COMMENT: Disturbing Questions (3): For Whom? By Patricio P. Diaz

The OIC Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers called for this meeting in its resolution in June, 2006, setting the meeting in July that year only to be delayed for one year and four months.  In fact, the ICFM had called for this meeting in its resolutions in 2000 and 2001.

The GRP panel, headed by Tausug Peace Processes Undersecretary Nabil Tan, has the ARMM governor and speaker for its members with seven others from different departments of whom one is a Maguindanaon. Of its five advisers, two are MNLF and another is a Muslim diplomat.

The MNLF panel, led by lawyer Randolf Parcasio, executive secretary of ex-ARMM governor Nur Misuari, is composed of 18 members, most of them not so well known MNLF. However, two of them had been close aides of Misuari – Vice Chair Hatimil Hassan and Secretary-General Mulslimin Sema – before they formed the Executive Council of the 15.

Peace advocate and lawyer Soliman M. Santos Jr., in his talk at a journalism seminar last November 23, revealed a text-comment of an MNLF middle level leader in Sulu in relation to the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting: “The GRP delegation are all Moros in government, and the MNLF delegation are Moro boys of Maas (Misuari) … Therefore, it becomes a Moro-Moro of old.  What a pity for my people.”

There is much sense in the text-comment.  It highlights disturbing questions about the Bangsamoro in relation to the ARMM, the FPA and its review in Jeddah.

 

For Whom?

For whom is the 1996 Final Peace Agreement? The MNLF, anointed by the OIC as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people, negotiated it. By inference, the FPA is for the Moros, the Bangsamoro people.  The agent negotiates but the person or group for whom he or she is negotiating is the beneficiary. 

Who compose the Bangsamoro people? All Moros – the MNLF, MILF and Moro rebels; the traditional leaders and their subjects; and the Moros, too in the government service. The FPA is for them; so, the ARMM under RA 9054, the law embodying the FPA, is for them – it having been ratified by the majority of the Bangsamoro electorate on the August 14, 2001 plebiscite.

Whoever governs the ARMM is obliged to follow and uphold RA 9054, its Organic Act or Charter. In case of conflict between RA 9054 and the FPA or the omission of any provision of the FPA from RA 9054, the ARMM government must seek the amendment of the first to reconcile it with the second in order to keep the ARMM on the right path of the peace process.

Moro-Moro

However, in actuality, there is no unity in the concepts and functions of Bangsamoro, FPA and the ARMM.  It appears that the ARMM is for the Moro but not Moro as Bangsa or nation.  It appears that the MNLF, MILF and traditional leaders are proud of their Bangsamoro identity but, to many of them, personal, factional, and political interests get in the way of their Bangsamoro aspirations.

It appears that only the MNLF is concerned about the implementation of the FPA. The present ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan, not an MNLF but a traditional leader, “supports the peace initiative of President Arroyo (MindaNews, Nov. 11)” and seems to be unaware that the FPA, is the bilaterally agreed policy for the peace process in Muslim Mindanao.

Here’s how Ampatuan views the ARMM in relation to the peace process: “The ARMM is central to the peace processes of both the MNLF and the MILF. Ito yung pinag-aagwan nila (This is what they are fighting over) (MindaNews, Nov. 11).” This view is not only disturbing but alarmingly reveals the mind leading the government so vital to the peace process in Muslim Mindanao.

So, in the review of the implementation of the FPA, the Bangsamoro is divided.  The MNLF is the complainant; the Moros in the national government and in the ARMM represent the GRP. Hence, one part of Bangsamoro contends that the Government has not fully implemented the FPA; the other supports the Government’s claim that it has.

When that MNLF middle-level leader in Sulu observed that the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting had become “a Moro-Moro of old” and lamented “What a pity for my people”, he did not only hit the nail squarely on the head but also meant that the MNLF and the ARMM officials should be in one – not in opposing – delegation.

A reporter covering the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting observed this of the MNLF delegates: “Grabe pang away within the MNLF camp (They were seriously quarreling).” In reality, is Malacañang not pitting one Bangsamoro group against another?

 

Two Categories

 

With due respect to the OIC and its ICFM, the call for the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting in 2006 was in excess of the FPA.  The calls in 2000 and 2001 – before the ratification of RA 9054 in August 2001 – were pursuant to Paragraph 12 of the FPA. After that, the resolution of questions on the implementation of the FPA should fall under Paragraph 153.

The present review of the implementation of the FPA has two categories: (1) enacting the FPA into RA 9054; and, (2) implementation of the FPA as embodied in RA 9054.  The first can be done by the ARMM Regional Assembly as provided in RA 9054; the second, according to the inter-government relations between the ARMM and the national government.

In either category, the OIC is out of place.  The disturbing reality is this: The MNLF distrusts the national government; it thinks that only by coursing its complaints through the OIC can these be attended to.  And Manila has shown its readiness to compromise Philippine sovereignty at the beck and call of the OIC.

This two-category approach is consistent with the fact that the FPA is for the Bangsamoro and the ARMM government, whether under the MNLF or the traditional leaders, is the guardian of the FPA as signed on September 2, 1996 and as embodied in RA 9054. Any flaw or inadequacy in the implementation, the ARMM government must take the problem up with Manila.

RA Mandate

The Regional Assembly has “the power to initiate proposals for the amendment or revisions” of the Organic Act; or “call a Regional Consultative Commission to propose the amendment or revisions”.  Such amendment or revisions are subject to approval by Congress.

ARMM Gov. Parouk Hussin – and later, Gov. Ampatuan — should have asked the Regional Assembly to do this.  The OIC should have advised the MNLF and the ARMM government to do this.  This is what their Agreement says.

The Regional Consultative Commission, with its mandate defined by the Regional Assembly pursuant to Section 2, Article XVII of RA 9054, will be more competent and focused to review the enactment of the FPA into RA 9054 than the five joint working groups formed in Jeddah last November 10-12.

Granting that the MNLF and GRP delegates are competent, they still will lack the focus since they – particularly the GRP delegates — will be doing the review concurrently with their regular work in government. For instance, what time has Gov. Ampatuan and Speaker Paisalin Tago to attend the sessions of their working groups?

Isn’t it awkward, if not ridiculous, that under the FPA mandate, Tago will preside in the amendment or revision but in the ad hoc working groups in Jeddah he is just a group member? And so with Ampatuan, who, as governor, will approve the amendment or revisions before the Regional Assembly will transmit it to Congress?

In Best Position

In the second category, the ARMM executive department should have been the one to present the flaws and inadequacies in the implementation of the FPA in coordination with the MNLF that is concerned but is no longer running the ARMM. These would refer to fund assistance, appointments of Muslims to national offices as agreed, and the like.

Since the FPA and RA 9054 are implemented in the ARMM, the governor and his cabinet are in the best position to know what the flaws and inadequacies are.  Only Manila can remedy these by complying with its commitments. Why refer these to the OIC?

Incidentally, however, the five joint working groups of the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting cover the enactment of the FPA into RA 9054 only. The reports did not mention complaints of the flaws and inadequacies in the implementation of RA 9054.

Necessary, But …

The persistent complaints of the MNLF have made the review of the implementation of the FPA necessary. However, the OIC should have been called to intervene only on the refusal of Manila and the ARMM to address seriously the complaints. It’s ironic, though, that when the MNLF controlled both the legislative and executive branches of the ARMM, they did not address their complaints as provided in RA 9054.

The implementation controversy appears to be due to the lack of understanding of purposes, roles, and sincerity — that FPA is an instrument of the peace process in Muslim Mindanao; that the GRP and MNLF are co-responsible in sincerely implementing the FPA; and that the ARMM government and the Bangsamoro people, as beneficiaries, are also guardians of the FPA.

The Philippine government, to some significant extent, failed in its role and responsibilities because of its flawed understanding of the FPA in relation to the peace process.  That Estrada and Arroyo sidetracked – if not ignored — it in their Mindanao policies seemed to show this. And Arroyo did not support the MNLF after they have failed to give her solid votes in 2004.

The MNLF were not persistent in pursuing their complaints with the President even when they were in control of the ARMM.  Instead, they preferred to let the OIC take the cudgel for them.

Evidently, Manila ignored the complaints but agreed to submit these to a tripartite review when the OIC intervened.  By this option, the more the government lost the confidence of the MNLF. And the more it is compromising national dignity and sovereignty.

After the Jeddah Tripartite Meeting, how will Congress feel to be told by the OIC, no matter how diplomatically expressed, “Amend this and this provisions of RA 9054”; or, President Arroyo to be told, “Fund this and this projects or programs” or “Appoint a Muslim to the Supreme Court”, etc.?

 

The Jeddah Tripartite Meeting is the consequence of the failure of Manila, the ARMM, the MNLF and the Bangsamoro to do their roles and fulfill sincerely their responsibilities relevant to the FPA after the ratification of RA 9054. (“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]).

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