Pushing for peace in Mindanao

“When guns speak, laws are silent,” so it has been said. This is true in wars  among sovereign nations. It is also true with civil strife within states, like  in France, the United States, China, Vietnam and Serbia. Or more recently, in  Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. Human casualties, injuries, hunger, atrocities  and deprivations have been the sad consequences of these bloody conflicts.

Colored revolutions. The Philippines is lucky that the recent uprisings to  change our political leaders have been peaceful and contained. In fact, our  country is known for staging bloodless colored revolutions starting with yellow  in 1986. Following our lead were several former Soviet republics, like the Rose  Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the orange in Ukraine in 2004, and the tulip in  Kyrgyzstan in 2005.

Contrasting with our successful peaceful revolutions are two bloody  confrontations: the prolonged rebellion by the New People’s Army (NPA) and the  persistent separatist movements in Mindanao, spearheaded by the Moro National  Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In both cases, the government, in as many years since its independence from  the United States in 1946, has shifted and shuttled from military warfare to  peace negotiations and vice versa. To deal with these armed insurrections, all  our presidents, from Quezon to Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia,  Macapagal, Marcos, Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III,  have used these tactical shifts in varying intensities.

For centuries, our southern brethren have resisted the Spanish  conquistadores, American colonizers, Japanese invaders and now even the  independent government of the republic. The Zamboanga caper by a faction of the  MNLF during the past weeks is a grim reminder of the bloody struggle.

MNLF and Misuari. Aiming originally to establish an independent Bangsamoro  homeland, the MNLF was organized in 1969 with Nur Misuari as founding chair. It  was officially recognized by the worldwide Organization of Islamic Conference  (OIC) in 1974.

The following year, 1975, a Philippine government (GPH) panel held meetings  with the MNLF in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that led to the signing of the Tripoli  Agreement in 1976 outlining the autonomy—no longer independence—aspirations of  the MNLF.

In 1977, a leadership rivalry divided the MNLF with the formation of the MILF  led by Hashim Salamat. Since then, the Philippine government has had to tiptoe  through separate peace negotiations with the two groups. But both were united in  denouncing the 1987 Constitution ordained under President Cory Aquino and  Republic Act 6734, which established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  (ARMM) in 1989.

President Fidel Ramos passionately pursued peace. Under his term, on Sept. 2,  1996, the GPH and the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) envisioned in  the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. In the same month, Misuari was elected ARMM  governor.

Many thought the FPA and Misuari’s election ended the  secessionist movement, especially because various laws and meetings were held to  implement the other provisions of the FPA, including the creation of Shariah  courts and the integration of the MNLF fighters into the Armed Forces of the  Philippines.

However, on Nov. 26, 2001, after Ramos’ term, Parouk Hussein succeeded  Misuari as ARMM governor, resulting in the sidelining of the MNLF founding  leader. Despite changes in the MNLF and ARMM leadership over the years up to the  present, the government continuously tended the ARMM area through “tripartite  meetings” of the GPH, OIC and MNLF.

The current Aquino administration, with the active participation of  Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, followed through the  FPA via meetings in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and  Djibouti, working on the implementation of the FPA details, including “42  consensus points to amend RA 9054” and the establishment of the Bangsamoro  Development Assistance Fund.

Peace with the MILF. While tending the Tripoli Agreement, our government did  not neglect the MILF, the MNLF’s chief rival, which continued its armed struggle  despite the FPA. After long and arduous negotiations and several failed  attempts, the GPH and the MILF finally signed the epochal Framework Agreement on  the Bangsamoro (FAB) on Oct. 15, 2012.

Since then, the GPH and MILF panels have worked extra hard to produce two of  the annexes to the FAB: the very important (1) Annex on Revenue Generation and  Wealth Sharing, signed on July 13, 2013, and (2) Annex on Transitional  Arrangements and Modalities, signed on Feb. 27, 2013. Consistent with the FAB,  President Aquino issued Executive Order 120 on Dec. 17, 2012, creating the  transition commission tasked to draft the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

It has become obvious that both the GPH and MILF are inexorably headed to  stable peace before the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016, inevitably  ushering in the MILF’s leadership of the Bangsamoro people. Experts say, not  without reason that Misuari and his MNLF faction of less than 200 fighters  attempted to block this inevitability by staging the attack on Zamboanga City.

Despite the momentary diversion created by the Zamboanga caper, I hope  Secretary Deles and her team will persevere in navigating the stormy river to  peace and fix their gaze on their destination of prosperity and wellbeing for  all. Truly, lasting peace is the ultimate goal.

* * *

Comments Off on Pushing for peace in Mindanao

Filed under Columns

Comments are closed.