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Home Columns Amina Rasul Mujahideen for Federalism?
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Columns - Amina Rasul
Monday, 02 June 2008 02:52

Last week, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders were "invited" to a meeting in Tripoli, Libya, by Saif-al-Islam Gadaffy, son of the Libyan strongman. Libya has been pushing the MNLF to unite. Saif Gadaffy had attempted to do so when he visited Manila several months ago. They were accompanied by Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza (soon to trade his peace pipe for the microphone of the Press Secretary).

 

A press statement and a communiqué, signed by ten MNLF leaders, swiftly circulated announcing an agreement on May 18 to form a transition and unification committee, to be headed by Misuari.  The 10 leaders included Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, Sulu Congressman Yusuf Jikiri, former ARMM Regional Governor Parouk Hussin, Deputy Presidential Security Advisor Thambeyapa Manjoorsa, Regional Legislative Assemblyman Hatimil Hassan, and MNLF Mufti Sharif Zain Jali.

 

The May 18 meeting agreed on 13 points, including the MNLF participation in the government’s move for federalism.  (Senator Nene: your resolution is now a done deal?)


The MNLF will hold its Peace Congress on May 24-25 in Davao City. Fifty-thousand MNLF were expected to converge at the Congress, according to lawyer Randolph “Bong” Parcasio, legal counsel to Chairman Nur Misuari.   I wondered if the “consensus” reached at the May 18 MNLF meeting in Tripoli would have any impact on the Peace Congress.  Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcomed the initiative.  MILF Secretariat Chair Muhammad Ameen told media that the move would “simplify MILF effort to reach out to our brothers in the MNLF”.

 

The May 18 meeting agreed on 13 points, including the MNLF participation in the government’s move for federalism.  (Is Senator Pimentel's resolution now a done deal?)

But wait a minute … where is Misuari’s signature?  Oooops.   Nada. Missing.  An insider told me that the MNLF leaders representing Misuari at the Tripoli meeting felt pressured to sign, even though they were not able to discuss the matter with Maas.   How will Maas’ repudiation of such a publicly lauded transition committee affect government’s plans for peace?  (Does government have a peace plan?)

 

It seems to me we are in a free-for-all situation.  Security Guru Bert Gonzales has his plan. The military had their strategies. Secretary Jess Dureza had his moves. And now we have a new Peace Adviser, General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. What is his Peace Oplan? Recently retired as Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he will have to catch and juggle several fireballs.  With the promise he made to Mrs. Arroyo to crush the insurgents, General Esperon is more likely to just get his howitzer and blow the fireballs to kingdom come instead of using a water pistol to douse the flames. 

 

But I digress.  To get back on track: I really can’t see an integrated government peace strategy.  Certainly, a unified MNLF is necessary if the government hopes to bring the MILF and the MNLF together.  A nagging thought: why would government want a union between a disgruntled MNLF (harping over the non-implementation of the 1996 FPA) and an equally unhappy MILF (carping over the government’s reneging over ancestral domain issues).  What’s the possibility that the two liberation fronts would now unite into one stormy front?

 

MILF and the MNLF together.  A nagging thought: why would government want a union between a disgruntled MNLF (harping over the non-implementation of the 1996 FPA) and an equally unhappy MILF (carping over the government’s reneging over ancestral domain issues)?

If the MNLF and the MILF agree to be at the same table, then government will find it easier to resolve the sticky issues surrounding the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (failed autonomy) and the stalled GRP-MILF peace process (over ancestral domain).  The shift to federalism, proposed by Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, is viewed as a key that would unlock constitutional barriers to granting the right to self-determination demanded by the Muslim liberation fronts.   (Opposition groups, however, view the shift as the key that would lock in Mrs. Arroyo’s control beyond 2010, if the Philippine constitution is amended to allow her to remain in power.)

 

Federalism was proposed after the MILF peace panel accused the Philippine government of reneging on its commitments on ancestral domain, refusing to participate in the scheduled peace talks in Kuala Lumpur   last December. According to the MILF, the government included “constitutional process” in its draft agreement on “19 Consensus Points on Ancestral Domain.” Early on, the MILF had agreed not to bring independence to the table while the government agreed that it would not seek refuge behind constitutional prohibitions and processes. This gentlemen’s agreement allowed both groups to move forward on issues like the cessation of hostilities and economic development, later addressing the more contentious issues like ancestral domain.


The shift to federalism will allow government to support the aspiration of the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation) for self-determination as it provides for the demands for power sharing by local governments and regions far from Imperial Manila.  However, will the MILF, which has consistently refused to recognize the power of the Philippine constitution over them, now view the move for federalism in a more positive light?  Probably not.  As former Congressman Michael Mastura asks, “Why does Government prefer to disrupt the procedural steps of the peace talks while redirecting the MILF side’s position to be locked into the constitutional mandate?”


(To be continued . . .)



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Last Updated on Monday, 02 June 2008 03:13
 

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