MILF-GPH FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: ROAD MAP TO PEACE, WAR or NOWHERE?

Posted on October 14, 2012

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FROM: PNOY’S ROAD MAP TO PEACE OR TO NOWHERE? 

by Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas

Tomorrow, October 15, 2012, a supposedly historic event will happen at Malacanang – the formal signing of a Framework Agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with no less than the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak,  Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and representatives of the International Contact Group and the International Monitoring Team as witnesses for the event.

Four years  ago, a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was pre-signed in Malaysia but was prevented from being formally signed and eventually declared unconstitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Although the MOA-AD and the Framework Agreement are basically the same just as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is practically the same as the new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity, everybody seems to be happy with this one yet was seething with venomous anger against the other. Why?

WITH THE PRESIDENT’S BACKING

I understand why anti-Muslim autonomy politicians like Senator Drilon and Sec. Roxas are quiet. They are the stalwarts of the Liberal Party, the party of President Aquino III. I understand why even opposition politicians who are anti-Muslim autonomy advocates are quiet. They do not want to go against the dictates of Malacanang as they might lose their pork barrel. I understand why most of mainstream media are supportive of the Aquino- approved Framework Agreement. The Media Agenda is basically the same as the Malacanang agenda. I am not surprised why the Supreme Court who branded the MOA-AD as unconstitutional is silent about the new Framework Agreement. Their new Chief Justice was newly appointed by the President.

But I am surprised why so many ordinary Christian Filipinos, who appeared ready and raring to join the Crusades against the Moros during the height of the MOA-AD controversy, are now silent and are even said to be “pro-Peace”, whatever that means. Could it be that left on their own, the Filipino masses would actually be pro-Peace and that they are just looking for cues from their opinion leaders?

If that is so, then there is actually a possibility for peace in this country!

The question then is, will the ruling elite allow lasting peace in the country? The “No War – No Peace” condition has a lot of advantages for the powers that be.  It helps them maintain their position of dominance and power – both in Mindanao and in Metro Manila.

TIMELINE

This early, government functionaries have already said that the schedule for the finalization of the MILF-GPH peace talks will be in 2016. That would simply not work. In 2016, Aquino III will be a lameduck president. The opposition will not be afraid of him. His party-mates will be ready to abandon him. The Media will look for its own agenda.

Ms. Arroyo thought that in 2008, she could still make the MOA-AD palatable to the majority. But she underestimated her unpopularity. The obvious rigging of the elections in 2007 and her attempts to have Martial Law through Proclamation 1017 which called for a State of Emergency gave chills down the spines of many Filipinos. The opposition’s resistance to the MOA-AD gained overwhelming adherents.

In the same vein, Mr. Aquino should not over-estimate his popularity. The removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona and his replacement wit a young law professor who was Aquino’s schoolmate in college does not go well with many critical-thinking Filipinos. As Senator Joker Arroyo remarked, by removing CJ Corona, Aquino effectively controlled the three branches of government thus having Martial Law powers without calling Martial Law.

Recently, this September, the ‘netizens of the country were up in arms against Aquino’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law, calling the imposition of the law as “e-Martial Law”. His advisers/retinue who keep on trumpeting Aquino’s alleged popularity must have been surprised at the people’s protest. With about a dozen petitions to the Supreme Court, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the government’s implementation of the law.

If Aquino and his party-mates are truly sincere in this peace process, they must start the ball rolling this early. They cannot presume that Aquino’s popularity will remain as high as they say it is. A plebiscite in one and a half year’s time must be scheduled. The plebiscite should not be done beyond 2014. If that happens, then maybe there would be some hope for peace.

As for the doubting Moros, it does not matter who represents the Bangsa Moro. What is important is what the representatives achieve for the Moros. The best thing we got so far, after struggling for more than 40 years, is the Tripoli Agreement. If the MILF can get something less than the Tripoli Agreement but can have it fully implemented favoring the Moros, then well and good. But for me, the Tripoli Agreement remains the basic autonomous agreement. Everything else is a part of the process towards its full implementation.

HOWEVER

However, and this is a big however, I’m afraid all this hullabaloo is just for show. The Aquino administration is simply imitating the Arroyo administration. Like Arroyo, who lured the MILF to the negotiating table by dangling a “Bangsamoro State” carrot, Aquino is dangling the Bangsamoro “autonomous political entity” carrot while taking control of ARMM by appointing his own people – Hataman et al – and letting them run for office in the coming elections. This is being done in spite of Aquino’s announcement that his team will be on a temporary capacity and will not run in 2013. (Remember when Arroyo said she wouldn’t run in 2004?). He will extend the talks until near the end of his presidential term when it will meet extreme opposition from the Christian majority.

On the other hand, the MILF will be glad to keep on talking and putting concepts on the table. The alternative is war in the battlefields. Any agreements will be bases for future agreements. The MILF can just bide its time while winning more local supporters as well as international supporters like the US and Malaysia. It probably also hopes that MNLF will somehow just disappear.

It is really a win-win situation for Aquino and the MILF but a lose-lose situation for the people.

At the end of Aquino’s reign when the s##t hits the fan, there’ll be disaster. And this time, it might not just involve two commands of MILF “rogue” fighters but might involve a whole lot more. By that time, so many Moros would have been made to believe that Aquino and the Philippine government are sincere, only to find out that they were just being had.

(And pray tell, whatever happened to the Jakarta Agreement – Ramos’s peace pact with the MNLF? It also had the US imprimatur as well as the OIC’s.)

Philippine government’s peace negotiator Marvic Leonen said, “The new autonomous political entity will be created through an organic act, drafted by a Transition Commission, enacted by Congress and effective upon ratification in a plebiscite.” These are all difficult political tasks, almost impossible to handle by any government. But as shown by the Christian Filipino people’s response to the Framework Agreement, they would support whatever their leaders say so.

If all these difficult tasks were to be done swiftly with the full support of the government, then we will be on the Road to Peace. But if they will be done willy nilly or and near the end of Aquino’s term or done with a hidden agenda (like putting Aquino’s Moro lackeys to govern the Bangsamoro) , then Aquino’s road map will lead to nowhere, or worse, bigger war.