Saturday, August 20, 2011

Peace advocates hopeful about Aquino counter-proposal to MILF substate

Maradeka Sec-General Nash Pangadapun speaks on peace

MANILA, Philippines—With a week to go before the peace talks resume, negotiators for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are interested to know one thing: Is the Aquino administration willing to compromise over the proposed substate?

Peace advocates, on the other hand, are decrying the public quibbling over the proposed Bangsamoro substate as counter-productive at this crucial stage of the peace negotiations.
Negotiators from the government and the MILF are returning to the table on Monday next week in Malaysia, with the government panel expected to present its counter-proposal to the creation of a substate. “Is he (President Aquino) willing to cast his political capital for this problem, for this process?’’ MILF senior panel member Michael Mastura said in an interview Thursday.

Mastura believed that the government panel, headed by former UP College of Law dean Marvic Leonen, would be ready with its counter-proposal by Monday next week. “The issues are clear. If they will accede to using our draft as a working draft, that will fast-track everything,’’ Mastura said. After Aquino’s secret meeting with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo over a week ago, the MILF declared it had dropped its bid for a separate Islamic state and was settling for a substate.

As a substate, it will exercise powers over its political and economic affairs, and enforce security within the Bangsamoro territory, but remains under the Republic of the Philippines. It would have “asymmetrical relations’’ with the national government, similar to Hong Kong’s relations with China, MILF consultants said. Raissa Jajurie, member of the MILF’s board of consultants, expressed the rebel group’s hope that the government would meet it halfway and agree to grant the substate status.

“Bangsamoro wants to have its own responsibility in governing Bangsamoro lands. It’s a compromise. Just for the sake of having peace, they’re agreeable to a substate at this point,’’ Ms. Jajurie said. “They’re hoping that the Philippine government will be ready to compromise their position and grant this to the Moro, given the historical injustice through the years,’’ she added.

The MILF has contended that a provision on the substate could be appended to the 1987 Constitution by legislation, and without going through the politically divisive process of a constitutional convention or constituent assembly. UP Law Prof. Harry Roque and former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the proposed substate would likely require an amendment to the Philippine Constitution.

Maradeka secretary general Nash Pangadapun also cautioned the public against such premature comments pending the government’s submission of its counter-proposal, and called for sobriety.
“Hyper-reactions can hurt confidence-building measures of both sides, while spoilers are feasting on the recent development,’’ he said in a text message.”Let us make the peace process work.’’ Pangadapun said that it would be premature to comment on the proposed substate since the government has not articulated its counter-proposal.

The more immediate concern has been to bring to the mainstream the group of MILF commander Umbra Kato, who has declared breaking away from the MILF over its frustrations with the peace process, he said. “We don’t believe that future talks can be possible without the MILF resolving first its internal conflict, and fighting and dislodging Kato and his forces cannot either be the solution,’’ he said.

Maradeka is an alliance of pro-democracy Bangsamoro civil society groups that sat as an official observer in the 2006-2008 talks. Despite the high-level meeting between Aquino and Murad, there’s still work cut out for both panels, peace advocates conceded.
“This is a breakthrough move. You need something dramatic to show goodwill and sincerity.

This move was quite important,’’ Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute executive director Karen Tañada said in an interview. “It’s still not easy. There are a lot of issues that need to be threshed out – this aspect of the Constitution, the issue on the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), the issue on territory,’’ Ms. Tañada added.

Monday, August 8, 2011

MILF eyes new state

COTABATO CITY—A senior Moro rebel leader on Monday demanded a genuine Muslim autonomous state not subservient to Manila, and President Benigno Aquino III indicated Christians and Lumad would be given a choice of whether they would want to join a new autonomy setup.
Civil society groups warned against a military-civilian “third force” which, they said, could sabotage a peace deal between the Aquino administration and the Moro insurgents.
Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), denounced the 21-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a “fake” autonomy symbolizing mendicancy. Jaafar reiterated the current MILF leadership would no longer push for a separate Islamic state and was ready to settle for a “Bangsamoro state” under the Philippine government.
For the first time after he met with MILF chair Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo four days ago, the President gave some details of what he and Murad talked about in their secrecy-shrouded meeting in Tokyo. Talking with reporters in Manila, Mr. Aquino made it clear that a future peace deal would not be a purely executive agreement but “probably will take congressional action also.” He also said “one of the things agreed upon is, how do we define territory.”
“At the end of that is a plebiscite, which is also my point,” Mr. Aquino said in Filipino. “The people who will be affected should be the one to say if they want to be part of [an autonomous region] or not.” He added: “We will come up with a proposal that we will present to the people.”
Third force
In the face of scanty details released by the Palace, the leader of an alliance of pro-democracy Moro civil society and political groups— Maradeka—said the government and the MILF should be wary of military officers and local officials who might try to undermine a final deal.
“We’re wary as this new development unfolds about the third force—the spoilers of the peace agreement in the ranks of military officers and local politicians,” Maradeka secretary general Nash Pangadapun said in a phone interview. Maradeka who hailed the Tokyo meeting as the initial step forward in sealing Bangsamoro sub-state also sat in as an official observer in the 2006-2008 talks between Manila and the MILF.
Another group, called the Mindanao Peaceweavers, also warned against such “spoilers. “We pray that the peoples of Mindanao and the rest of the country become ever more vigilant against ‘spoilers’ from all sides who will brook at nothing to scuttle anew the peace at hand,” it said in a statement. The Peaceweavers is an alliance of peace advocacy groups composed of Christians, Muslims and Lumad.
System of mendicancy
“We do not recognize the ARMM as a solution to the problem of the Bangsamoro people,” Jaafar said in an interview. “We want a Bangsamoro state where its people are empowered to decide for themselves, charting peaceful ways and means to improve their social, economic and religious life.” Jaafar said the ARMM was a “fake” setup because it “does not have autonomy, power… Up to now the region is still poor if not the poorest in the country.” “(We) would demand empowering Muslim Mindanao, unlike the present setup of mendicancy,” Jaafar added. “We rely too much on the national government for practically all the region’s needs. This is an insult to… autonomy.”
Jaafar said the Bangsamoro state that the MILF was proposing would cover the present ARMM region with possible expansion. “That’s the content of the Proposed Comprehensive Compact Agreement we submitted to the government. It’s good that President Aquino believes that we are sincere in talking peace,” Jaafar said. He refused to give details of the MILF proposal.
Splinter group
MILF negotiators previously proposed the setting up of a so-called “substate” similar to a US federated state. It would perform all government functions except those pertaining to national defense, foreign affairs, currency and postal services, which would be left to the central government.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pinggoy expressed concern about the emergence of an MILF splinter group. “Are we assured there will be no group organized after the signing?” Pinggoy asked, referring to groups like that headed by Umbra Kato.
Kato severed ties with the MILF early this year, accusing the Murad-led group of veering away from the struggle for self-determination espoused by founding chair Salamat Hashim. Kato, who has formed a group called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), had expressed hope the Aquino-Murad meeting would conform with Salamat’s battle cry of an independent Moro homeland.
Kato doubted any agreement with Manila would be acceptable to everyone. Kato has been the target of a manhunt for leading attacks on civilian villages in 2008 after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a government proposal for a Bangsamoro homeland as part of a peace package with the MILF.
Aug. 22-24 talks
Palace officials said the envisaged peace agreement would not be like the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain—or MOA-AD—that was forged during the Arroyo administration.
The MOA-AD, which detailed the areas belonging to a so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008. Mr. Aquino said the two sides agreed on the need to define what “territory” means in their talks to be held Aug. 22 to 24 in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Mr. Aquino also said the ARMM would figure in the talks. “The best thing I heard from Murad was when he said that our negotiating panels should be problem-solvers and not adversaries. We are here to solve the problem,” he said.
Mr. Aquino said no agreement had been reached so far, when asked how much autonomy the government intended to give the MILF. “The bottom line is, we will make known to all stakeholders and even prospective ones as this is not a Muslim problem alone,” he said, pointing out that these included the Lumad and the Christians living in the so-called Bangsamoro homeland.
“Will it (ARMM) be expanded or will it be contracted? This will be discussed by the negotiating panel,” the President said. (Inquirer)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

After 22 years, ARMM needed Muslim reformist

Moro CSOs belonging to the Maradeka and PAAC in action
Manila Muslim civil society groups and the Muslim community joined hands in observing August 1, 2011 as the 22 years existence of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) since its creation by the passage of Organic Act 6734 in Aug. 1, 1989. This remembrance come with people's dissent after past governments waywardly failing to deliver people expectation in 22 years. 

As this date coincide with 1st day of Holy Month of Ramadhan, Maradeka, pro-democracy Muslim alliance advocating peace, Moro self-determination, and good governance and the anti-corruption group, People’s Action Against Corruption (PAAC), responded with message to make this religious observance of fasting, or cleansing of personal sins and spiritual renewal as another way of cleansing too societal sins and political wrongdoings,

The Maradeka in a turnaround makes an affirmative action to support the president after affirming in his SONA "Totoo po: Personal talaga sa akin ang paggawa ng tama, at ang pagpapanagot sa mga gumagawa ng mali in gesture to critics that he’s getting personal in going after crooks allied to former president Arroyo. “Muslims too make it personal to support the president for as long as he looks for the welfare of the Muslim constituents in the ARMM.” 

This is timely as the call of the Pres. Aquino III to pursue ARMM postponement to bring about atmosphere conducive for peacebuilding and a window of opportunity for reforms in 21 months. The Muslim civil society groups resoundingly stood to be behind leaders whose policy of governance will look up to the welfare of Muslims in the country and put away without qualms the Bangsamoro people from the ravages of war.

If the president will find the good wisdom to get his reform plans in ARMM, they must look for non-politicians and no-nonsense Muslim official cum administrator with peace and development expertise. 

"The Muslim CSOs has seen these criteria with the Muslim reformist, Usec. Dimas Pundato, who also helped the late Pres. Cory Aquino, mother of the Pres. Aquino III in support for her return of Philippine democracy after toppling the Marcos dictatorial regime," as explained by Nash Pangadapun, Secretary-General of Maradeka. He added, "Enough of the local traditional politicians because they’ll be understandably not focused to deliver reforms in 21 months but certainly will be pre-occupied preparing for the 2013 elections."

During the remembrance of the 22 years of the first Organic Act 6734, the Muslim civil society groups, anti-corruption groups and the Manila Muslim community staged their symbolic public burning of effigies in front of the Manila golden Mosque in Globo de Oro, Quiapo, Manila. This effigies represented the societal sins, graft and corruption, massive poll cheating, dominance of the traditional politicians and transactional politics, extra-judicial killing and right abuses that had engulfed the ARMM for miserable 22 years.

This is lamentable that for so long as there will be no reforms that can be instituted and the right person can selected to carry on these reform agenda, the rotten political system cannot possibly democratically elect genuine leaders and legislators and perpetually frustrate our people’s expectation for Islamic reforms.

In the run up to choosing the ARMM Officers in Charge, the Muslim alliance wanted the selection process opened up for public scrutiny all aspirants to look into their credentials and their vision for good governance in ARMM. It is also batting for the ARMM Screening Committee (ASC) to admit representative from the NGO, civil society or Muslim religious groups. As this developed, it is endorsing the person of Aleem Said Acmad Basher, president of Imam Council of the Philippines to ably represent the Muslim non-governmental sector.