MILF: “We want to finish this process as soon as possible”

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/10 January) — The two panels are on the same page: government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen wants a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forged “within the first quarter;” MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal says they want to “finish this process as soon as possible” but both have yet to be on the same page on “real autonomy” and how to get there.

Will they be on the same page during the January 9 to 11 peace talks in Kuala Lumpur?

In his statement at the  opening of the talks at the Executive Boardroom of the Royale Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on January 9, Leonen said “there is no doubt that the entire Republic of the Philippines will benefit with a region for Bangsamoro peoples that is not only genuinely autonomous but also one where the principles of good and effective governance is in place.”

He cited the elements of the “genuinely autonomous region” as one whose officers are democratically elected in free, clean and honest elections; has a clear working relationship with the national government in many aspects; and should include the equitable sharing of wealth and revenue generation.

In August, the government peace panel handed over its “three for one” formula which included reforming the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a formula rejected by the MILF which proposed a sub-state in February.

The ARMM is presently under President Aquino’s appointed caretakers: OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman and OIC Vice Governor Hadja Bainon Karon.

Hataman and Karon assumed their posts on December 22  and will, unless stopped by the Supreme Court, serve until noon of June 30, 2013 following the election of the new set of officers in the national mid-term elections on May 13, 2013.

In his opening statement, Iqbal said that during the last talks in December, the government and MILF peace panels agreed on “11-point basic issues and concerns.” The document has not been made public but Iqbal said one of the 11 points is “autonomy as the form of self-governance that we intend to put into place in the future Moro state or substate.”

“Why is this important? Because, it puts into definitive and clear term that in this negotiation we are not talking about a sham autonomy like the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with all its integrative features but something short of an independent state.”

He said the March deadline Leonen spoke about in forging a peace agreement is “possible” if they “focus on this form of self-governance, given the abundance of models in the world today, like Scotland, Hong Kong, The Aland Islands, and Puerto Rico.”

Leonen had said that in government’s reckoning, “the golden opportunity to craft such an agreement is this first quarter of this year.”

“We think that this is possible.  Share with us this vision.  Within this first quarter, let us attempt to craft an agreement,” he said.

But Iqbal reiterated an earlier contentious point in the negotiations: Constitutional amendment.

“At this juncture, let me state here succinctly that to put guarantee to stability, security, and life to the state-substate asymmetrical arrangement those powers allocated or conceded to the future Moro state must be entrenched by the government by undertaking constitutional amendment either by appending the Agreement to the present Constitution or to undertake a surgical amendment of the Constitution from Section 15 to Section 21.  Any effort less or below par than the aforementioned mode is only to invite more complications and hardships or dangers in the future.”

Iqbal also cautioned  that the MILF will “not accept tentative arrangement or formulation.”

He was referring to the experience of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MNLF signed a  Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF on September 2, 1996  which was supposed to have paved the way for the expansion of the then four-province ARMM.  A  transitional implementing mechanism – the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD)  was set up, Malacanang backed the gubernatorial bid of MNLF chair Nur Misuari, even pressuring a supposed rival bet to drop from the race.  Misuari won the elections uncontested.

The interim period was supposed to be preparatory to the “new” kind of autonomous region that would have evolved after Congress shall have passed a law amending the Organic Act creating the ARMM to incorporate  the provisions of the 1996 peace pace pact. It took Congress a long time to pass the amendatory law, prompting the designation of Misuari as governor on holdover capacity beyond the supposed end of his term on September 30, 1999.

RA 9054 which amended RA 6734 or the Organic Act creating the ARMM was passed only in early 2001 with the MNLF protesting the passage, claiming it rendered the autonomous region less autonomous than it was under RA 6734. In the plebiscite that year, Marawi City and Basilan, except for Isabela City, voted for inclusion in the “expanded” ARMM.

Today, the ARMM has five provinces – Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao and two cities – Marawi and Lamitan town in Basilan which became a city in 2007.

At present, the MNLF is still sitting down with government and the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the review of the implementation of the 1996 peace pact.

Iqbal said the MNLF today is “not only frustrated but failed miserably in their quest to empower our people, because the promise to amend the Constitution using the provisions of the 1996 Agreement was not delivered.”

“I am not saying that President Aquino is not trustworthy and reliable. Frankly, we still trust the President. But to put the collective future of the entire Bangsamoro people to an uncertain future even to the most trustworthy man is laden with risks. President Aquino is a human being and any mortal man or woman can leave this world without warning,” he said.

Iqbal also stressed that an interim period “before the regular phase of the implementation of the agreement takes place” is indispensable.

“Transitions occur throughout life for all of us: in daily living, health, education and employment, especially if the shift is from bullets to ballots.  All the peace agreements that I know have provided for interim periods for their implementation. Even for practical purposes, and in the case of MILF, would you expect it, a rebel organization, to jump to election and run government efficiently? The transformation, transfer, and devolution of power requires time, preparation, and training. Any sudden or drastic change of status quo will meet so many challenges or oppositions, not excluding violence, especially from people or groups who used to enjoy power and privileges,” he said.

“Would the GPH deprive us of the opportunity for a transition when the Filipinos also asked for it before the grant of independence in 1946? Was not the commonwealth a transition to full statehood in 1946?” he asked. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Comments

comments