SPECIAL REPORT (2): Who’s afraid of a Bangsamoro sub-state? (Questions the Bishops and Business execs asked of the MILF peace panel)

(Questions the Bishops and Business execs asked of the MILF peace panel)

Part 2


DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 April) –  Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo noted that the proposed territory of the proposed “Bangsamoro sub-state” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) covers areas that are presently the subject of the implementation of the agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government; and that it is also the present territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“My question then is, if the government agrees substantially with this draft and this draft is a project in progress, what will happen to the MNLF peace settlement as well as the present ARMM? Will there not be a power play and power engagement among these three that claim to represent the Bangsamoro with regards to the final settlement?”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal replied: “Aware of the fact there is only one Bangsamoro people, only one Bangsamoro homeland, the position of  the MILF is very, very clear. We want the 1996 peace agreement (between government and the MNLF) to be implemented in full. The MILF is negotiating for what is lacking in the 1996 agreement. The MILF is not negotiating for leaders of the MILF. It is negotiating for the entire Bangsamoro people.”


The MNLF and government have had a consensus on 33 issues during their review of the 1996 peace agreement,  leaving only three major issues unresolved: the area of autonomy; sharing of revenues between central government and regional government in strategic minerals; and transitional mechanism.


These were the same issues that were deemed contentious during the negotiations for the 1996 pact and these are the same issues that the MILF is negotiating for.


Iqbal said that if an agreement is forged between the MILF and the government, “it will not just be for the Moro people but also for the Lumads and Christians. We are very inclusive.”


He  stressed that the MILF is “not interested in any position in government” should a peace agreement be forged.


“You can’t even unite”
Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz said he is “still troubled by this MNLF-MILF relationship,” adding that people are saying “dili gani mo magkahiusa (you can’t even unite) how can you convince us to side with you?”

“Is there a way for two groups to come out as one? “ he asked.
Dela Cruz also asked; “If the MILF will be in charge of the transition period (before the regular elections in their proposed Bangsamoro sub-state), musugot kaha ang MNLF (will the MNLF agree?)


Quevedo also asked about the transition period under the MILF. “I wonder what the MNLF would say about that and would the MNLF agree with this type of transitional administration without them being involved?”


Panel member Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga said that in the proposed transition period, there would be a “Bangsamoro High Council” to “deal with issues requiring coordination between the participants, including other issues of common interests, and disputes.”
The proposal also envisions a “Consultative Civic Forum” to act as “consultative mechanism on social, economic and cultural issues.”

He said the MNLF will be part of the Bangsamoro High Council but the MILF will lead the transition because it is the MILF that is negotiating the agreement. He said the MNLF had its time to lead the transition, after the 1996 peace agreement was signed.
MNLF chair Nur Misuari served as governor of the ARMM and  chair of the supposed transition mechanisms – the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development  and Consultative Assembly – immediately after the signing of the peace agreement.
Vic Sumalinog, community relations manager of the Davao Light and Power Company, Inc. asked during Thursday’s dialogue between the MILF peace panel and the business sector: “How can the proposed MILF peace process compact agreement be reconciled with the MNLF agreement?”
Among the business executives, only Sumalinog, a former editor and columnist of Davao City newspapers, asked a question on the MNLF-MILF issue.

In response to Sumalinog’s query, Iqbal repeated what he answered Quevedo a day earlier, that the MILF wants the 1996 peace pact fully implemented and that it was negotiating for what is lacking in the 1996 pact. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews) [Tomorrow: Question of Justice]