessed the bith of the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM) founded by the late former Governor Datu Ugtog Matalam of the Empire Province Cotabato, which was later renamed as Mindanao Independence Movement to accommodate the clamor of non-Muslims, particularly the Christians who had signified their desire to join the movement. (A splinter group of this movement after post martial rule composed mainly of Christian migrant-settlers and other indigenous Christians still uses the acronym MIM in Northern Mindanao, particularly in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City, with its own flag and national anthem, and the OPM – "One People, One Mindanao" in Davao City and Davao Provinces). The Bangsamoro members of the original MIM became later the core members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and subsequently the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MIM issued a manifesto on May 1, 1968 calling for the setting up of the Republic of Mindanapo, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan, copy of which was sent to the United Nations. Then UN Secretary General U Thant had acknowledged receipt of the Manifesto and who forwarded a copy of the same to the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment.

The DFA informed the UN Secretary General that it wished to be furnished or provided with an original signed copy of the MIM Manifesto before it could gave its comment.

What were significant historical milestones generated by the issuance of the MIM Manifesto were two major events or landmarks in the history of the Bangsamoro people. First, it had electrified the Moro youth to seek for alternative options in response to the Bangsamoro peoples assertion for self-rule or statehood which the traditional Moro
leaders then were the main proponent. The Moro youth were then divided into two camps in that, one group favored the possibility of an armed struggle as the only better option left, while the other camp still saw the possibility of a legal and parliamentary struggle
through the 1971.

Updates on the GRP-MILF Peace Process

The events that followed are contemporary history still fresh (in) the memory for many of us. Now we shall take up with you recent updates of the GRP-MILF Peace Process.

During the 13th exploratory talks in the last week of November 2007, both Parties (or the GRP and the MILF Peace Panels) were able to wrap up and conclude the last contentious
points on the territory strand of the ancestral domain aspect and both sides during the scheduled exploratory talks in December of 2007 will translate the consensus points agreed in matrix text format into a draft memorandum of agreement and subsequently scheduled the signing thereof to be witnessed both the Foreign Minister of Malaysia and the Foreign Secretary of the Philippines during the first week of January 2008.

However, something went wrong during the scheduled exploratory talks in December 2007. The original draft memorandum of agreement based on agreed and signed text in matrix form was virtually disregarded by the GRP Peace Panel and came up with an entirely new version all prefaced by the phrase "subject to the Constitution". The GRP draft MOA that was earlier furnished to the MILF Peace Panel the evening before the scheduled meeting was found by the latter unacceptable. Instead of facing the GRP Peace Panel at the negotiation table, the MILF Peace Panel told the Malaysian Secretariat that they have decided to boycott it in protest for the GRP entritely new position of previous agreements.

It had seemed that every time there is a breakthrough in peace negotiations, another obstacle was just lurking behind the corner. We later learned that some cabinet members of the cabinet cluster who met with the GRP Peace Panel while President Arroyo was out of town were responsible in changing the concepts in the agreed text on the mutually agreed consensus points by both panels. The Chair and members of the GRP Peace Panel hurried back to Manila and report of what transpired to the President who was scheduled to return home from a foreign state visit.

After meeting with the lady President together with the cluster oversight cabinet members, the GRP Panel Secreatry Rodolfo Garcia promptly informed the Government of Malaysia who is facilitating the peace talks that they would wish to meet with the MILF Peace Panel Chair in an executive session to present a revised version of the MOA
on ancestral doman. The two peace panel chairs met in mid-February of this year in an executive session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This time most of the points objected to by the MILF in the GRP's draft MOA last December 2007 aborted were rectified, except that the latter proposed that the consensus points agreed on the strand on governance on the ancestral domain aspect will be (deferred) and instead taken up during the discussions on the substantive aspect of the peace talks to be incorporated in the comprehensive peace compact between the Parties.

However, the MILF Peace Panel during the executive session remarked that they will not sign any agreement if the agreed consensus points on governance will be left out from the draft MOA. In response, the GRP Peace Panel Chair informed that he could not give a categorical answer on the MILF position since he has a limited mandate from the
President. He therefore asked for sufficient time to discuss the matter with the President and her clusted cabinet and to seek for a new mandate. Recently, OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza made a press statement that the President has given her signal to the GRP Peace
Panel to forward to the Malaysian SEcretariat of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks the new GRP version of the MOA on ancestral domain for the resumption of the stalled peace talks with the MILF.

As earlier planned, after the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain, the Parties will resume the formal peace talks on the substantial aspect of the peace process specifically on the right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination and governance. The basic
concept and principles on governance were among the four strands on ancestral domain aspect on which the Parties have reached consensus points during the exploratory talks, the details of which particularly on the structure and the structural and political relationship between the Parties will be discussed under the proposed comprehensive peace compact.

Right to Self Determination and System of Governance

The right to self-determination of all peoples is guaranteed fundamental basic and inherent human right under international law, international treaties and conventions. This human right has been enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that contain international basic statements on the inalienable rights of all members of the human family, and to some extent under municipal and constitutional law among nations. They served as "the commond strand of achievement for all peoples and all nations" in the effort to secure universal and effective recognition and observation of the rights and freedoms of all peoples and all nations.

A more specific and categorical statement on the right to self determination for all peoples is contained in two international conventions, namely: (1) the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and (2) the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of 1960, under common provisions of Article 1 and 2 respectively, which

1. "All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue if that they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligation arising out of international economic co-operation, based on their principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own subsistence."

The first paragraph refers to the rights of all peoples to determinetheir own future political status and the right to determine their own development free from external interference, and the second paragraph which is a right unto itself refers to the right of permanent sovereignty of all peoples over their natural wealth and resources which is an inviolable inherent right. The Philippines is a signatory to these Covenants. The Unted Nations according to a published document has officially interpreted these two principles as:

"(The) principles of self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources are accpeted principles of jus cogens. Jus cogens are rules that proscribe conduct that are regarded as fundamentally (an) accepted principles by their international society of states.
They form part of a body of peremptory norms having the highest rank in international law. A peremptory norm of international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified by a subsequent norm of international law having the same character. The right to self-determination is both a right unto itself and a constituent element of the right to development, as in the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources which is a right unto otseld, and also forms part of their right to self-determination as well as development. As affirmed in Article 1 (2) of the DRD, the right to development implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self determination, which includes the exercise of their inalienable right to full sovereignty over their natural resources."

It is therefore a norm of international law binding on all States (erga omnes). The Bangsamoro people's right to self-governance and statehood are deeply rooted on ancestral territoriality exercised originally under the suzerain authority of the Moro sultanates with a system of governance that developed and existed long before the birth
of an artificially fabricated "Philippine State" by a colonial regime. The Moro sultanate states existed as indigenous political institutions known as karajaan/kadatuan or negri karajaan in Malay, endowed with all the elements of a nation-state in the modern legal
sense. They are the "First Nation" with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations.

The pre-existense these native 'nation-states' has in fact antedated the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century that defined the basis of the modern nation-states of Europe while the rest of the un-Islamized natives in the whole archipelago now known as the Philippine Islands were still in the 'Baranganic' stage of village system of political
organization at the time the Spaniards came to these islands in the 16th century. The Bangsamoro people's right to self-determination and self-governance is well founded under both historical 'sovereignty' and 'entrenched-treaty based rights'. The territorial boundaries between the dominions of the sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu, and that
of Spain were earlier defined under the Qudarat-Lopez treaties of 1645 and 1648 and the Bongsu-Lopez treaty of 1646. The Spanish colonial government had still recognized these treaties in the Sulu-Spain treaty of 1887 and under the Maura Law.

What will be an ideal system of governance and political relationship between the Bangsamoro people and the rest of the Filipino nation? It has been pointed out that "(Under) the principle of self-determination, all self-identifies groups with a coherent
identity and connection to a defined territory are entitled to collectively determine their political destiny in a democratic fashion and be free from systematic persecution. For such groups, the principle of self-determination may be effectuated by a variety of
means, including self-government, substantial autonomy, free association, or arguably, in certain circumstances, outright independence/full sovereignty." (See G.A. Res. 2625, UN Doc. A/8028 (1970), cited in Michael P. Scharf, "EARNED SOVEREIGNTY: Juridical
Underpinning", Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y, Vol. 31:3, c/2/2004).

One option being advanced by members of the MILF Peace Panel is that it may be based on "associative relationship" under the principle of "equality of peoples" or a "political relationship[ between two jurisdictions wherein neither (one) is subject to the legal
constraints of the other", somewhat similar to 'free association,’  not a 'federative association' similar to the State of Sabah (North Borneo) in relation to the Federal States of Malaysia. The final configuration of this political relationship will depend on the result
of the peace negotiation between the Parties on substantial political  aspect of the Peace Talks. It will therefore be premature to further elaborate on this particular issue. The GRP has proposed a federal type of relationship by amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

This process will have rough sailing and will only delay the conclusion of the peace process under the existing political environment?