Challenges, hitches seen ahead of PH-MILF peace pact

Posted at 10/14/2012 7:23 PM | Updated as of 10/15/2012 8:50 AM

 …but gov’t assures ‘political commitment’

MANILA, Philippines -- The government admitted there is much to be done before the proposed new political entity called “Bangsamoro” will rise in the restive south.

Still, the enthusiasm over the framework agreement that will be signed tomorrow, October 15, is already a signal that all stakeholders, both Muslims and non-Muslims, are already gearing for a lasting peace.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles ensured peace advocates that the Bangsamoro, as prescribed in the framework, will be in place before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office in 2016.

“There will be many more years…but there is political commitment,” she said.

The framework agreement, which will be signed in Malacanang on Monday, will be witnessed by several third-party stakeholders, including Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and Organization of Islamic Cooperation secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

Both officials, including other delegates from Mindanao, are now in Manila to witness the event.

For the first time, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Murad Ebrahim will also step foot in Malacanang.

Muslims and Christians from Mindanao are also holding a caravan that will end in Mendiola, where delegates will hold vigil until the very signing at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.

In a separate interview with dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacanang is confident that the proposed Bangsamoro will not be “failed experiment” like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

She said the “Bangsamoro” is not a “makeover” or a mere replacement of the ARMM, saying “a reading of the framework agreement will belie that assumption.”

Deles added the strategy after the signing of the framework will not be a hastily-crafted process, in order that all provisions leading to the drafting of a basic law will all be anchored on the Constitution.

Euphoria

The current administration does not want a repeat of the moth-balled memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which was signed between the Arroyo government and the separatist MILF in 2008 and meant to expand the jurisdiction of the autonomous region, but was met with strong opposition.

Sans a final agreement, armed clashes broke out in several parts of Mindanao such as North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

Before the Supreme Court could hand down its decision that the MOA-AD was unconstitutional, the government already ceased implementing the agreement.

Exploratory talks gained momentum upon the assumption into power of Aquino, who met with Ebrahim in August 2011 with the end-goal of firming up a peace pact within his term.

“That is why we scheduled the signing of the framework agreement a week after it was announced [to give way to commentaries],” Deles added.

Status quo

But in a separate interview with radio dzMM, government panel chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said he sees road blocks ahead.

“This is just the start, there won’t just be challenges to the parties, but also to the communities. The status quo will be disturbed,” he said.

After the signing of the agreement, Aquino is expected to issue an executive order that will direct the creation of a transition committee to draft a basic law.

The basic law will go through Congress. “Any proposed law resulting from this framework will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite. Once approved, there will be elections,” Aquino said last October 7, when he announced the breakthrough.

Already, the framework agreement was put to question by some parties, including Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief Nur Misuari.

MNLF to witness signing

Misuari said the framework violated the 1976 Tripoli agreement between his group and then President Ferdinand Marcos.

The MNLF signed in 1996, during the time of President Fidel Ramos, a final peace pact. There, around 10,000 of their guerillas integrated into the Armed Forces and the police.

MNLF officials also assimilated into the political mainstream, with some now members of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The 16-year-old pact is undergoing a tripartite review led by MNLF officials, representatives of the Aquino government and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The review was initiated in order to solve weak provisions in the original peace agreement.

Threats from Misuari won’t dampen Leonen’s enthusiasm, however. “I am convinced that there won’t be legal [issues], Constitutional issues,” he said, pointing out that some MNLF leaders have already issued statements in support of the road to peace.

In fact, some MNLF officials will be witnesses to the signing tomorrow, he added.

No to war

Meanwhile, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said he already talked to Misuari on the matter. The MNLF leader supposedly told him that they will not go to war despite their criticisms against the new agreement.

“I was misunderstood. What I said was the framework (of peace) might be a recipe for a crisis which may include war,” Misuari supposedly told Tan.

He also reportedly said, “If I want hostilities to resume, why would I announce it? A person who understands war knows that the element of surprise is very important; I would have kept silent if that was what my intention was. In fact, I am running for ARMM governor this coming May 2013 polls. I am a politician now, we only want what is good for our people.”

Tan said he met with Misuari late Saturday. There, Misuari also reportedly said: “In fact, claims that the MNLF was consulted on this matter were untrue. I will not tell a lie to say we were never consulted…I feel insulted about the government entering into an agreement with such a small group.”

ABS-CBNnews.com tried but failed to contact Misuari.

The government insists, however, the MNLF was tapped.

The “Bangsamoro” will be “inclusive” of MNLF and other groups who want peace, Leonen said.

Tan also assured Misuari that the deal will not be rammed down the throats of the people of Mindanao.

National government participation

In a separate interview with dzMM, Julkipli Wadi, dean of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies, welcomed the signing of the agreement.

“In the immediate term, the hostilities are expected to subside. That is good because it will give our Muslim brothers and sisters a sense of calm,” he said.

However, Wadi said the success of the agreement leading to a final peace pact will depend on the commitment of the entire national government. “We hope that the whole structure of the government is prepared for the agreement,” he said.

At the moment, he only foresees a change at the micro-level, citing, for example, that the reforms in Mindanao don’t have a champion in the Senate and House of Representatives.

There are also no Muslims running for a national post, he noted, adding that this issue is critical since they will be the ones to draft the basic law.

“How do you jive a presidential structure in the national government and the parliamentarian structure in the [Bangsamoro],” Wadi asked.

For Leonen, however, the solution to peace is not just all about the agreement, saying everyone should join in the equation.

“We should help each other…It’s time that we are known internationally as a just and peace-loving nation,” he said.

Deles added the government will provide what has been committed in the framework. “Walang hindi kayang ibigay na wala sa framework,” she said.