COMMENT: Excuse, please. Correction

AFP was not the first to report this half-truth.  Many other national and local papers had made the same error.  The FPA ceded the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the MNLF but it did not create the ARMM which was created under Republic Act No. 6734 in 1989 and was inaugurated in 1990.

The Agreement, in its Paragraph 153 – its second to the last – states that “this Peace Agreement … is the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement ….” That’s correct.  But that does not mean that it created the ARMM.  RA 6734 was, in fact, the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement that the 1996 FPA affirmed by adoption with few additions.

Looking Back

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement provided for the creation of Autonomy for the Muslims.  Because the agreement signed on December 23, 1976 left much to “be discussed later”, the negotiating panels agreed to meet in March 1977 to flesh out the agreement in principle.

Since the March 1977 meeting ended in an impasse, President Ferdinand E. Marcos — after a sort of a summit by wire with Libyan president Moamar Khadaffy– created by decree Region IX and Region XII into two regional autonomous governments, RAG IX and RAG XII. The MNLF rejected this.

In 1987, after the failure of the 90-day GRP-MNLF peace talk to flesh the Tripoli Agreement, President Aquino formed the Regional Consultative Commission to draft a law to be submitted to Congress for the creation of Muslim Autonomy. The MNLF rejected the invitation to join the Commission and for Chairman Nur Misuari to chair it.

The MNLF rejected RA 6754 and the ARMM since they had no participation in its creation. In the Jakarta talk, 1993-1996, Misuari rejected the GRP proposal to have RA 6734 as among the references of the negotiation.  Nevertheless, the GRP adopted it.  In the end, however, the 1996 Final Peace Agreement was virtually a rehash of RA 6734.

Pattern

In Chapter VII of the book (What Ails Muslim Autonomy?) that I published in 1998, I did a close comparison of the 1996 FPA and RA 6734. The following are just two of my findings:

In fleshing out Provision (Paragraph) 9 of the Tripoli Agreement (Legislative Assembly and Executive Council), Support Committee No. 4 of the Jakarta Peace Negotiation adopted all the provisions, except four, of Article VII and Article VIII of RA 6734 either in toto or with slight modifications.

Of the 39 provisions or paragraphs of the FPA covering the Legislative Assembly (Pars. 23 to 61), two are entirely new; 22 are from Article VII, on Legislative Department, of RA 6734; 14, from Article VIII, on Executive Department, and one from Article V, on Powers of Government.  Four Sections of Article VII were left out.

In adopting the provisions of RA 6734, the Support Committees followed a pattern: (1) most were adopted in toto; few others were with (2) deletion; (3) addition; (4) addition or deletion; and (5) any of the four modes then split. For instance, 17 of the 22 FPA provisions from 15 sections with sub-sections of Article VII were adopted in toto.

Observations

Most of the provisions of the Final Peace Agreement on the Legislative and Executive branches of the Regional Autonomous Government as well as on the Administrative System were adopted in toto from RA 6734.  Many legislative, executive and administrative matters provided in RA 6734 were not addressed in the Final Pace Agreement.

On the establishment of the regional educational system, the Final Peace Agreement reiterates, complements or supplements the educational principles, policies and other concerns provided in RA 6734.  In a few instances, the Final Peace Agreement shows more attachment to the national educational system.

Republic Act 6734 more adequately covers the socio-economic concerns of the Autonomous Region and its people than does the Final Peace Agreement.  The latter, while focusing on the financial and economic concerns, does not provide for the social component of the economy including the welfare of the indigenous cultural communities like ancestral domain.

The FPA Provides

The FPA strictly followed the Tripoli Agreement which did not adequately address the social and economic welfare of the Muslims and the Lumads.  RA 6734 as framed by the Regional Consultative Commission and Congress provided for concerns not addressed by the Tripoli Agreement.  It appeared that the MNLF was aware of this inadequacy. 

Paragraph 2(a) of the Final Peace Agreement partly states: “The bill (amending RA 6734) shall include the pertinent provisions of the Final Peace Agreement and the expansion of the present ARMM area of autonomy….” (Bold italics supplied)

NOTE VERY WELL: As provided, the FPA was not intended to supplant RA 6734 but just to amend it. Only “pertinent provisions” will be used in amending RA 6734 to expand an already created “ARMM area of autonomy”.

Paragraph 153 partly provides: “Any conflict in the interpretation of this Agreement shall be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws.” This also anticipated the rejection by Congress of provisions it deemed contrary to the Constitution and existing laws.

Manila, Not Jeddah

The above-quoted last sentence of Paragraph 153 implies that any question on the inclusion or exclusion of the provisions the FPA in the enactment of RA 9054 or on the implementation of Agreement as embodied in RA 9054 should be resolved by Manila, not Jeddah, according to our Constitution and our laws.

The Agreement in its Section or Paragraph 12 provides for the intervention of the Organization of Islamic Conference but limits it to the transitional period “until the regular autonomous government is firmly established” – meaning until the first regional election under RA 9054.

The trouble is this:  Despite the 1996 FPA, the MNLF does not trust the Manila government. Whenever they are disappointed or dissatisfied with Manila, they complain to the OIC which never fails to intercede. And Manila doesn’t seem to mind

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected].)

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