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Home Columns Op-Ed Page Raising False Expectations in Bangsamoro
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Saturday, 16 August 2008 08:01

This is not the first time negotiation amateurs like Gen. Hermogenes Esperon have made a faux pas on the Moro problem. 

 

In 1987, President Aquino recalled then Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez and me from Washington, DC, to Manila to undo the Jeddah Accord that negotiators Nene Pimentel and Butch Aquino signed with the MNLF on Jan. 4, 1987. (I do not think it is a coincidence that Norberto Gonzales, sitting national security adviser of Gloria Arroyo, was part of that ill-fated Philippine panel.) 

 

The Accord expanded coverage of the Tripoli Agreement signed on Dec. 23, 1976, from 13 provinces to the entirety of Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. We narrowly escaped from being entrapped by the Accord into this expansion because of a technicality in the document to wit, "subject to democratic processes".

 

The ensuing debate centered on "democratic processes" because insofar as our constitution was concerned that would be a "plebiscite" while the Moros construed it to be "consultations with constituencies according to their traditions". They eventually frowned at a plebiscite because to move in that direction might even mean a reduction of Tripoli's inclusion of "13 provinces and all cities and villages".

 

The Pelaez panel, assisted by the brilliant minds of Pepe Abueva, Ting Jayme and Puring Quisumbing, instead proposed a Provisional Autonomous Council (PAC) to be signed by President Aquino, who inherited all of Marcos' dictatorial powers before the organization of the first post-Marcos Congress. Nur Misuari did not agree, and the now Moros look back to that proposal, regretting their previous disagreement. The PAC was modeled after the autonomy being enjoyed by the Spanish people.

 

What is sorely being missed here is that the Moro people deserve their autonomy by virtue of the Tripoli agreement and the existing Constitution, not an ARMM that has been structured merely for compliance but full of loopholes and technicalities and one that has verily failed.

 

Ambassador Pelaez was sincere, being himself a Mindanaoan, who understood the importance of peace in "Minsupalabasta" provinces for the stability and progress of the entire Philippine nation.

The choice of a military man, fresh from active duty, to head the existing panel is a classic-and-tragic error. The military mind does not function independently. In fact the phrase "military intelligence" is an oxymoron. It only operates after a strategic mission has already been established, and that might be instructions from a beleaguered President, who has a negative 38% approval rating, to sign any piece of paper, just to appease our Muslim brothers to lessen opposition. In the first place, are we really talking to the right party that is the MILF, when the observer status and representative recognition of the Organization of Islamic States (OIC) favor the MNLF?

 

We are dealing with the Constitution here, quite a document itself full of seeming contradictions and loose provisions, allowing a lot of latitude for "future" legislations by the Congress of the Philippines. The Esperon panel's lack of transparency has even befuddled the issues, I mean it is just commonsensical that if a Memo of Agreement was to be signed and in a foreign country at that, the Filipino people ought to have been appraised of its contents first. No excuses please, not even in the name of executive privilege or national security. The stealth alone at which this MOA was being spirited under our very noses, is by itself, already treasonous.

 

What aggravates this matter is an obscure Department of Foreign Affairs that seems to be absent in all these developments. Every peace talk, every negotiation, appears to espouse a new idea plucked out from the air or a hip pocket when there are many preexisting models out there that are enforceable and successful. I am not even sure if invisible Secretary Albert Romulo himself has read the precedent documents involving peace talks with the Moros.

 

So the Moro people often find themselves being hemmed and hawed between political aspirations and economic interests not of their own, but by the Almighty powers in Manila or their oligarchic extensions in Mindanao. 

 

For heaven's sake, giving the Moros their due, within the purview of the Tripoli Agreement that is recognized internationally and even by the Government of the Philippines, will already earn for us good faith and the respect of the OIC and merit limitless goodwill from our big brothers in the Muslim world. At a time when our economy rests on only the overseas Filipinos, this should be more than incentive for our national interest.

 

If we are truly searching for what is best for the Moros, let us not wait for the next disruption of hostilities in what they call Bangsamoro.

 

Let us throw out that all empty rhetoric and delusions including federalism that would just gerrymander our country for aging politicians who know no better and take on how Spain has for generations been living in peace and progress with a working autonomy specifically the cases of the Canary Islands, the Basque Country, Andalusia or Catalonia and that is being copied by more sensible governments all over the world, the latest of which is Western Sahara.

 

Let us level with our Muslim brothers, and not insert a problem for every solution. My goodness, we have to be true to the roots of our country that before 1521, lived for as much as 300 years under Muslim traditions and governance. Otherwise those same roots will, like uneasy lava, furiously erupt into another social volcano right in our midst. 

 

Let us not even do this for them if we are bigots, but to those around them who become victims of collateral damage every time there is an outbreak of violence in Mindanao.

 

Let us do this for Islam, shalom, or peace, regardless of which side we belong. # # #



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Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2008 11:48
 

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