Q and A on the ARMM elections (3) with former Senator Aquilino Pimentel: “Up to this very day, the problem persists”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 April) – Malacañang says the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a “failed state.” Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel responds in this third part of the interview on the ARMM elections.

Q. Can you comment on Malacañang’s saying the ARMM is a “failed state?” The general perception is it is but on closer look, what for you are the problems that have plagued the ARMM? Is it the structure? Is it subservience to the anointing powers in Malacañang? Is it because the 1996 peace pact provisions, for instance, were not fully covered by RA 9054? Is this the institution that thousands of Moro people fought and died for?

Malacañang – especially the predecessor of the incumbent president – contributed immensely to the inability of the ARMM to achieve the ends set for it by the two ARMM laws – the first and the amendatory legislations.

To begin with, the ARMM is not a state. It is and was meant to be an autonomous region where the just aspirations of the Moro peoples and the Lumads may be given full play.

Some of the more immediately perceptible causes of the inability of the ARMM to achieve its goals are:

1. A corrupt Comelec structure that allowed massive electoral cheating in the region.

2. A corrupted military structure that in the words of Senator Trillanes and his followers when they “rebelled” against the government that sold Armed Forces’ weapons and ammunitions to rebel groups.

3. A corrupted political bureaucracy that assured warlords in the region to enjoy impunity by aligning themselves with the past president – as some of them are now trying to do with the incumbent president.

As for the peace process, there is much more to be done than just mouthing that past peace pacts were not implemented.

I suggest that for peace to be achieved in Mindanao, the government must have a concrete, comprehensive and constitutionally viable peace formula that will address the just demands of the Moro peoples.

That formula, in my mind, is for the country to be converted into a Federal Republic and where the Moros would have a federal state of their own.

By enabling them to run their own region as a federal state, that would not only dissipate the causes of Moro unrest but would also hasten the economic development of the region and of the rest of the country that would also be “federalized”.

Q. Given the criticisms on the ARMM, the peace negotiations track – review of the 1996 pact and the ongoing talks with the MILF – appears to be in a precarious position. How should we deal with these? On the other hand, the MNLF and MILF allegedly want postponement, hoping that the issues they are negotiating for, will be resolved before May 2013.

A. A factional approach to the search for peace in Muslim Mindanao won’t work. History has shown this conclusion to be valid.

The government had a peace pact with the MNLF. It did not quite work.

The MILF has taken over where the MNLF had left off.

What happens if a peace pact were finally entered with the MILF? Would some other factions later on crop up and say we were not a part of the peace negotiations? Therefore, we need another peace pact.

We must remember the past if we are not to repeat it. There was relative calm in Sulu when government forces killed Dimakaling in Lanao in the early days of the American occupation. Shooting stopped for a while when government forces overwhelmed Kamlon in the early days of our independence. And in Central Mindanao, when government guns silenced the Mindanao Independence Movement shortly before martial law was declared.

Yet, up to this very day, the problem persists.

I submit that federalism is the needed solution to stop the guns from ruining Mindanao as a generator for development of the nation.

Q. Meanwhile, what scenario do you foresee should the elections be postponed?

Postponement of the elections will widen the dissatisfaction of the Moro peoples with the way the central government has handled the so-called “Moro problem” and radicalize their youths.

It will, therefore, create more problems than before. [Tomorrow: Who would benefit from a postponement?’] (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)