The Bangsamoro Dream (4): What’s wrong with the ARMM structure?

SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's struggle for self-determination express their sentiments on the government's proposal through messages pasted on walls along some streets in Cotabato City. MIndaNews photo by Toto LozanoCOTABATO CITY (MindaNews/10 September) – “Learn lessons from our mistakes,” Parouk Hussin, the Foreign Affairs chief of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who became the second and last MNLF official who served as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said five years ago when asked what advice he would give the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which was then nearing an impasse in the peace negotiations.

It was nearly the 10th anniversary of the Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF and nearly a year after Hussin had left his post, ending a nine-year rule of the MNLF in the ARMM.

“To continue the process but they should learn lessons from our mistakes, if ever we made some mistakes, because that will help. So that in the final analysis, they will be signing a more meaningful agreement, more serious in its implementation, and all parties will be more serious in this implementation. They should continue to monitor developments not only in their area but in other areas. And of course this should involve the entire constituency in the ARMM. But I think they are doing fine. They are consulting people… Yung mga misunderstanding diyan naayos naman nila lahat,” Hussin told MindaNews.

The MILF has definitely learned lessons from the MNLF experience, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair, admitted in an interview with MindaNews last September 6.

In Kuala Lumpur on August 23, the MILF peace panel recommended to its Central Committee rejection of the government’s proposed peace settlement submitted a day earlier.

The government offered a “three-for-one proposal” that involves massive economic development, a peace accord and historical/cultural acknowledgment

Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen refers to it as “honestly different from the MILF’s comprehensive compact” and is the result of the panel’s “extensive consultations with the different stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process and is also the mandate of the President of the Republic.”


Both government and MILF peace panels had announced on August 5 that President Aquino and Murad had agreed the night before to fast-track the negotiations in the hope that a peace agreement would be signed and implemented within the term of the President. Aquino’s term ends on June 30, 2016.

As it turned out, the August 4 Aquino-Murad meeting in the presence of their respective peace panel chairs as note-takers, was actually a preview of what government was going to offer in the Kuala Lumpur talks on August 22 and what the MILF’s response would be.

Murad says he “emphasized” to the President that the MILF will not sign an agreement that will not reflect the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people and is not acceptable to the majority of the Bangsamoro people.

As soon as they sat down in the meeting room, Murad recalls, the President started explaining he really wants the problem solved within his term. “He elaborated on how they see the problem. He said the problem has been there for decades already so we have to do something. So he said ‘for me, personally, I want whatever I can do, I want to do it now.’ So he started elaborating on improving basic services, governance strengthening… nakikita sabi niya there is no real governance in this area and then the people need social services, development, so that is how he explained it. Then he said. ‘I want to do this with your group within my term… I will be good until 2013 only because after 2013 I might be a lameduck President.’”

Murad acknowledged the problems the President cited “but I said for us these problems are the fruit, the result of the real problem. What we see is there is a real problem, the root cause of the problem, the absence of peace and order, the absence of effective governance, the absence of development, basic services because there is an ongoing war in the area and the war is because the Bangsamoro people are struggling to achieve their aspirations for self governance and self determination. So that I think Mr. President is the real problem and root cause of the other problems.”

“Even if we address these problems, they are all palliatives because unless we solve the real problem, the root cause of the problem, this will keep on going on,” he said.

He said their proposal, submitted to the government panel on February 10, is for a sub-state “because even during the start of the peace talks, we already agreed we will not talk about independence. But the only alternative we see for aspiration of people for independence is a state for the Bangsamoro people that will reflect their aspirations to govern themselves according to their own way of life.”

“I will be very frank with you Mr. President, the ARMM is not a self-governance… It does not reflect the aspirations of Bangsamoro people… there is no actual autonomy, even though the name there is autonomous region, if you examine the powers of the ARMM, there is no actual autonomy so that is why for more than 20 years already, the ARMM did not do anything for the Bangsamoro. … if you look at the ARMM, it only became a milking cow for the politicians.”

Murad said he explained to the President that the only way to solve the problem is “to be realistic, to see the problem as is. So that is why we concluded by saying the ARMM, whatever you do with the ARMM, cannot really solve the problem so we have to do away with this ARMM and then build another structure that can (reflect the aspirations of the Bangsamoro).” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
[Yesterday: The Bangsamoro Dream (3): 21 years of ARMM, 32 years of autonomy experimentation]