MNLF to take part in Aquino’s caretaker ARMM administration

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 June) – The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will take part in the “ARMM governance reforms” of the Aquino administration when it appoints a caretaker administration to govern the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from noon of September 30, 2011 to June 30, 2013, the Philippine government and MNLF agreed in a meeting in Solo City, Indonesia early this week.

The agreement does not mention who or how many MNLF members will be appointed as OICs in the 21-year old ARMM, an institution that was governed by the MNLF from  September 30, 1996 to September 30, 2005 under Governors Nur Misuari and Parouk Hussein.

According to the June 22 report of the Technical Committee of the Ad Hoc High-Level Group of the Philippine government, MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC),  the parties, “recognizing the possibilities for reform in light of the postponement of the ARMM elections believe that they should avail of the opportunity and use the period to work together with concerned stakeholders to capacitate the ARMM as a complementary mechanism for the full implementation of the 1996 GRP-OIC-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA).”

“The GPH considers the MNLF as the principal partner to effect” the reforms “in the context of the full implementation of the 1996 FPA,” the report, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews, said.

The report was signed by Undersecretary Jose Luis Gascon for the government and Atty. Randolph Parcasio for the MNLF, and witnessed by Andhika Bambang Supeno of the OIC-PCSP (Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines). Supeno is Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Makati City.

The Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and MNLF with the OIC-PCSP,  was agreed upon during the 10th anniversary of the agreement in 2006. The first meeting was held in Jeddah in November 2007.

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the primary purpose of the Tripartite Process with the OIC and MNLF is to monitor and ensure full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

“It does not in any instance reopen negotiations which were completed in 1996 as clearly expressed in the Totality Clause of the FPA. Nonetheless, the Aquino administration’s  program of reforms in ARMM creates opportunities for all good intentioned stakeholders to work with both national government and LGUs in enhancing the capacity of ARMM to provide basic public services through good governance. The reform process will engage the multiple participation of all relevant stakeholders and we are pleased that the MNLF, as signatory to the FPA, has agreed to partner with government in this very difficult process,” Deles told MindaNews  Saturday.

The MNLF was represented in the Solo meeting by Nur Misuari, Muslimin Sema, Hatimil Hassan, Ustadz Baqui, Kong Sahrin and Parcasio.

“Workable partnership”
The report said the other details of the partnership will be defined by the GPH and MNLF with the active participation of OIC through the OIC PCSP   “within 30 days following the effectivity of the law synchronizing the ARMM elections with the national elections.”

The bill resetting the August 8, 2011 polls to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term polls and to allow President Aquino to appoint OICs in the interim was passed by Congress in early June and will be signed into law by the President on June 30.

The two parties said it is “of mutual interest to develop a workable Partnership at appropriate levels in the ARMM” through at least nine items: “participation of the MNLF in the ARMM governance reforms; hasten the completion of the drafting of a bill to amend RA 9054; complete the devolution of National Agencies to the ARMM in accordance with RA 9054; facilitate the implementation of the provisions on representation in the National Government and in all Organs of the State in accordance with items Nos. 63 to 67 of the FPA and Sections 4-7 of Article V of RA 9054; improve capacity of ARMM to ensure delivery of basic services including infrastructure development; enhance resource generation to support delivery of basic services to the ARMM’s constituents; improvement of the peace and order condition on the ground and protect human rights.”

The parties also agreed to “jointly advocate for the ARMM to: implement a transparent and accountable governance; establish mechanism for effective delivery of basic services; legislate the following: establishment of Darul Iftah (advisory council) and Shar’ia Courts in accordance with the FPA; amend the ARMM Local Government Code; ARMM Administrative Code; establishment of ARMM Human Rights Commission; Special Regional Security Force/PNP Regional Command for the Autonomous Region; and other priority legislations.”

Both sides also agreed to “identify and recommend other measures that national government will undertake for the full implementation of the FPA.”

The report said the government “considers the MNLF as the principal partner to effect all of the foregoing in the context of the full implementation of the 1996 FPA.”

Strategic Minerals

On the consensus on strategic minerals, the parties agreed to an interim co-management agreement.

The ARMM will accept, process, evaluate and assess application for permit to explore, utilization contracts, to impose administrative charges and fees while the national government will approve application for permit to explore and/or utilization contract duly recommended by the ARMM.

The ARMM will recommend approval of permits, contract upon endorsement of all the respective Sanggunians (Local Government Unit Councils) and after securing the free and prior informed consent in accordance with the Indignous Peoples Rights Act while the national government will approve the permits, contracts recommended by the ARMM.

The ARMM will be “co-signatory together with the GPH of any permit, contract.”

It will also be tasked “to be primarily responsible for the monitoring of compliance to the duly approved exploration permits and utilization contracts” while the national government “may at its option, monitor compliance to the duly approved exploration permits and utilization contracts.”

On the remaining unresolved  issues related to strategic minerals, plebiscite, territory, and other peace and development mechanisms outside ARMM, the parties agreed to “work together with the OIC to resolve them on or before 30 September 2011.”

The MNLF maintains its demand “to resolve the establishment of a provisional government in accordance with the provisions of the 1976 GRP-OIC-MNLF Tripoli Agreement” but the Philippine government’s position is that  the 1996 agreement “constitutes the totality of all agreements between the GPH and MNLF, and Phase I thereof has been fully implemented with the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development and Consultative Assembly as the transitional mechanism which already supersedes any references to provisional government including that found in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)