Archive for the ‘MILF Deal’ Category

Bayan says MOA-AD is a ploy to extend Arroyo’s term

December 31, 2008

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) fears the government has not entirely given up on the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which the group sees as a ploy to change the Constitution to extend the term of the President.

Malacañang lawyers to the Supreme Court (SC) ruling indicates that the government is still planning to pursue the controversial MOA-AD. Bayan believes the MOA-AD will pave the way for constitutional amendments that will extend Arroyo’s term.

The SC ruled as unconstitutional the MOA-AD that would have given the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) authority over territories included in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which covers a wider territory and an expanded administrative capacity in the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera filed a manifestation, protesting what she referred to as “a transgression of the doctrine of separation of powers” between the nation’s judicial and executive bodies. Devanadera feared that the Supreme Court decision foreshadowed “a future trend” of the Court’s interference in “areas exclusive to the other branches of the government.”

Devanadera urged the High Court to dismiss the case filed by local officials in Mindanao questioning the MOA-AD just two weeks after the botched August 5 signing in Kuala Lumpur. The solicitor-general later formally urged the Supreme Court to dismiss this case as moot and academic.

Reyes said this move proved that the administration really wants to push through with the MOA-AD. With time running out until 2010, Arroyo cannot afford to lose options to stay in power, said Reyes. Even though she had majority of the members of the House of Representatives, she would still have the Senate to contend with, many of them eyeing for the Presidential elections in 2010 would waylay any of her moves to stay in power.

Militant partylist representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna), and Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party) said the SC ruling should not invalidate issue of ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro.

Reyes said Bayan respected the Bangsamoro people’s right to self determination but the proposed signing of the MOA-AD came at the time when the administration is pushing for changes in the Constitution to stay in power. (CJ Cuizon/davaotoday.com)

MILF hails EU for its humanitarian concern A 3-day tour by envoys indicates concern for civilians caught in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement

December 17, 2008

By Julmunir I. Jannaral, Correspondent

COTABATO CITY: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday hailed the continuing aid and humanitarian concern of the 27-member nations of the European Union (EU) for the war victims in Mindanao.

Muhammad Ameen, head of the MILF secretariat and also a member of the MILF Central Committee, said the recent three-day tour of Mindanao by EU ambassadors is the clearest sign yet of their concern for the plight of the civilians in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement.

Ameen stressed that the Moro rebels is always for the negotiated political settlement of the Moro problem and the armed conflict in Mindanao but if there is no peace and settlement reached until this day, the Philippine government should be blamed, he added.

He cited the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by both Moro rebels and government peace panels on August 5, and later declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Ambassadors from the European Union started their three-day tour of Mindanao since Monday (December 15), to see for themselves how the European Commission’s assistance to war victims has been implemented.

They are Ambassadors Heikki Hannikainen (Finland), Christian Ludwig Weber-Lortsch (Germany), Rubens Fedele (Italy), Valeriu Gheorghe (Romania), Luis Arias (Spain), Peter Beckingham (United Kingdom) and Alistair MacDonald (European Commission). French Chargé d’Affaires Didier Ortolland represented the EU presidency.

Other officials from the Austrian, Czech, Dutch, Greek and Swedish embassies will also take part in the next visit, along with officials from the World Food Program, led by Stephen Anderson, country director, according to Ameen.

The group will meet with local government officials and civil society organizations and non-government organizations involved in peace and development in Cotabato City, Maguindanao, South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces.

Likewise, they are also scheduled to visit a number of evacuation centers in Maguindanao, where assistance provided by the European Commission is being implemented.

It can be recalled that in October this year, the European Commission agreed to provide some P440 million to help civilian victims of the conflict in Mindanao.

The assistance is used to cover emergency food distribution, drinking water and additional sanitation facilities, non-food relief items, basic shelter assistance, health care and psychosocial support, emergency support to livelihood rehabilitation and protection.

Taken together, the EC’s humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance for Mindanao has amounted to P7.9 billion over the last two decades, the MILF secretariat head also said.(ManilaTimes)

MILF pooh-poohs gov’t peace talks statements

December 16, 2008

THE National Government’s statements on the alleged resumption of peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have not impressed the Muslim secessionist group, a Moro leader said.

Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, branded the repeated announcements as nothing but part of government propaganda.

He said: “[These are] gimmicks in order to give false hope to the people, especially those in the conflict affected areas and the international community that the peace talks is going to be held.”

Musa cited the earlier statement of government officials that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) would have a full peace panel before the middle of this month, “but so far only undersecretary of foreign affairs Rafael Seguis was appointed as government chief peace negotiator”.

It was learned that the government set December 15 as the first schedule of talks. As of Monday, nothing has developed in the said talks.

“There is no full peace panel yet and the GRP again announced that the talks would take place on December 22. All these are empty talks,” Musa said.

Musa warned the government “not to make hollow and repeated announcements for the resumption of the peace talks between them [MILF] when no such serious thing is in the offing or set for in the immediate future.”

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said the MILF has not received any official communication from the Malaysian government, the chief facilitator of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks, about any schedule of peace talks in December.

There were earlier suggestion for Indonesia to take over Malaysia as the talks’ facilitator, but the MILF disapproved it. (BOT)

A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS

December 4, 2008

This piece was originally posted by the author as a response to the ” STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace” article.

Barangay RP reposted it here now as a major story.  Please read.

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A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS:

Written by: DATUAN S. PANOLIMBA of
North Cotabato, Philippines

datuan.panolimba@yahoo.com

When the Spaniards set their foot in Manila in 1570, Islam had taken its roots in the bay area. In the southern portion of the archipelago, there were already established sultanates, attesting to the existence of advanced political system the Moros had had. It was during the Battle of Manila that year that the word “Moro” was first used by the Spaniards, reminded of their experience with the Moors in Morocco who fought them for territory and dominance in the Iberian peninsula.

Military campaigns were launched to subjugate the Moro Muslims in 1578. These expeditions came in six stages starting from the Spanish conquest of Borneo in 1578, ending in the attempts to consolidate Hispanic hold in some parts of Mindanao to prevent the other foreign powers at that time (e.g. the British and the Dutch) from penetrating the Muslim sultanates. Each of these aggressions was fiercely resisted by the Moro people. Despite some minor gains towards the end of the Spanish era, the Castelllans, who gained some advantage with the introduction of fast steamboats and the weakening of the Sultanates due to internecine wars on succession, never subjugated the Moros.

But the wounds remained and even grew deeper. The Moro wars as well as the cultural conditions imposed on the Indio’s, e.g. the Moro-Moro, zarzuela and the like, separated the Christianized Filipinos from the Muslims in the South of the Philippines. Stereotypes portraying the latter as “uncivilized and barbaric” persisted giving notion that the Muslims were being treated as second-class citizens.

American colonialism of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan began with the Bates Treaty that was on August 20, 1899. The document was just a tactical ploy designed by the American occupational forces to thwart any alliance between the defenders of the young Philippine Republic and the Sultanates. When the Americans succeeded in crushing the revolutionary government in Luzon, they mounted military expeditions to pacify and subjugate the Moro people. These took several forms foremost of which was the no-nonsense unleashing of full military might capped by the opening of settelemnts for the Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas here in Mindanao and its islands.

Through the pensionados-scions of Moro families who were sent to institutions of higher learning in Manila and the U.S. – the Americans were able to erect some pillars of their colonial government. In August 1916, the Jone Law (Public Act No. 240 of the Second Session of the 64th United States Congress) was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. This was followed by the abolition of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. The administration of the Moro lands came largely under the Bureau of Non-Christian tribes under the Department of the Interior.

American and Christian Filipino officials were in general agreement on the overall policy on the Moros; their integration into the mainsteam of Filipino society. But this policy was seriously obstructed by at least three circumstances: 1) The atmosphere of mutual suspicion between American and Filipino officials; 2) Continued Moro resistance and struggle against the domination of the imperial government based in Manila; and 3) The priority given to national economic development and security consideration in the Bangamoro Homeland.

Throughout American Regime, the Filipino leaders (Quezon, Osmena, Laurel, Recto, etc) did not manifest interest of the Moros at heart, being motivated to ensure control and demonstrate their capacity to government and hasten the granting of (political) independence. Pockets of small uprisings dotted and shock American presence in Mindanao. Notable among these were: the Maranao revolt in Tugaya, Lanao Sur in 1923; the uprising led by Datu Santiago in Parang, Cotabato in 1923-1924; the one by Datu Tahil in 1927 against land taxation and cedula, among others, and the most notable of all, the one led by Hadji Kamlon of Sulu Province in the 1950’s.

The Americans never grasped what the Moro problem really was. They saw it as underdevelopment of “Non-Christian Tribes” – and the solution was education, economic development and judicious application of force whenever the Moros resisted. Worse, to some, the Moros were considered savages needing to be civilized and the homeland of the Moros as territory promising vast economic resources for an independent Philippines; hence, the term “Land of Promise”. Migration was greatly accelerated in 1936, further boosted with the creation of such bodies as LASADECO, NARRA, and EDCOR. This stage set the process of “denationalization” and “minoratization” of the Moros.

The Japanese occupation force little understood the actual situation of the Moros. They tried to use the “Brother Asians” appeal but the best that they could achieve was the guarded, enthusiastic obedience of some Moros living in occupied towns. The majority of the Moros, however, supported the anti-Japanese war effort, and not a few were pleased at the opportunity to legitimate by show their martial bravery. In many instances, the Moros and the Filipinos fought side by side to repulse the Japanese imperial army.

Under the contemporary period, political analysts and pundits are wont to point out to three underlying causes to the Moro problem and the Mindanao conflict: landlessness, socio-cultural differences, and power struggle. In the eyes of progressive minds, they are four: political autonomy or self – determination, leadership, oppression and exploitation, and mass liberation. The underlying circumstance is that the Bangsamoro Muslims are fighting against “forcible denationalization”, if not actual physical extermination.

Three events in the late 1960s and early 1970s precipitated Mindanao Crisis: The Corregidor incident (Jabidah Massacre) of March 1968 in Bataan Province; the Manili massacre, Carmen, North Cotabato in June 1971, the November 1971 elections, and President Marcos imposition of Martial Law in September 1972. The first event led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). To that however, five Muslim scholars from Mindanao and Sulu were known to have planted the seeds of “JIHAD” on the Bangsamoro ancestral, noble, and belove homeland. One of these scholars was Late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, first Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The auspicious birth of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) espoused by the “Grand Old man of Cotabato” Governor Datu Udtog Matalam.

There was a shirt of political power from the traditional MUslim ruling class to the newly – elected Christian leaders as a result of November 1971 elections. Almost simultaneously, a Christian vigilante group called “ILAGA” (acronym fo ILONGO LAND GRABBING ASSOCIATION) came into being. The declaration of Martial Law put an exclamation point to the neo-colonial attempts at finally subjugating the Moros.It only expose the then unified MNLF, and soon it became the rallying force of the Moros in their quest for self – determination.

Finding it difficult to supppress the MNLF, which had gained an Observer Status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Philippine government gave way to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in December 1976. Apart from this, President Marcos of the Philippines unilaterally established autonomous regions in Regions IX and XII and created several offices to dramatize its policy of measured benevolence towards the Moros. These offices included the Offices of the Regional Commissioners for Regions IX and XII, Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), Philippine Amanah Bank, Philippine Pilgrimage Authority , Office of Islamic Affairs in the Department of Foreign affairs, Agency for the Development and Welfare of Muslims in the Philippines, Commissioner for Islamic Affair (later Ministry of Muslim Affairs, OMACC, and now Office of Muslim Affairs), among others. This culminated by the enactment of R.A. 6734 that established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1990.

The GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976 did not end or solve the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict neither did the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement signed on September 2, 1996. While the MNLF opted to join the government and had a hand in the running of the ARMM and the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the Bangsamoro problem and Mindanao conflict remained. The continued exploitative and oppressive policies of the Philippine government, punctuated by unabated militarization, open human rights violations and myopic initiatives that serve more as palliatives and cosmetical approaches in containing, or denying the existence of the problem, further the strengthened the resolved of the Moros in the struggle for Right to Self – Determination (RSD).

The MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT (MILF), borne by the disenchantment, disenfranchisement and the dejection of the Moro masses from the Philippine government’s refusal to recognize the inherent right of the Bangsamoro Muslims to regain their lost freedom and independence and reclaim their homeland that were subjected to laws promulgated without due representation from and consultations with the Bangsamoros.

From July 17, 1997, the MILF entered into a General Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities with the GRP, the latter, through its Armed Forces continued to violate the agreement and the subsequent documents forced between the GRP and MILF Peace Panels to ensure continuously confidence building and fruitful negotiations. The GRP unveiled its “All – OUt War Policy” to bring down the Moro Mujahideens to their knees. Just like what the Americans did to the Bates Treaty, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ignored the joint statements acknowledging certain MILF major and satellite camps – only for the duration of the peace process-on the pretext that these turned into bases from which “terroristic activities” of MILF were launched. They launched offensives notwithstanding the existence of civilians and holy structures in the communities within MILF camps.

The All-Out War policy bodes well with real intent of pursuing genocide or ethnic cleansing. This leaves no alternative for the Moro Muslims but carve their separate state. The unitary system with sprinkling of autonomy in areas dominated by Moros and tribal peoples did not sit well with the Moro people’s desire for real freedom to control their religion, political, cultural, educational, and economic affairs.

The experience of the Bangsamoro Muslims had its parallel in Algeria and other countries. Emotionally, the former of 2000 are now where the Algerians were in 1955. Mere socio – economic development progress side-by-side with military action by France did not succeed in making the Algerians of the time accept the offer of autonomy. Their suffering galvanized their resistance, until as then French President Charles de Gaulle belatedly realized, independence was the only acceptable solution to the Algerian problem. This is the reality that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) must face, Insha ALLAH Subhanaho Wataalah.

As the MILF, however, firmly believes that the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict can be solved through peaceful means, it has embarked on a negotiation to pave the way to a peaceful and democratic return of the Bangamoro homeland to the Moro people. This is in accordance with Qur’anic provisions contained in Chapter VIII, verse nos. 60-62. It is for this reason that the MILF entered into the AGCC and subsequently submitted a 9-point agenda for the peace talks with the GRP. These nine talking points have been clustered into six, namely: 1) Ancestral Domain and Agrarian Related Issues, 2) Destruction of Properties and War Victims, 3) Human Rights Issues, 4) Social and Cultural Discrimination, Corruption of the Mind and Moral Fiber, 5) Economic Inequities and Widespread Poverty, and 6) Exploitation of Natural Resources. As the negotiation went on, these six talking points were deduced again to only three, namely: 1) Security Aspect, 2) Relief, Rehabilation and Development Aspect, and 3) Ancestral Domain Aspect.

While the GRP Panel preferred to delve on positive and more forward looking aspects, the MILF maintains that the true nature, scope, magnitude, and depth of the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict must be emphasized for the well – being and future of the Moro people. No amount of stonewalling or window – dressing will ever justify any effort to arrive at another sets of palliatives and /or short – sighted remedies “in the name of peace process” but to the detriment of the downtrodden, exploited, colonized and oppressed Bangsamoro.

The objective of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is to regain the illegally and immorally usurped freedom and self – determination of the Bangsamoro people through peaceful means. The annexation of the Bangsamoro Homeland through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898 constitutes an illegal and immoral act, which is a violation of human rights. The position of the MILF is very clear. There is no viable and lasting solution to the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao between the Bangsamoro people and their prosecutor except to give way to the aspirations of the native inhabitants of Mindanao and its islands – the Bangsamoro people and the Highlanders, and this is no other than the resoration of their usurped legitimate rights to freedom and self – determination.

THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS AND THEIR HOMELAND:

The ancestral homeland of the Bangsamoro is not just located in Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan. In a map found on London Library and Museum, Muslim areas in the Philippines at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines were found throughout the archipelago. There were seven kingdoms and principalities, namely: a) the Sultanate of Maguindanao, b) Sultanate of Sulu, c)Muslim principality of Palawan, d) Muslim principality of Panay, e) Muslim principality Mindoro, f) the Muslim principality of Manilad (Manila), and g) the Muslim principality of Iloco.

Due to the partial success of the Spanish conquistadors’ attempt to proselytize the Indio’s, the Moros were decimated in Luzon and the Visayas. At the end of the Spanish regime, the Moros were found principally in the southern portion of the Philippines: on the island of Mindanao, in the Sulu archipelago, and on the island of Palawan, south of Puerto Princesa City. The dominant Islamized tribes consist of 13 major ethno – linguistic groups : the Maguindanaos (Cotabato and parts of Zamboanga del Sur), Maranaws (Lanao, and parts of the Misamis, Bukidnon and also in Caraga region), Tausogs (Sulu), Yakans (Basilan), Iranons (North of Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces and south of Lanao del Sur, Jama Mapun (Tawi-Tawi and Cagayan de Sulu), Palawani (Southern Palawan), Kalibugan (Zamboanga del Sur) Kalagan (Davao areas), Samal (Sulu), Sangil (Saranggani Island group), Molbog (Balabac Island Southern Palawan), and Badjao (South of Sulu) – (per Yambut et. al., 1975:16). Each of these groups occupies a more or less distict territory, though in some instance the smaller groups have their living spaces penetrated by families belonging to the larger groups.

Then there are highlanders or lumads, the tribal ethnic groups like the T’durays (Tirurays), Manobos, B’laans, Bagobos, Subanons, T’bolis, Bukidnons, and other indigenous cultural communities, who opted not to embrace Islam, but form part of the Bangsamoro nation. They have the same aspiration as the Muslims to reclaim their ancestral domain and be free of exploitation and oppression.

Notwithstanding the unifying bond of Islam and custom and traditions (in the case of the highlanders or lumads), the Moros differ in certain respects: 1) subsistence patterns, 2) historical development and in the intensity of their contracts with the rest of the archipelago and the world beyond, and 3) in the details of their social organization, degree of their Islamic acculturation, and in their dress, custom, arts and many other aspects of culture.

These accidental differences, including patterns of psychosocial behavior, were exploited by the regime of President Marcos to divide the Moros in its attempt to weakened the then unified MNLF. What it could not win in war, it somewhat accomplished, albeit with little success in politics of compromises, concessions, and deception. This strategy also somewhat worked in magnifying the mis – perception that the Moros by themselves could not govern, rendering the various mechanisms devised by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) especially the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), the Bogus Autonomous Regions under P.D. 1618, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as “mean to fail.”

The Bangsamoro homeland consists of the picturesque, crab-like island of Mindanao. The minnows are, the island of the Sulu archipelago (or the Basilan, Sulu, Tawitawi). Moroland is said to be a territory of 36,540 square miles. By way of comparison, it is larger in territory than either portugal or Austria. And the Bangsamoro Population outnumbers that of Albania, Costa Rica, and even of oil-rich desert country of Libya.

In terms of the history of the Bangsamoro, three regions have loomed more important than others: the Sulu archipelago, the Lake Lanao Region, and the Pulangi (River) Valley, that is Cotabato Empire of old.

Sulu is the gateway that connects to Borneo and Malay Peninsula, which explains the very close ties between the people of these areas. In 1994, seeing the tremendous potentials of reviving the thriving trade and commerce that made the region prosperous some 500 years ago, former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, under his much-maligned Philippine 2000 vision, orchestrated the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunie-Malaysian-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area). The rapid gains of said multilateral borderless economic arrangement were vaporized when the currency crisis struck in the mid – 1997. But then the Bangsamoro people remained in abject socio – economic condition, despite the promised bonanza especially after the signing of the Final Peace agreement between the GRP and tHe MNLF on September 2, 1996.

Lake Lanao, all of its 135 – square-mile size, supplies the electric power generated through hydro plant to larger portion of the island of Mindanao. Paradoxically, a big part of the Province of Lanao del Sur, where it is located is not yet energized up to this writing. The more properous Lanao del Norte, now dominated by Christians, with some big industries located therein, especially in Iligan City, is one enjoying the benefits of cheap electricity, together with those in Northern Mindanao, Caraga region and the Zamboanga Peninsula, all now populated mostly by Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas.

The Rio Grande de Mindanao (Spanish name for Pulangi, which also means “river”) is like Mount Fuji to the Japanese or the Nile river to the Egyptians. It is not just a channel for transportation/navigation, source of irrigation, trade and commercial route, and agro – industrial key production area. More than other, it is a symbol, a source of pride amongst the Maguindanaons and the other Moros in the area. The regime of former President Marcos of the Philippines came up with the cotabato – Agusan river Basin Development Project (CARBDP) aimed at transforming the valley into a modern complex of agricultural production, marketing, and corporate growth. The Marcos era ended without seeing the fruits of such a grandiose scheme.

Three dispensations in succession concocted as set or a package of programs to gain attempt at developing the valley, including the 286,000 hectare-plus Liguasan (Ligawasan) Marsh. There is the Maridagao-Malitubog Irrigation Development Project, a multi – billion peso project, and the aborted Liguasan Marsh Development Project, whose feasibility study was spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) at a cost of P6 million but was flatly rejected by the native inhabitants of the Marsh area. The World Bank is set to bankroll a bigger project to encompass MalMar, Liguasan, and the Pulangi. Yet, the Bangsamoro natives have never participated in the drawing of the plans, never been consulted, or even are going to be dispalced once these projects are in place.

THE BANGSAMORO ANCESTRAL DOMAIN AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES:

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintains that the issue on ancestral domain involves: a) intrusion into the domain (by vested interest, settlers, and multinationals), b) declaration of ancestral domain as public and disposal lands, and c) wanton destruction and irreverence towards ancestral domain.

Throughout contemporary history, the Bangsamoro were subjected to various forms of oppression, subjugation, and genocidal campaigns. The situation of the Bangsamoro people became worst when colonies and settlements projects in Mindanao and Sulu were established to decongest Luzon and Visayas. It was also a palliative to appease for Huk members. The systematic deprivation of the Bangamoro people of their ancestral domain is anchored in the Regalian Doctrine, which has been enshrined in the Philippine Constitution of 1935, 1973 and 1987 with the state declares itself the sole owner of what is called state dome in and reserves the right to classify it for purposes of proper disposition to its citizens. To this effect, the Philippine government enacted series of laws, detriment to the occupancy, use and rights of the Bangsamoro people of their homeland.

On November 6, 1902, the Philippine Commission passed Land Registration Act No. 496 which requires the registration of lands occupied by private persons or corporations, and the application for registration of title, says Sec. 21, it shall in writing, signed and sworn to by the applicant. This provision of law is totally discriminatory. First, the registration was not only totally alien to the Moro communities, most of them would have been unable to comply, illiterate that they were. Second, it failed to take cognizance that the Maguindanao and Sulu Sultanates were independent Muslim States, possession had been, and was a complete and absolute title to their land in accordance with Islamic Law.

To ensure unchallenge exercise of the state authority to dispose of state domain or public lands, the Philippine Commission enacted an Act No. 718 entitled “An Act makig void land grants from Moro Sultnas or Datus or from Chiefs of Non – Christian Tribes when made without governmental authority or consent. Section 82 of Public Land Act No. 926 which was amended by Act No.2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with the Jones Law and finally incorporated in Commonwealth Act 141 under Section 84, enacted and approved on November 7, 1936, continues to carry the almost exact wordings of said law, reiterating further the legitimacy of the transfer of sovereign authority from Spain to the United Staets of America, and the illegality of the Moros claim.

On October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Public Land Act No. 926 which allowed individuals to acquire homestead not exceeding 16 hectares each corporation, 1,204 hectares each of, unoccupied, unreserved, unappropriated agricultural public lands as stated by Section 1. Nothing was said about the unique custom of the Moro Communities.

Public Land Act No. 926, amended through Act No. 2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with Jones Law, provided that 16hectares allowed earlier to individuals was increased to 24 hectares, but the Non – Christian , including the Moros, was allowed an area which shall exceed ten (10) hectares with the very stringent conditions, that is, it shall be an essential condition that the applicant apply for permit to cultivate the land and if the applicant has not begun to cultivate and improve the land six months from and after the date on which the permit was granted, the permit shall ipso facto be concelled and land.

Commonwealth Act No. 141, amended on November 7 1936, withdrew the privilege earlier granted to the settlers of owning more than one homestead at 24 hectares each and reverted to one not exceeding 16 hectares. But the non – Christians (including the Moros) who were earlier allowed a maximum of ten (10) hectares were now permitted only four (4) hectares.

For the administration of agricultural colonies, Commonwealth Act No. 141 created the National Land Settlement Administration. This took charge of the settlement projects in Koronadal, Cotabato, and in Malig, Isabel, Cotabato. With the subsequent reorganization of the government in 1950, the office was merged with the Rice and Corn Production Administration, forming a new identity known as the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASADECO). Later, Republic Act No. 1160 abolished LASADECO and created the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA). With the efforts of the NARRA, it had resetled 20, 500 at the cost of p44.5 million in 1963. The government also created the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR), which issued homestead land to, alleged former HUKS.

THe defunct Commission on National Integration (CNI), created under R.A. 1888, as amended by R.A. 3852 on 4 May 1964 did not succeed in its objectives, but merely perpetuated and made more start the discriminatory oppression and misleading thrust of the Philippine government by implementing more settlement projects, allowing more concession ot the political elite.

On March 11, 1974, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, issued P.D. No. 410 “Declaring Ancestral Lands Occupied and Cultivated by National Cultural Communities as Alienable and Disposable, and for other Purposed”. This edict had a ten – year period of effectively but it lapsed without getting implemented. It was overtaken by events, one of which was the shaky bureaucratic realignments and reorganizations that plagued the dictatorial regime.

Subsequent laws passed by resurrected congress did not alleviate the suffering and dislocation of the Moro people. Bureaucratic red tape and unconscionable practice of certain irreverent parties taking advantage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as extended, and other programs like the Integrated Social Forestry and the issuance, and other Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) made matters worse. Even wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, like Liguasan Marsh and Lake Lanao, were surreptitiously titled and mortgage with the Land bank of the Philippines (LBP).

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTIES OF AND WAR VICTIM’S: DISPLACED AND LANDLESS BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS:

The destruction of properties, loss of hundreds of thousands on innocent lives, physical and psychological injuries to those who survived the bloody wars from the early 1970’s to the present, and displacement and or disposition of lot more came as result of genocidal.

As an instrument to fulfill the grand design of the Marcos government, then President Ferdinand E.Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 to support the ILAGA movement backed up by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Army (PA), see the book of Dr. Muslim. Until the middle part of 1971, ILAGA operations were concentrated in various Muslim villages in the municipalities of the then two Cotabato Provinces (North and South) with mixed populations, but largely in municipalities where the Muslims were in minority. In the second half of the 1971, they reached the province of Lanao del Sur, particularly the municipality of Wao which was among the centers of the Christian Filino migration. Then, they spread to several towns of Lanao del Norte and in Bukidnon Province.In 1972, ILAGA operated in Zamboanga del Sur. For the period of two years, practically all – Muslim areas in Mindanao were under seige the ILAGA backed up by Philippine Constabulary (PC),. and the Philippine Army (PA).

June 19, 1971 is a very memorable moment for the Bangsamoro Muslims of Carmen, North Cotabato particularly in the village of Manili with more than 70 innocent Moro civilians were massacred by the agent of the Marcos regime particularly the ILAGAs and the Philippine Constabulary (PC). In six months period from January 1971, a total of 358 Moro Muslim were recorded killed by the ILAGA backed up by the PC and PA. In the town Alamada, North Cotabato alone, about 92 houses were recorded burned. In the nearby towns, 55 Moro Muslims houses in Carmen, North Cotabato; 18 in Pikit, North Cotabato; 25 in Kidapawan, North Cotabato and 22 in Buldon, Maguindanao were all burned by the ILAGA in just five days in August, 1971. A total of 411 Moro Muslim’s houses were burned in the town of Wao, Lanao del Sur and Buldon, Maguindanao, respectively.

Other towns with notable killing and burning of several hundreds or even thousands of Muslim houses, masjeeds, and Islamic schools were: Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte; Kisulon, Bukidnon Province; and Siay and Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur. A notable ILAGA Commander Toothpick reinforced by a PC Captain Manuel Tronco made Upi, Cotabato as his Kingdom. As pointed out by a Muslim leader, Senator mamintal Tamano when interviewing the Muslim evacuees of barrio Kulongkulong, Palembang, Cotabato, after the more than two thousand Muslim (men and women, young and old) massacred in their barrio (village) on January 2, 1972, I could not shake their belief that some of the ILAGA were soldiers of the marcos regime. The incident was popularly known as “Kulongkulong Massacre”. Jubair (1999) in his book, confirmed the findings of Dr. Muslim in his dissertation.

Apperaring simultaneously with the reported ILAGA atrocities, until the middle part of 1972 were series of massacres of Muslims reportedly by the units of the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army.. It was noted thatthere were 73
Muslims massacred by PC in Alamada, Cotabato in January 19, 1971; 40 Muslims were massacred by the Philippine Army in Tacub and Kausuagan all in Lanao del Norte, according to Salah Jubair. In the same incident, some 162 were reported missing allegedly salvaged by the Philippine Army soldiers. In a neighboring town of Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte scores of Muslim civilians were on their way for voting and were gunned down by the Philippine Army soldiers.

These atrocities against the Bangsamoro Muslims by the ILAGA and the military machineries of the Philippine government had converted several Muslim areas as ‘Killing Fields”, where the rest are evacuation centers. Naturally, the Muslims in these areas and those of the neighboring towns were forced to leave behind their farms and homes, many of which were subsequently looted and occupied by the Christian settlers even up to this writing. Worst, those land occupied by the Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas were titled forcefully with manipulations and connivance with the corrupt, liar Philippine government officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Register of Deeds.

Records or documents submitted to the Egyptian – Libyan team that visited the Philippines in 1972 could give us a sense of the extent of displacement suffered by the Bangsamoro Muslims. Not to include the recent war victims between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the freedom fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Saranggani, Maguindanao, Basilan and Sulu after the Philippine government did not sign the initialled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008 at Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The following are some of the vacated Moro Muslim areas presently occupied by the Christian settlers from Luzon and Visayas:

1. Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims in this town were totally displaced by the Christians. These Moro Muslims evecuated to Maganoy and Datu Piang towns in Maguindanao Province. Their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

2. Ampatuan, Maguindanao and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat – Moro Muslims in these areas have been driven either to Buluan, Maganoy and Datu Piang towns; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

3. Alamada, North Cotabato – Moro Muslims were driven to the neighboring towns ofBuldon and Sultan Kudarat; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

4. Colombio, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Alep (Datu Paglas) and Buluan; their houses and masjeeds burned and effects looted.

5. Upi, Maguindanao Province – Moro Muslims were driven to the poblacion, to Cotabato City and Dinaeg (now Datu Odin Sinsuat town); their house and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

6. Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Lebak, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat and Parang; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

7. Lanao del Sur – Moro Muslm in Wao town were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Sur, their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

8. Lanao del Norte – All Moro Muslims living along the National Highway from one end to the other, a distance of over 100 kilometers were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

9. Zamboanga del Sur – All Moro Muslimms in the several small villages along the seacoast of the peninsula were driven to Basilan and Sulu Provinces; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

10. Bukidnon Province – All Moro Muslims living in several towns in Bukidnon were driven to Lanao del Sur Province; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

To sumarize the extent and effect of the first two years of the ILAGA and Philippine government’s military atrocities, we could conclude that the Moro Muslims in the rural areas of the Bangsamoro Homeland were badly devastated which under INTERNATIONAL LAWS needs CONDEMNATION and INDEMNIFICATION. Hundreds of thousands of houses, madaris (Islamic schools) and Masjeeds (House of Worship)were burned and tens of thousands of innocent Bangsamoro were massacred and more than one Million of rural Bangsamoro residents were displaced even up to this writing. About five hundred thousands (500,000) are still living in the island state of Sabah, Malaysia as refugees and thousands upon thousands are refugees in other urban centers in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. It should also be worthwhile to take note the permanent and partial lost of properties and lives of the Bangsamoro Muslims living along the seacoasts of Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi whose number reached to about one Million.

The problem of refugees has remained unsolved uo to this day. Displaced Moro Muslims could not return to their places of origin , especially in Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur Provinces because either their lands have been stolen and titled by other parties or they fear continued persecution from the Philippine government occupational armed forces. Compounding is what is termed now as “STATISTICAL GENOCIDE” whereby the Bangsamoro people are subjected to minoritization in the national statistics records of the Philippine government. At present even the National Statistical Office could not provide an accurate figure regarding the nearest estimate of the Bangsamoro population. For several years now, the NSO’s census reports have shown a slow growth of the Bangsamoro population, which is quite improbable campaigns and military operations undertaken in the Bangsamoro Homeland today.

HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND CONCERS:

The Bangsamoro Muslims are the native inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, who are not Spanish subjects on the eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine (11 April, 1899), and then resided in said Islands, who have neither been naturalized under either of Act No. 2927 and Commonwealth Act No. 473, nor have ever been elected to public office prior to the adoption of the 1935 Constitution.

The Bangsamoro Muslims have fought against Spaniard, American, Japanese, then Filipino aggressions of their ancestal domain, now invoke the human right protection and guarantees accorded them by international conventions and customary laws.

The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitute a denial of fundamental human rights, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. The process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible and that, in order to avoid crises, an end must be put to colonialism.

The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro People is the foundation of liberty, justice and lasting and comprehensive peace in Mindanao and its islands. It is essential, if the Bangsamoro Nation and People are not to be compelled to pursue rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that their human rights be protected by the rule of law. The ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone in Mindanao and its Islands may enjoy his or her economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.

The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every humman person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized. The human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self – determination, including their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all of their natural wealth and resources.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines has undertaken to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the international covenants. The Government of the Republic of the Phlippines has also undertaken to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the international covenants, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necesary to give effect to the rights recognized by international law and conventions. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is under obligation under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, keeping such Declaration constantly in mind, striving by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among its peoples and among the peoples of Mindanao and its islands.

It’s MOA or nothing — MILF Moro rebs OK with new peace panel chief, but…

December 3, 2008

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala, Richel Umel
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 02:39:00 12/03/2008

PIKIT, NORTH COTABATO, Philippines—“It’s MOA-AD or nothing,” the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Tuesday in reaction to the government’s reconstitution of its peace panel.

Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF welcomed the appointment by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as chair of the government panel, “but still it’s not enough.”

“It’s a good step toward the peace process,” he said by phone, but adding that what was needed to kick-start the negotiations was for the government to honor the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The government reneged on a commitment to sign the MOA-AD on Aug. 5 as a prelude to opening formal peace negotiations with the MILF, after numerous stakeholders in Mindanao and elsewhere raised a hue and cry about not being consulted on the deal that would have granted the Moro people a virtually independent state.

The Supreme Court later struck down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

Since then, Malacañang has said any peace negotiations would be based on agreements that would not violate the Constitution.

Iqbal, however, said the MILF was holding the government to the MOA-AD, and if the government insisted on bringing up new talking points, the MILF would not return to the table.

“How can we resume the talks? Do we have something to talk about? We will only return to the negotiating table if we will both sign the memorandum on ancestral domain,” he said.

Since the talks hit a snag, fighting between the military and MILF forces have broken out in several areas.

Seguis, a veteran diplomat who gained prominence after negotiating the release of two Filipinos held hostage by insurgents in Iraq, said in a statement: “This is a tremendous challenge and opportunity which I humbly accept knowing fully well the difficult road that lies ahead.”

He said his appointment was “the first step in preparation for the resumption of talks.”

The government will complete reconstituting its negotiating panel by Dec. 15 in an effort to revive negotiations with the MILF hopefully before Christmas, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters.

“We may be resuming the talks toward the second or third week of December,” said Ermita.

Seguis, a former ambassador to several Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, replaced retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

President Arroyo has faced growing international calls to resume peace talks with the MILF to end the fighting that broke out in August, killing scores of people on both sides and displacing more than 500,000 residents of southern Mindanao.

Several countries, including the United States and Great Britain, have urged the President to find ways to resume talks with the rebels to ease the plight of the displaced villagers. With reports from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

Bangsamoro state eyed under federacy

October 26, 2008

By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Friday said the autonomous governments mandated by the 1987 Constitution for indigenous Filipinos of the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao would not be touched by charter amendments seeking to create a federal government in the Philippines.

Pimentel said the existence of the autonomous governments, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would repair the damage caused by a failed government attempt to sign a deal creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In August, a peace panel organized by President Macapagal-Arroyo and its counterpart in the MILF drafted a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain creating the BJE.

The talks eventually collapsed after the Supreme Court stopped the scheduled signing of the memorandum of agreement in August. On October 14, the Supreme Court declared MOA-AD unconstitutional.

Pimentel presented the 63-page Joint Resolution No. 10, which outlines the creation of 11 Philippine federal states under an amended Constitution, before 500 north Luzon officials who attended a Charter change consultation here on Friday.

Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan, a member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, organized the forum.

Pimentel said a Bangsamoro federal state would take the place of ARMM in a new bureaucracy to avoid antagonizing former Moro rebels.

But unlike previous political organizations designed for a Muslim community, the proposed Charter reforms would allow a Bangsamoro government to be administered by sharia (Islamic legal system).

Giving the region its own sharia-supervised state means the government is finally acknowledging the Muslim Filipino identity, he said.

The discussion pacified many of the Cordillera delegates, who are trying to revive Cordillera autonomy before legislators push for federalism, Domogan said.

The Cordillera drafted the country’s first law creating an autonomous region but the bid failed to win support during a 1990 plebiscite. A second law was also not ratified in a plebiscite held in 1998.

Some of the delegates, who discussed Charter reforms with Pimentel, were worried that the constitutional amendments would make Cordillera autonomy obsolete.

ARMM remains the only active autonomous region in the country, Pimentel said, but it has its flaws.

“There is a critical element missing [from ARMM] to address the problems of the Moro people…Pinag-aralan ko ito nang mabuti (I studied this thoroughly). That problem is our lack of recognition of their cultural identity,” he said.

“What is the basis of this identity? That element is the absence of the sharia… Without their laws, they could not truly say they are being allowed to live their lives as Muslims,” Pimentel said.

Egyptian, Indonesian and Malaysian legislators have already assured the Philippines that sharia can still be bound to Philippine laws that forbid extreme punishment such as beheading and stoning, Pimentel said.

He said the government has been attacking the Muslim secessionist problem with war when all it needed to do was accept their religion.

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My Take:

With the MOA-ADs failure, the MILF will surely be smarter enough not to take Pimentel’s hook, line and sinker.

Palace will not appeal High Court ruling on MOA

October 16, 2008

THE government will not appeal the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain it drafted with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

He said the government, through the Solicitor General, will instead file a manifestation explaining that the government is already addressing some of the “observations” made by the tribunal in Tuesday’s decision, like the conduct of public consultations.

“A new paradigm shift had been issued and the two important things about the paradigm shift in negotiations with the MILF are focus of the negotiations on dialogue with communities and not only with the armed groups. The negotiation should be undertaken in the context of disarmament, disbandment and reintegration of forces,” he said.

The government announced the new shift in policy in dealing with armed rebel groups late in August after deciding to abandon the MOA.

Ermita shrugged off the statements of MILF officials that they would bring the issue before international bodies.

He said President Arroyo has informed the international community, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries, of her government’s decision on the MOA and the shift in paradigm.

The Supreme Court, voting 8-7 Tuesday, said the government peace negotiating panel that crafted the MOA with the MILF violated the Constitution when it initialed the agreement that would have ceded a portion of the country’s territory to the secessionist group.

The agreement proposes the creation of a Muslim homeland in the South to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which can enter into economic agreements and trade relations with other countries.

President Arroyo said the high court’s ruling did not change her government’s decision not to sign the agreement.

She expressed hope no one would take “undue advantage of the verdict that would lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

After the oathtaking of the new officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines in Malacañang, Arroyo thanked Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz and Vice Mayor Henry Lim.

Iligan City questioned the agreement before the Supreme Court together with North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga del Norte provinces and Zamboanga and Isabela (Basilan) cities.

Parts of these areas, and other areas outside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, were proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro homeland.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, belied the Supreme Court’s finding that he committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the consultation process, as mandated by law, in areas that would be directly affected by the creation of the Muslim homeland.

“I must say that in our record at the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process from 2005 to 2007, there were 140 consultations with various sectors and organizations, including, if I may add, one that lasted for six hours in Zamboanga City. So there were indeed consultations. But it is different from saying that what the people would air or suggest should be taken hook-line-and-sinker by the panel itself,” he said.

He added: “If ever we could be faulted, it is only because we wanted to achieve, attain for us concrete results which could lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Esperon, along with Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the now disbanded government panel, was supposed to sign the agreement August 5 in Kuala Lumpur.

Esperon said they agreed to the inclusion of at least 700 barangays in the Muslim homeland because the MILF was willing to subject the issue to a plebiscite.

“Processes that would go in the plebiscite itself would call for consultations. First, Congress would be coming out with an enabling law to authorize the plebiscite itself, there would be consultations. In the end when we conduct the plebiscite itself, then that is another form of consultation,” he said.

Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he was “happy” with the tribunal’s ruling “because its central message was on the necessity of consulting local government units, or something which the DILG had already been doing in Mindanao upon the instruction of President Arroyo herself.”

He also said the government was not worried about the MILF’s plan to bring the issue before international bodies because the group has no “legal leg to stand on.”

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon called for the immediate resumption of peace talks but said no foreign country should be allowed to broker the negotiations.

Biazon said choosing or allowing Malaysia to broker the peace talks was a mistake.

“We cannot disregard that there are conflicts of interest between Malaysia and the Philippines in the form of the unresolved Sabah question and the conflict of claims in the Spratlys. If Malaysia continues to be the broker of the peace process, the Philippines will be at a disadvantage on both counts,” he said.

Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan said Malacañang should declare a ceasefire in Mindanao to ease the tension created by the Supreme Court ruling.

“The government needs to own up to its mistake in entering into that unconstitutional agreement, and to do this, it needs to spare the people in Mindanao from possible repercussions of the SC decision with the MILF. It needs to declare a ceasefire right away,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda said the government and all parties in strife-torn Mindanao must continue the search for lasting peace based on social justice by pushing for another round of peace negotiations.

“Just because the Supreme Court had declared the MILF-GRP memorandum of agreement to be unconstitutional doesn’t mean that we now have to close the door on peace initiatives,” she said. – Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Dennis Gadil(Malaya)

Talks with MILF to continue

September 25, 2008

President Gloria Arroyo has assured the United Nations that she will resume peace talks with Muslim separatists as recent fresh fighting in southern Philippines left two rebels dead.

Her assurance came a day after the government announced that it was working on adding the names of three rebel commanders to the UN’s list of terrorists.

President Arroyo has suspended peace talks with the rebels and poured more troops into Mindanao to pursue the three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders and their men blamed for deadly attacks there in August.

But speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Mrs. Arroyo said she remained committed to the peace process but stressed the negotiations would only resume when the three rebel commanders are arrested.

Organization of Islamic Confe-rence Secretary General Edmeleddin Ihsanoglu told President Arroyo that it would support efforts for political settlement in Mindanao “only within the context of Philippine sovereign integrity and will not allow crossing that line,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

MILF leaders Umbra Kato, Abdu-rahman Macapaar or Bravo and Sulayman Panglian last month led attacks on mostly Christian communities in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, North Cota-bato and Sarangani.

Ensuing clashes between them and government troops caused the death of more than 200 soldiers, rebels and civilians and displaced at least a quarter-million residents.

Foreign aid agencies have reported difficulties in getting access to refugee camps in their efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis.

“Much progress was made until violent elements within the [MILF] decided to take the law into their own hands,” the President said in her speech, which was released on Wednesday in Manila.

She added that the government would resume dialogue with the rebels when the area was secure and the separatist leadership had regained control of their men.

By “area,” the President was apparently referring to the four provinces, although there also had been violence in Sultan Kudarat province.

MILF justifies attacks

The MILF said it launched the attacks in answer to the Supreme Court’s aborting a peace deal that would have given the rebel group control over an expanded Muslim autonomous area, the Bangsamoro Juridical Authority, that would constitute the rebel homeland.

Mrs. Arroyo said any future negotiations would also have to subscribe to the UN principle of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, or DDR, the so-called paradigm shift of her administration in dealing with the nearly four decades of undeclared war in Mindanao.

Some 50 MILF separatists engaged government troops in gun battles across Maguindanao on Tuesday, according to the Philippine Army spokesman, Maj. Armand Rico.

Two rebels were killed and two soldiers wounded in the fighting, Rico said in a statement.

The government’s move to include Kato, Bravo and Panglian in the UN list of terrorists will only worsen the situation in Mindanao, according to officials of the MILF.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the government should resolve the conflict in the South within the framework of an existing ceasefire agreement between Manila and the rebels.

According to Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, the separatist group cannot stop the government from going to the United Nations.

He, however, said that Manila’s move would give the MILF an opportunity to also present its case on alleged atrocities committed by government troops in Mindanao.

“We have compiled and documented these [atrocities] and in due time, if we are given the chance, we will present [them] before the United Nations,” Iqbal added.

If the three commanders would be tagged as terrorists, he said, the Philippine government should also be branded as a terrorist for allegedly causing the death of and injury to civilians in the South.
— AFP With Jefferson Antiporda,Al Jacinto And Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)

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My Take:

200 soldiers was killed?  Is this official?  How come media reports never mentioned this number before?  Is this a real figure or some inflated numbers just to get the UNs nod to add the 3 MILF leaders int their list of terrorists?

Just asking.

MILF admits ‘extremists’ waiting in the wings

September 22, 2008

BY VICTOR REYES

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front yesterday agreed with former government chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia that failure to strike a peace accord with the secessionists might give rise to a new breed of extremists espousing jihadist activism.

“I would not call it terrorism but the observation is correct,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

Garcia, in a forum on the Mindanao conflict Friday, said the new breed of rebels, including two renegade commanders being pursued by the military, would be a “harder group to deal with.”

Commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Bravo are subject of a military offensive launched last month after they attacked North Cotabato in July and Lanao del Norte.

Iqbal said the government’s failure to sign the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain has irked a number of commanders. The signing set for August 5 in Kuala Lumpur was stopped by the Supreme Court. The government has since dropped the MOA.

“The government’s non-signing, that gave them enough justification for the commanders, who are actually against the peace process, more reason to prove that their theory is correct: that the government, after all, is not a trustworthy partner in the peace process,” said Iqbal.

A number of sectors outside the MILF are opposing the MOA which would create a Muslim homeland. A number of areas proposed to be covered by the Bangsamoro homeland are questioning the constitutionality of the agreement before the Supreme Court.

Iqbal said there is nothing wrong with the word “jihad” which he said does not necessarily mean religious war.

The nearest translation in English is “utmost striving in the way of Allah and what is followed is the principle of Islam.”

“Among the Muslims, the only justification for war is when it is a defensive war. That is jihad…Jihad has no translation in English… There is no such thing as religious war in Islam,” he said.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said jihad “is actually not something that is always related to violence.”

“Jihad among our Muslim brothers and sisters refers to a cleansing, an internal cleansing of a person,” said Dureza, former presidential adviser on the peace process.

Iqbal said the acts of Kato, head of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, and Bravo of the 102nd Base Command were “merely a question of discipline.”

“They saw that the government is not abiding (by the agreements) so they have gone out of their way and, without the sanction of the MILF leadership, attacked military targets,” said Iqbal, adding government forces instigated the North Cotabato incidents when they attacked MILF rebels.

Kato’s group occupied 15 barangays in North Cotabato on July 1, long before the peace panels announced their agreement on the MOA.

Bravo’s group attacked Iligan City and four towns in Lanao del Norte on August 18.

Iqbal said this was a result of the commanders’ frustration over the non-signing of the MOA. “In the case of Lanao del Norte, it was probably started by Bravo,” he said.

The fatality figures provided by the government in the Lanao attacks are 28 civilians, three soldiers and a policeman.

Iqbal said the government’s “civilian” fatality count included militiamen who he said are considered combatants. A second type of “civilians,” he said, are victims of crossfire and “we don’t know who hit them.” The third type, he said, could not be classified and “their deaths should be looked into to determine who is responsible.”

Iqbal said Kato, Bravo and Aleem Pangalian, a third commander being pursued by the military, would abide by the provisions of a peace accord, if one is finally signed.

Iqbal said that the MILF had no problems with the three commanders “until the Philippine government did not sign (the MOA) at the last hour.”

The military belied Iqbal’s statement, saying the MILF leadership has “no control” over the three commanders.

“In the past, specially Bravo and Kato, were also involved in similar atrocities,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, chief of the AFP public information office.

Bravo is still in Lanao de Norte, “hiding in a forested area,” according to Col. Benito de Leon, commanding officer of the Army’s 104th Brigade.

In Matungao town, a 25-man rebel band believed to be part of Bravo’s group clashed with government troops yesterday.

One rebel was killed in the 30-minute clash, De Leon said, belying the MILF claim that 20 soldiers died in the encounter.

De Leon said the rebel band was responsible for the failed toppling of a power line tower in Kauswagan last Friday.

President Arroyo has said the fighting in Mindanao is a temporary setback to the peace process.

Arroyo on Saturday night attended a breaking of fast with the Muslim community, or the 4th Iftar, hosted by the Libyan Embassy and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) at the Sofitel hotel. – With Jocelyn Montemayor(Malaya)

Peace in Mindanao – at what price?

September 20, 2008

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)

(This issue analysis comes in two parts: 1) Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks; and, II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role)


I. Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the outcome of settling an armed conflict by addressing its fundamental roots toward a just and lasting peace. Unless the causes are addressed, any peace that is forged is just a means of preserving an unjust status quo leading to bigger tensions.

In the old days, peace terms were prescribed by victorious states and armies in a war or armed conflict; the terms usually included disarming the vanquished and dismembering territories. The impositions in the treaties that ended the two major world wars of the 20th century yielded no lasting peace: World War I led to World War II, and the latter was followed by the so-called “cold war” and thereafter by the permanent and borderless “war on terrorism.”

In the Philippines, the ongoing peace talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fits into a peace process paradigm developed by capitalist countries led by the United States. Sometimes referred to as globalization-driven, the peace process – somewhat similar to the UN’s “peace building,” “conflict resolution” or “dispute settlement” – purportedly aims to address the core issues of the Bangsamoro problem, namely, the Moro people’s ancestral domain claim and self-rule.

The trouble is, not all “peace processes” are success stories as advocates and current political literature on this paradigm admit. In fact, the backlash generated by a controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (Moa-AD), which is a product of this peace process, and the resumption of hostilities are imperiling the peace talks between the GRP and MILF.

Two major peace talks

The centuries-long Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination – in terms of having a separate and independent state – has gone through two major peace negotiations with the government. The first, held with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), traversed through 20 years ending in the 1996 final peace accord that has been criticized as inadequate in building autonomy and development for the ARMM. The second, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), started in 1997 with an agreement on the cessation of hostilities followed by the Tripoli agreement of 2001(1) . Unfolding in this second process are seemingly irreconcilable interests representing not only the MILF and GRP but also the local elite, investors, and foreign governments.

In the GRP-MNLF peace talks, a confluence of events – on the part of the Marcos regime the economic crisis and the need to tap Middle East countries for oil and market for cheap Filipino labor, and, on the MILF military setbacks and the gradual loss of armed support from Libya and other OIC countries – drove both parties to enter into a negotiated political settlement. In the early phase, however, a faction of the MNLF that disagreed with the peace talks, led by Salamat Hashim, formed the MILF in 1977. The MILF has been the main revolutionary Moro group with its armed component, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), consistently fighting for secession.

The MILF suffered a major setback when 50 of its military camps were destroyed by the AFP in the total war unleashed by then President Joseph Estrada in 2000 and again, when the Buliok complex which replaced Camp Abubakar as the rebels’ central headquarters, came under heavy military offensive – in violation of a truce – in February 2003. Government offensives forced the MILF’s positional warfare units to disperse into smaller, clan-led guerrilla forces.

Although intelligence reports say that the BIAF is still 15,000-strong with 11,000 firearms, the MILF’s fighting spirit appeared to have reached what some security analysts call a “hurting stalemate” which can go either to extremism by its dispersed units or to a prolonged armed engagement without any prospects of winning. Aside from economic losses and other reasons, the Arroyo government pursued the peace talks in a bid to silence the guns of the MILF – which had been put into effect in the 1997 ceasefire agreement – in order to concentrate on its strategic offensives against the New People’s Army in a vain attempt to put it into irrelevance by 2010.

Ripe time

By 2003, the time was ripe for giving momentum to the “peace process.” The MILF faced the threat of having its inclusion in the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) renewed and, hence, foreign support from Muslim countries being reduced. An exchange of communications between MILF Chair Salamat Hashim (2) and U.S. President George Bush followed in early 2003, paving the way for U.S. participation in the peace talks. Further legitimizing U.S. participation was an official request by Arroyo for U.S. assistance in the peace talks.

Since Malaysia was the official facilitator of the talks being held in Kuala Lumpur, U.S. role was through the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a quasi-state agency created by an act of Congress. Washington promised an initial $30 million aid package to the MILF subject, however, to the latter’s signing a final peace agreement. The USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project, which allowed U.S. state department authorities a direct access to the MILF including its military camps, lasted from 2003-2007. Since then, U.S. liaison with the MILF has been continued by the state department and its embassy in Manila.

Meantime, Malaysia, Libya, and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) tried to persuade the MILF to drop its secessionist goal, work for an expanded autonomy and, at one point, to adjust its hard position against the constitutional framework of the negotiations. This stance complemented the USIP’s peace formula regarding an expanded autonomy with legal authority for the MILF and for the GRP to soften its constitutional rigidity.

The MoA-AD, the signing of which was aborted by a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order, articulates a compromise deal with the MILF in which its historical ancestral domain claim is recognized by the government in principle but makes its actualization conditional. The implementation of this claim, along with the ownership of natural resources and the exercise of jurisdictional authority, will need to pass through the gauntlet of more contentious negotiations leading up to the Comprehensive Compact, plebiscite, and a constitutional amendment that will establish a federal system. More importantly, the agreement binds the MILF to honor private landholdings, corporate plantations, foreign investments particularly in energy resources, as well as the presence of foreign forces in Bangsamoro.

II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role

The critique that the U.S. had a hand in crafting the MoA appears to be not without basis. The agreement – the whole peace talks for that matter – is a by-product of a new peace formula whose underlying goal is to enhance the U.S.’ comprehensive security strategy in Mindanao and the whole Southeast Asian region. Among other instruments, the superpower’s security imperatives, i.e., economic, geo-political, and military objectives, are promoted through the now spurious “war on terrorism” defining the region as the second front. This post-9/11 declaration, backed by Arroyo, became the entry point for an indefinite forward deployment of U.S. forces and basing facilities particularly in southern Philippines.

With the USIP and other policy thinkers in Washington, however, this strategy has been reformulated to adopt what is described as the “political economy of security.” Basically, this new formula postulates that U.S. security imperatives are better advanced by transforming the Bangsamoro into a governable zone and a stable extension of global capitalism supported by international funds and investments in a post-conflict scenario. Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro homeland, holds the key to U.S. security goals in Southeast Asia and the MILF is seen as a major player for undercutting the influence of anti-American extremism particularly among the region’s Muslim populations. The non-resolution of the Moro problem now will have far-reaching implications to U.S. security imperatives in the region in the future.

What this means is that, using the classic “carrot and stick” policy, U.S. special forces will continue to pin down the Abu Sayyaf Group and other alleged terrorist networks through surgical military strikes and expanded intelligence, but the politico-diplomatic approach will moderate the MILF by tying it down to a protracted peace process and cutting its ties to the ASG and extremist politics. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the push for the MILF’s abandonment of secessionism matched by the Arroyo regime’s dropping of its constitutional rigidity with the support of Malaysia and other countries is a positive step for moving the peace process forward.

MILF disarmament

But this formula will only succeed if, among other conditions, the MILF is finally disarmed and transformed into a mass-based political party thereby enhancing – in the language of the peace process – its legitimate political authority. It also depends on the cooperation and, more important, the political will of the Arroyo government even as, in the eyes of the USIP and other U.S. policy strategists, it is weak and incapable of delivering peace and development in the Moro communities (3). In the post-conflict scenario, it is almost inevitable for the U.S. with its military presence in Mindanao to head an international mission to guarantee the security of a new Bangsamoro.

The cooperation of the Arroyo regime and the MILF in this new peace formula is assured by internationalizing the peace process – the icing on the cake, so to speak. Supportive of the “peace and development” policy for Mindanao, a coalition of donor countries led by the U.S., Japan as well as the World Bank is committed to fund the Bangsamoro’s economic reconstruction. Aside from infusing 60 percent of its economic assistance to the Philippines in Mindanao, the USAID has committed a multi-year Mindanao Peace and Development Agreement worth $190 million and increased its economic support fund (ESF) to 25.9 million US dollars. Japan, besides joining the International Monitoring Team (IMT), has committed 400 million US dollars in Mindanao. Japan, which is also the U.S.’ chief security partner in East Asia, is working closely with the MILF’s development arm, Bangsamoro Development Agency. Similar commitments have come from Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Libya, and the OIC.

Cold war

Peace process as a paradigm finds its birth in the 1970s when it was coined by U.S. policy strategists to reduce tensions between Israel – a U.S. ally – Egypt, and Syria following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The first peace process involving Israel and Egypt was choreographed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, considered dean of the realist diplomacy, as part of their détente strategy for winning the cold war in the Middle East. While there had been agreements forged, the process itself – hyped as the “roadmap to peace” – has been incremental for 40 years. Meantime, while tensions have aggravated in the Middle East today, the net effect of this peace process, among others, has included the rise of Israel as a nuclear power occupying a major swathe of the Palestinian land claim, the taming of the Palestine Liberation Organization by giving it a symbolic political authority, and a pro-U.S. Egypt.

After the cold war, peace process has been introduced in several flashpoints in the world including Northern Ireland, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Aceh, East Timor, Bougainville, Kosovo, Kenya, the Basque region in Spain, and now, in Mindanao. As a politico-diplomatic track adopted in the global anti-terrorist war, peace process is the entry point for the U.S. purportedly to bring stability and governance in so-called “ungoverned” and “contested” territories such as Mindanao followed by a post-conflict program of international aid and security guarantee.

Global capitalism

The major political-economic goal of the peace process is to extend and embed market-driven global capitalism in these areas. A British scholar, Jan Selby, notes that the peace process is more of “a stalling mechanism for the powerful” whose central purpose “is to forestall radical or revolutionary political change” as well as to “reconsolidate hegemony and/or legitimacy.” Meanwhile, this peace formula has given birth to a global “peace industry” that involves multilateral agencies, think tanks, academic consultant groups, corporate investors, media, and elite stakeholders.

In Mindanao, the USIP itself anticipated that the MoA-AD would face strong legal and constitutional resistance and predicted Arroyo’s lack of capability in pushing the peace process to the end. Indeed the draft agreement has lit a wildfire of resistance from powerful non-Muslim politicians and landlords who have threatened war against the MILF unless it is shelved. How to bring stability and governance that would make the MILF the political authority which is only possible if the Muslim sultans and non-Muslim oligarchs disengage from dominant power politics is a daunting task.

This underscores the inherent failure of the peace process – the reason why, according to Selby – the whole exercise, which involves deliberate, well-calibrated long and tedious phases, does not provide substantial basis for sustainable, lasting peace. But if the net effect – which appears to be an underlying motive in the “peace process” – is to at least pacify a rebel army toward its eventual capitulation or accepting an exit strategy from war, then that itself can be claimed as an accomplishment by the peace architects.

But, at what price? The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances. Moro leaders should be wary with other external parties’ facilitation programs that put into greater harm the core interests not only of the Bangsamoro people but the sovereign and territorial rights of the country as a whole.

The challenge to both parties, particularly the MILF, is how to address the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances by pursuing peace talks based on sincerity, independence, and non-interference by external parties except a transparent and facilitative role of a third party negotiator. The call for full transparency in the talks should include full consultations with Lumads and non-Muslim communities in the disputed territories.

As the MILF leadership itself said when Hashim announced their 50-year jihad in 2000, if peace cannot be achieved now under Arroyo it will do so with her successor and thereafter.

_________________

(1) Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.

(2) Reports said that it was Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. who convinced Salamat Hashim to write Bush in January 2003. Pimentel is the architect of federalism that aims to transform Bangsamoro into a federated state.

(3) In fact, some Washington policy experts on this issue see the Arroyo government as the main problem and not the MILF.

Arroyo knew MOA details — Esperon

September 16, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:35:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was aware of the details of the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain that he initialed in Kuala Lumpur early last month.

Esperon, speaking to reporters during the 15th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), explained that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) involved consultations with the Cabinet and guidance from the “top leadership.”

Malacañang backed out of the peace agreement after its constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Any product of negotiation (is) always submitted to the President for further executive action or for further guidance to the negotiating panel,” Esperon told reporters.

Asked if the President had seen the MOA, Esperon replied: “Yes, of course, the President knows what the panel has been going through.”

When told that his statement ran counter to the claim of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera before the Supreme Court that Ms Arroyo had “never” seen the document, Esperon clarified his remarks.

The President had not seen the MOA “in its entirety,” Esperon said. “I mean, in the end, we will always seek the guidance of the President, not exactly expecting that she knows word for word the MOA itself. But the guidance would come from the top leadership,” he said.

Esperon flew to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to explain to Malaysia, which moderated the peace talks for more than 10 years, of the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Esperon said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed disappointment over the collapse of the peace talks.

One of the members of Esperon’s now-defunct peace panel, Rudy Rodil, declined to comment.

Former peace adviser and now election commissioner Rene Sarmiento, also present at the OPAPP event, told reporters a peace process “takes a lot of patience.”

He said the country had learned a lot from the issue of the MOA itself, such as the importance of the involvement of civil society, being stakeholders, in discussions.

Esperon said that even if the government would no longer sign the MOA, the document could still be used as a “major reference,” particularly its “substance,” in future negotiations with the MILF.

“The MOA represent a meeting of minds. It also contains consensus points and therefore by that alone, as a product of four years and seven months of deliberations—long deliberations, long negotiations—it cannot just be put aside and so it becomes a major reference,” Esperon said.

Esperon said that while he already had a short list of possible members of a new peace panel, its recomposition “is not our main concern right now.”

Esperon said the government had asked a Malaysian facilitator to relay to the MILF that the peace process would continue but they (the rebels) should surrender the two commanders responsible for recent attacks in central Mindanao—Ombra Kato and Commander Bravo.

Esperon said the government was shifting to a direct dialogue with communities which would “not only provide the ideas for resolving the conflict but will also definitely provide the constituency for peace.”

“That is actually the shift in the paradigm. For so long a time, we have been conducting dialogues only with the armed groups,” he said.

================

My Take:

Hmmm.. interesting remarks.  Maybe the Supreme Court should comment on this.

Peace in Mindanao – At What Price?

September 2, 2008

The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances.

BY THE POLICY STUDY, PUBLICATION, AND ADVOCACY
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
ANALYSIS
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

I. Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the outcome of settling an armed conflict by addressing its fundamental roots toward a just and lasting peace. Unless the causes are addressed, any peace that is forged is just a means of preserving an unjust status quo leading to bigger tensions.

In the old days, peace terms were prescribed by victorious states and armies in a war or armed conflict; the terms usually included disarming the vanquished and dismembering territories. The impositions in the treaties that ended the two major world wars of the 20th century yielded no lasting peace: World War I led to World War II, and the latter was followed by the so-called “cold war” and thereafter by the permanent and borderless “war on terrorism.”

In the Philippines, the ongoing peace talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fits into a peace process paradigm developed by capitalist countries led by the United States. Sometimes referred to as globalization-driven, the peace process – somewhat similar to the UN’s “peace building,” “conflict resolution” or “dispute settlement” – purportedly aims to address the core issues of the Bangsamoro problem, namely, the Moro people’s ancestral domain claim and self-rule.

The trouble is, not all “peace processes” are success stories as advocates and current political literature on this paradigm admit. In fact, the backlash generated by a controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD), which is a product of this peace process, and the resumption of hostilities are imperiling the peace talks between the GRP and MILF.

Two major peace talks

The centuries-long Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination – in terms of having a separate and independent state – has gone through two major peace negotiations with the government. The first, held with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), traversed through 20 years ending in the 1996 final peace accord that has been criticized as inadequate in building autonomy and development for the ARMM. The second, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), started in 1997 with an agreement on the cessation of hostilities followed by the Tripoli agreement of 2001(1) . Unfolding in this second process are seemingly irreconcilable interests representing not only the MILF and GRP but also the local elite, investors, and foreign governments.

In the GRP-MNLF peace talks, a confluence of events – on the part of the Marcos regime the economic crisis and the need to tap Middle East countries for oil and market for cheap Filipino labor, and, on the MNLF military setbacks and the gradual loss of armed support from Libya and other OIC countries – drove both parties to enter into a negotiated political settlement. In the early phase, however, a faction of the MNLF that disagreed with the peace talks, led by Salamat Hashim, formed the MILF in 1977. The MILF has been the main revolutionary Moro group with its armed component, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), consistently fighting for secession.

The MILF suffered a major setback when 50 of its military camps were destroyed by the AFP in the total war unleashed by then President Joseph Estrada in 2000 and again, when the Buliok complex which replaced Camp Abubakar as the rebels’ central headquarters, came under heavy military offensive – in violation of a truce – in February 2003. Government offensives forced the MILF’s positional warfare units to disperse into smaller, clan-led guerrilla forces.

Although intelligence reports say that the BIAF is still 15,000-strong with 11,000 firearms, the MILF’s fighting spirit appeared to have reached what some security analysts call a “hurting stalemate” which can go either to extremism by its dispersed units or to a prolonged armed engagement without any prospects of winning. Aside from economic losses and other reasons, the Arroyo government pursued the peace talks in a bid to silence the guns of the MILF – which had been put into effect in the 1997 ceasefire agreement – in order to concentrate on its strategic offensives against the New People’s Army in a vain attempt to put it into irrelevance by 2010.

Ripe time

By 2003, the time was ripe for giving momentum to the “peace process.” The MILF faced the threat of having its inclusion in the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) renewed and, hence, foreign support from Muslim countries being reduced. An exchange of communications between MILF Chair Salamat Hashim (2) and U.S. President George Bush followed in early 2003, paving the way for U.S. participation in the peace talks. Further legitimizing U.S. participation was an official request by Arroyo for U.S. assistance in the peace talks.

Since Malaysia was the official facilitator of the talks being held in Kuala Lumpur, U.S. role was through the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a quasi-state agency created by an act of Congress. Washington promised an initial $30 million aid package to the MILF subject, however, to the latter’s signing a final peace agreement. The USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project, which allowed U.S. state department authorities a direct access to the MILF including its military camps, lasted from 2003-2007. Since then, U.S. liaison with the MILF has been continued by the state department and its embassy in Manila.

Meantime, Malaysia, Libya, and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) tried to persuade the MILF to drop its secessionist goal, work for an expanded autonomy and, at one point, to adjust its hard position against the constitutional framework of the negotiations. This stance complemented the USIP’s peace formula regarding an expanded autonomy with legal authority for the MILF and for the GRP to soften its constitutional rigidity.

The MoA-AD, the signing of which was aborted by a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order, articulates a compromise deal with the MILF in which its historical ancestral domain claim is recognized by the government in principle but makes its actualization conditional. The implementation of this claim, along with the ownership of natural resources and the exercise of jurisdictional authority, will need to pass through the gauntlet of more contentious negotiations leading up to the Comprehensive Compact, plebiscite, and a constitutional amendment that will establish a federal system. More importantly, the agreement binds the MILF to honor private landholdings, corporate plantations, foreign investments particularly in energy resources, as well as the presence of foreign forces in Bangsamoro.

II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role

The critique that the U.S. had a hand in crafting the MoA appears to be not without basis. The agreement – the whole peace talks for that matter – is a by-product of a new peace formula whose underlying goal is to enhance the U.S.’ comprehensive security strategy in Mindanao and the whole Southeast Asian region. Among other instruments, the superpower’s security imperatives, i.e., economic, geo-political, and military objectives, are promoted through the now spurious “war on terrorism” defining the region as the second front. This post-9/11 declaration, backed by Arroyo, became the entry point for an indefinite forward deployment of U.S. forces and basing facilities particularly in southern Philippines.

With the USIP and other policy thinkers in Washington, however, this strategy has been reformulated to adopt what is described as the “political economy of security.” Basically, this new formula postulates that U.S. security imperatives are better advanced by transforming the Bangsamoro into a governable zone and a stable extension of global capitalism supported by international funds and investments in a post-conflict scenario. Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro homeland, holds the key to U.S. security goals in Southeast Asia and the MILF is seen as a major player for undercutting the influence of anti-American extremism particularly among the region’s Muslim populations. The non-resolution of the Moro problem now will have far-reaching implications to U.S. security imperatives in the region in the future.

What this means is that, using the classic “carrot and stick” policy, U.S. special forces will continue to pin down the Abu Sayyaf Group and other alleged terrorist networks through surgical military strikes and expanded intelligence, but the politico-diplomatic approach will moderate the MILF by tying it down to a protracted peace process and cutting its ties to the ASG and extremist politics. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the push for the MILF’s abandonment of secessionism matched by the Arroyo regime’s dropping of its constitutional rigidity with the support of Malaysia and other countries is a positive step for moving the peace process forward.

MILF disarmament

But this formula will only succeed if, among other conditions, the MILF is finally disarmed and transformed into a mass-based political party thereby enhancing – in the language of the peace process – its legitimate political authority. It also depends on the cooperation and, more important, the political will of the Arroyo government even as, in the eyes of the USIP and other U.S. policy strategists, it is weak and incapable of delivering peace and development in the Moro communities (3). In the post-conflict scenario, it is almost inevitable for the U.S. with its military presence in Mindanao to head an international mission to guarantee the security of a new Bangsamoro.

The cooperation of the Arroyo regime and the MILF in this new peace formula is assured by internationalizing the peace process – the icing on the cake, so to speak. Supportive of the “peace and development” policy for Mindanao, a coalition of donor countries led by the U.S., Japan as well as the World Bank is committed to fund the Bangsamoro’s economic reconstruction. Aside from infusing 60 percent of its economic assistance to the Philippines in Mindanao, the USAID has committed a multi-year Mindanao Peace and Development Agreement worth $190 million and increased its economic support fund (ESF) to $25.9 million. Japan, besides joining the International Monitoring Team (IMT), has committed $400 million in Mindanao. Japan, which is also the U.S.’ chief security partner in East Asia, is working closely with the MILF’s development arm, Bangsamoro Development Agency. Similar commitments have come from Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Libya, and the OIC.

Cold war

Peace process as a paradigm finds its birth in the 1970s when it was coined by U.S. policy strategists to reduce tensions between Israel – a U.S. ally – Egypt, and Syria following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The first peace process involving Israel and Egypt was choreographed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, considered dean of the realist diplomacy, as part of their détente strategy for winning the cold war in the Middle East. While there had been agreements forged, the process itself – hyped as the “roadmap to peace” – has been incremental for 40 years. Meantime, while tensions have aggravated in the Middle East today, the net effect of this peace process, among others, has included the rise of Israel as a nuclear power occupying a major swathe of the Palestinian land claim, the taming of the Palestine Liberation Organization by giving it a symbolic political authority, and a pro-U.S. Egypt.

After the cold war, peace process has been introduced in several flashpoints in the world including Northern Ireland, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Aceh, East Timor, Bougainville, Kosovo, Kenya, the Basque region in Spain, and now, in Mindanao. As a politico-diplomatic track adopted in the global anti-terrorist war, peace process is the entry point for the U.S. purportedly to bring stability and governance in so-called “ungoverned” and “contested” territories such as Mindanao followed by a post-conflict program of international aid and security guarantee.

Global capitalism

The major political-economic goal of the peace process is to extend and embed market-driven global capitalism in these areas. A British scholar, Jan Selby, notes that the peace process is more of “a stalling mechanism for the powerful” whose central purpose “is to forestall radical or revolutionary political change” as well as to “reconsolidate hegemony and/or legitimacy.” Meanwhile, this peace formula has given birth to a global “peace industry” that involves multilateral agencies, think tanks, academic consultant groups, corporate investors, media, and elite stakeholders.

In Mindanao, the USIP itself anticipated that the MoA-AD would face strong legal and constitutional resistance and predicted Arroyo’s lack of capability in pushing the peace process to the end. Indeed the draft agreement has lit a wildfire of resistance from powerful non-Muslim politicians and landlords who have threatened war against the MILF unless it is shelved. How to bring stability and governance that would make the MILF the political authority which is only possible if the Muslim sultans and non-Muslim oligarchs disengage from dominant power politics is a daunting task.

This underscores the inherent failure of the peace process – the reason why, according to Selby – the whole exercise, which involves deliberate, well-calibrated long and tedious phases, does not provide substantial basis for sustainable, lasting peace. But if the net effect – which appears to be an underlying motive in the “peace process” – is to at least pacify a rebel army toward its eventual capitulation or accepting an exit strategy from war, then that itself can be claimed as an accomplishment by the peace architects.

But, at what price? The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances. Moro leaders should be wary with other external parties’ facilitation programs that put into greater harm the core interests not only of the Bangsamoro people but the sovereign and territorial rights of the country as a whole.

The challenge to both parties, particularly the MILF, is how to address the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances by pursuing peace talks based on sincerity, independence, and non-interference by external parties except a transparent and facilitative role of a third party negotiator. The call for full transparency in the talks should include full consultations with Lumads and non-Muslim communities in the disputed territories.

As the MILF leadership itself said when Hashim announced their 50-year jihad in 2000, if peace cannot be achieved now under Arroyo it will do so with her successor and thereafter. Posted by Bulatlat

_________________

(1) Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.
(2) Reports said that it was Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. who convinced Salamat Hashim to write Bush in January 2003. Pimentel is the architect of federalism that aims to transform Bangsamoro into a federated state.
(3) In fact, some Washington policy experts on this issue see the Arroyo government as the main problem and not the MILF.

3,000 Bataraza residents rally against BJE

August 27, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

IT WAS hot and humid, dusty and rough even, but nothing stopped Mayor Abraham Ibba, provincial government officials, and more than 3,000 residents of Bataraza from marching and staging a mass protest against their proposed inclusion in the controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that was supposed to be established by a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The protesters carried banners, placards and streamers with tough slogans and raised their fists around barangay Marangas in the poblacion to the municipal gymnasium to show strong dislike against the BJE. They represented the town’s 22 barangays.

Ibba said he is opposed to the BJE because the residents of Bataraza are already contented living in peace in Palawan. He, who originally hails from Sulu, explained that he liked life in the province, a reason why he chose to live and lead as mayor here.

“Our position is clear, we oppose our inclusion in the BJE,” Ibba said. During the whole rally, Vice Mayor Antonio Sadongdong and municipal councilors Merivic Roxas, Kennedy Jaafar, Marlen Gamo, Marivic Roxas, Jane Usop, Carlito rioveros, Armin Saiyo, Hadjis Asgale Jr., Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay officials, stood behind him to demonstrate support.

Bataraza, a second class municipality in the province of Palawan, was named after Datu Bataraza Narrazid, a locally influential Muslim chieftain and father of the town’s first mayor and former mayor of Brooke’s Point, the late Datu Sapiodin Narrazid. It was part of the municipality of Brooke’s Point until 1964.

The municipality, with 41,458 people in 8,658 households, according to 2000 census, thrives on farming, fishing and nickel mining and processing.

Ibba called on the protesters and residents not to believe those who go around asking them to say yes to the inclusion of Bataraza to the BJE in exchange for top and high-paying positions when it is already established. He said this is not true and just a modus operandi.

Sadongdong also said the municipal council is not in favor of the BJE because it will not do Bataraza any good. He said that if the MILF is serious in its desire for peace to overcome Mindanao, why would its leadership buckle in the face of challenges that are confronting the MOA-AD?

His explanation cited the attacks in villages of the MILF in North Cotabato led by Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Bravo, and Ombra Kato, shortly after the Supreme Court (SC) issued a temporary restraining order on August 4.

Thousands of civilians have fled North Cotabato, while 48 government troops, including an army colonel, and civilians were killed in just two weeks.

If the MILF is truthful in its wish for peace, the municipal government officials of Bataraza said they should have placed restraint on themselves not to attack innocent people.

The provincial government, on the other hand, was represented by Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon and board members Cipriano Barroma and Ernesto Llacuna.

Ponce de Leon informed the protesters that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution to oppose the inclusion of Bataraza and Balabac in the BJE as it is a clear violation of the Constitution.

“Let us all be united, let’s speak as one people and say no again, no again to the inclusion of Palawan to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” he said.

Bataraza resident and barangay Ocayan councilor Bernard Calago said he joined the rally not because he was forced but because he also does not want it to be part of the BJE.

He said he does not want the kind of leadership that the MILF has on its people. That at a slight problem, it would choose to resolve it by using armed conflict.(PalawanTimes)

Atake sa sibilyan sa Mindanao: sino ang may kagagawan?

August 25, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

Mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit: Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

NOONG nakaraang buwan pa, pabalik-balik na si Santukan Salikula at ang pamilya niya sa samu’t saring relokasyon. Nangamba sila sa pagdami ng insidente ng misteryosong pag-atake sa mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit, North Cotabato. Pero noong nakaraang dalawang linggo ang pinakamalupit.

Sa kabila ng balitang pagharang ng Korte Suprema sa paglalagda sa MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) on Ancestral Domain sa pagitan ng gobyerno at ng MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), napansin nilang dumarami ang nagtitipong sundalo ng Philippine Army sa kanilang lugar. Nagbakwit na siya at ang mga kapitbahay, patungong evacuation center sa Dalingawin sa Pikit. Dito, nagsisiksikan ang halos 30,000 katao – karamiha’y Muslim – mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pikit.

Agosto 9, nabalitaan nila ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng MILF at Army sa lugar. Agad nilang nilikas ang Dalingawin para pumunta sa isa pang evacuation center sa Batulawan. Nagpatuloy ang mga engkuwentro – ang mga pagsabog, naririnig at nababalitaan nila sa kanilang mga lugar ng ebakwasyon.

Sa lahat ng panahong ito, bakbakan ng MILF at Army ang naganap. “Walang inatake ang MILF sa amin,” sabi ni Santukan.

Pero sa nalalapit na probinsiyang Lanao del Norte, noong Agosto 18, ibang balita ang sumingaw. Matindi na ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng rebelde at puwersa ng Estado nang mabalitaan ang pagpatay sa mga sibilyan sa limang bayan ng probinsiyang ito, pati sa Saranggani. Tinatayang 41 sibilyan ang namatay sa ataking ito – 30 mula sa Kolambugan.

Sa pahayag ni Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, hepe ng 102nd Brigade ng Army, kahindik-hindik ang mga detalye. “Pinatay sila na parang mga manok,” paglalarawan ng heneral. Hindi agad nakapasok sa Kauswagan, Kolambugan, Bacolod at Maigo sa Lanao del Norte ang mga tropa ni Atendido. Pero may agad silang paliwanag sa mga pagpaslang: “Mga MILF ang may kagagawan.”

Sila nga ba?

Hindi makapaniwala si Santukan na MILF ang may kagagawan sa mga pagpaslang. “Labag kasi sa Islam ang ganoong pagpatay,” aniya.

Sa lahat ng ulat ng midya sa insidente, pawang Army ang pinagmulan ng impormasyong mga MILF ang pumaslang sa 41 sibilyan. Umani ng matinding pagkondena ang MILF sa naturang insidente. Kinondena ito ng mga pulitiko kapwa mula sa administrasyon at oposisyon. Noong Agosto 21, nagdeklara na ang gobyernong Arroyo na hindi nito lalagdaan ang MOA – at ipinangakong paiigtingin ang atake sa mga kampo ng MILF, hindi lamang sa Lanao del Sur at North Cotabato, kundi sa mga probinsiyang may presensiya ng MILF.

Lahat ng opensibang militar na ito, ayon kay Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, ay may layuning hulihin ang dalawang kumander ng MILF na saklaw mga lugar kung saan naganap ang mga pagpatay. “Magpapatuloy ang mga operasyon natin para mahuli sila at mapasailalim sa saklaw ng batas,” sabi ni Teodoro.

Tinutukoy ni Teodoro sina Ombra Kato at Abdurahman Macapaar, mas kilala bilang Kumander Bravo. Ayon sa gobyerno, si Kato, at lalung laluna si Bravo, ang may pakana ng mga pagpaslang.

Pero itinatanggi ito ng MILF. Sa panayam sa telepono ng isang estasyon sa telebisyon, sinabi ni Bravo na hindi siya ang may kagagawan ng pagpatay, kundi ang isang “probationary” na sundalo ng MILF na si Alvin Canto. Hindi umano Muslim o Kristiyano si Canto. Bagamat saklaw ng responsabilidad ni Bravo, hindi niya inutusan si Canto na atakihin ang mga sibilyan, laluna’t nasa Maguindanao raw siya noong panahong iyon.

“Noong nalaman kong sila ang pumatay sa mga sibilyan, bata at babae, tumakbo sila sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” kuwento ni Bravo. Noong Agosto 20, sumuko si Canto sa Army at nagsabing si Bravo umano ang nag-utos sa kanyang patayin ang mga sibilyan.

Patas na imbestigasyon

Sa panayam ng PINOY WEEKLY kay Mohagher Iqbal, punong negosyador pangkapayapaan ng MILF, inamin ni Iqbal na mga kumander ng MILF sina Bravo at Kato. Pero hanggang nang makapanayam siya noong Agosto 22, hindi pa rin umano nila nakakausap si Bravo at naitatanong ang tunay na nangyari.

“Nasa pinakaloob (ng kabundukan) si Bravo at hindi namin agad makausap,” sabi ni Iqbal. Hindi rin umano uubrang makausap siya sa telepono dahil sa matinding paniniktik ng militar ng gobyerno sa kanilang mga negosyador.

Gayunman, may inisyal na pagtingin si Iqbal na hindi kasing-simple ng iniuulat ng Army ang naganap sa Lanao del Norte. May tatlong uri umano ng biktima roon. Una, ang mga sibilyang napatay ng mga grupong paramilitar at militar (Basahin ang kaugnay na artikulo). Pangalawa, ang mga sibilyang nadamay sa putukan sa pagitan ng militar at MILF. Pangatlo, ang sibilyang walang kalaban-labang pinaslang – si Bravo man o si Canto, hindi pa matukoy.

“Kaya naman nananawagan kami ng impartial investigation,” sabi ni Iqbal. Ipinanawagan nilang itigil muna ang pag-atake ng militar ng gobyerno at imbestigahan ng isang niyutral na grupo ng mga imbestigador ang mga insidente. Sa paraang ito, matutukoy ang salarin sa bawat kaso ng 41 pagpatay na aniya’y tila pinagsabay-sabay at ibinibintang lahat sa MILF.

Pabor dito ang Suara Bangsamoro, organisasyong nagtataguyod ng karapatang ng mga Moro. Ayon kay Amirah Ali Lidasan ng Suara, maaaring buuin kapwa ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano ang naturang investigating team. Kung anuman ang mapapag-alaman nila ay dapat tanggapin ng dalawang panig.

Ayon kay Teodoro, nais lamang ng AFP na mapasailalim sa batas ng gobyerno sina Bravo at Kato. Pero sabi ni Iqbal, labag sa ceasefire agreement ng dalawang panig ang pagsuko sa isang miyembro ng isang panig sa kalabang panig. May sarili umano silang sistema ng hustisya na dapat sundin sang-ayon sa ceasefire agreement. Yun nga lang, hindi na nila agad mapatupad nang maayos dahil sa mga opensibang militar ng AFP.

Titindi pa?

Inilinaw ng Malakanyang na hindi naman nila inaabandona ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Sa harap ng matinding pagtutol sa MOA – kahit na masasabing malakas ang suporta para rito sa hanay ng mga Moro – nagdesisyon lamang si Arroyo na huwag lagdaan ang kasunduan.

Pero habang inihahayag ito, tumitindi ang pag-atake sa MILF. Nanawagan na ang maraming opisyal ng gobyerno na armasan ang mga sibilyan. Para kay Lidasan, napaka-mapanganib ng ganitong hakbang. “Titindi ang giyera, at gagamitin pa ng maraming pulitiko para iraos ang pag-atake sa mga kalaban sa pulitika,” aniya. Ipag-aaway umano ang mga Kristiyano at Muslim sa ngalan ng kakarampot na lupa sa ilalim ng MOA, habang namamayani pa rin ang mga ito sa malalaking lupain sa Mindanao.

Nanganganib na hindi agad makabalik sa kanilang mga tahanan ang mga tulad nina Santukan. At kung makakabalik man, kailangan pa niyang problemahin ang napakasamang pagturing sa kanilang mga Moro matapos ang atake sa mga sibilyan noong Agosto 18.(PinoyWeekly)

Lanao del Norte Atrocities Exposed MILF’s Weakness

August 24, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

If there is one thing the raid on Lanao del Norte by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) showed, it is that the 25-year-old front is still so far away from achieving something that it needs as a genuine revolutionary movement: discipline and political sensitivity.

According to the military (and let us not forget that practically every news about Lanao del Norte came from the military), the Lanao del Norte attack resulted in the deaths of 34 people, many of them civilians. What was remarkable in the aftermath of the raid was the MILF leadership’s immediate acknowledgment that, indeed, it was its forces that raided the Lanao del Norte towns.

Forget that the MILF considered the civilian deaths in Lanao del Norte as “collateral damage.” That may seem insensitive on the part of the MILF but, to be frank about it, the Moro people had had more “collateral damage” in this war. And we didn’t hear Malacañang raise its voice in self-righteous indignation when, for example, Moro civilians were victimized by the war in Pikit or that it even raised a finger to warn Mayor Rodrigo Duterte about the series of abductions of Moro leaders in Davao City.

The MILF’s admission was a departure from the hemming and hawing, if not outright denials, that characterized its behavior every time the military accuses it of some atrocity. (Of course, a possible reason for this is that either the MILF’s control over its men on the ground was loose or the military’s allegations were simply not true, considering that there are many other groups in Mindanao – the armed forces included — that are capable of the most deplorable violence.) It was a sign that the front is starting to show some maturity — it does not anymore think twice about taking responsibility for its actions.

But in spite of its rather long experience as a revolutionary movement and in spite of the experiences of past Moro groups like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), even the communist New People’s Army, the MILF has a long way to go in proving that it deserves the respect of all peoples. For one, as the behavior of its men showed in Lanao del Norte, its forces lack discipline and the political sense of what their action might do to their cause.

This could be the result of an organizational malaise that has been plaguing it for years: the MILF is so big that it is unwieldy. Imagine this: a force of some 25,000 members running loose in the countryside of Mindanao. The government’s all-out war in 2000, as well as the latest in the Buliok complex, dispersed this force and the front has since found it extremely difficult to run a huge and widespread organization. This could have been the reason why the MILF leadership, by its spokesman’s own admission, gave its commanders “autonomy” in running the affairs of their units.

The immensity of the MILF stems from the nature of its struggle, in which a whole people wants liberation from the State. Its ideology, albeit religious in nature, finds resonance in most Moros in Mindanao who have been at the losing end of State policy for decades now. This explains why it didn’t take long for the MILF to grow its force since it defected from the MNLF in 1978.

A movement this big, therefore, should make discipline its primary concern. Indeed, the MILF has existing programs that outline its goals and objectives and how to achieve these. But precisely because its mass base is not only huge but dispersed, the lack or absence of strict revolutionary discipline is a problem.

If it had been otherwise, the raid in Lanao del Norte would not have resulted in those civilian deaths. We learned, for instance, that the target of the raid was the military command outpost in the town. A well-planned raid coupled with a disciplined force would have accomplished the mission without bloodshed; we see this in the NPA’s raids in the past that were largely successful but bloodless – and sometimes without even firing a single shot.

The problem with the MILF’s Lanao del Norte raid was that, because its forces were not as disciplined as the NPA, some Moro locals, even a tricycle operator, joined in the sacking of the town. For all we know, these people were members of the MILF but the fact that the raid apparently turned into a free-for-all — at least as can be gleaned from official reports and, to some extent, the MILF leadership’s admission to media – indicates a serious lapse in discipline and betrays the MILF’s anti-Christian sectarianism.

There is wisdom in Mao Zedong’s exhortation to the Red fighters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) not to steal even a single needle from peasants. I recall one MILF raid in Cotabato a few years ago in which MILF forces carted away the livestock of the residents whose community the guerrillas had just raided. Things like this are anathema to a revolutionary group.

The MILF cannot continue doing this if it wants to be taken seriously. It is not enough that the front admits to its mistake every now and then. It has to impose a strict set of discipline among its followers and improve their awareness of, for example, the treatment of non-combatants. It has to abide by every rule and every law that governs armed conflicts.

The front cannot explain away its action by citing the fact that, in areas such as Lanao del Norte, the resentment by Muslims against Christians is still brewing, hence the decision by some Muslim locals to join the offensive not so much to achieve the raid’s supposed tactical goal but to vent that resentment, perhaps even launch their own rido (vengeange) against the Christians in the town. If, during raids, the MILF opens its ranks to these angry constituents, it is risking trouble and political isolation.

While it is true that the government’s series of offensives against the MILF pushed the front to the wall, hence the tendency by some of its “autonomous” units to run amuck, the MILF cannot invoke this to justify its errors like Lanao del Norte. A decentralized leadership isn’t a serious a problem as lack of discipline. Even if the whole might of the State is brought to bear on the MILF, the deaths of civilians can be avoided or minimized if there is paramount discipline among the front’s ranks.

And discipline can only be achieved if each and every MILF member appreciates the reality that their struggle is not just about winning territories but the respect of the people, Moro or not.

The point is, the MILF has to rise above crude, often needless, violence. It has to make sure that its forces are above hooliganism. It must offer a humane alternative to the atrocity of the State that compelled the Moros to revolt in the first place. It has to live up to the ideals of a genuine revolutionary movement.

(The above article was first published in the May 18-24, 2003, edition of Bulatlat.com, the online alternative newsmagazine. It was later reprinted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Apart from changing the word “Siocon” to “Lanao del Norte,” not one word was changed or omitted. Siocon is a town in Zamboanga del Norte that was raided by MILF elements in 2003. That raid bore striking similarities to the atrocities committed by MILF rebels this week in several towns in Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.)

Editorial Cartoon: (Mindanao War) Washing ala-Pilato

August 23, 2008

Can the war erase that fact?

MILF camp falls; 30 killed

August 23, 2008

Biggest air strike launched in a decade

By Inquirer Mindanao, Tarra Quismundo, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 08/23/2008

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao, Philippines — Backed by the biggest aerial bombardment in nearly a decade, government forces Friday drove out Moro rebels from one of their camps in Maguindanao province, and fighting raged on elsewhere in rice fields and marshlands, officials said.

About 30 rebels and one soldier have been killed since Wednesday and more than 70,000 villagers have fled their homes, the officials said.

And Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Ombra Kato is on the run.

Some 30 aircraft, including OV-Bronco bomber planes, MG-520 rocket-firing attack helicopters, a pair of Italian-made S-211 jets from Basa Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, and rescue choppers, have been thrown into the battle, Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog told the Inquirer.

“We have bigger operations now in terms of assets and area covered than in Abubakar in 2000,” Cadungog said, referring to the all-out military offensive eight years ago that led to the capture of Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao, the biggest base of the MILF.

No space to breathe

“We deemed it smarter this time not to give them space to breathe,” the Air Force chief said. “We were a bit soft at first assuming that it will not escalate. We are ready for any escalation of action.”

An Air Force source said Friday’s air strikes delivered a total of 25 bombs and 12 rockets on six targets around Shariff Aguak. They included a dozen 500-lb bombs, nine 260-pounders and four 110-pounders.

“The results are good based on reports of our ground troops,” Cadungog said. “They are happy that we’ve had direct hits.”

Kato on the run

In Friday’s clashes, soldiers captured a satellite camp of Kato in Datu Piang town.

Kato is one of two most wanted MILF commanders whose surrender has been demanded by the government, blaming them for the killing of dozens of civilians in attacks in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.

The MILF has refused to hand over Kato and Commander Bravo—each wanted for P5 million—and clashes have continued despite appeals from politicians, and Christian, Muslim and civil society groups for an end to the fighting.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Philippine Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said air strikes had resumed against Kato’s forces and ground troops pressed their advance.

Journalists rescued

Two broadcast journalists and three civilians, including a pregnant woman, who had been trapped since Thursday evening, have been rescued and brought to Cotabato City, the military said.

Radio Mindanao Network station manager Bong Talamba and GMA Network stringer Ferdinand Cabrera were covering a firefight in Datu Piang but MILF snipers fired on them as they were about to leave the area, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ando confirmed the situation had worsened and that MILF rebels had been conducting ambuscades.

“They were trying to take control of the highway. The highway was closed to motorists Friday morning but was reopened after having been cleared of rebels,” Ando said.

Dozens wounded

Salazar said the rebel casualties came from air strikes and clashes on the ground. Dozens of other rebels have been wounded since the hostilities broke out on Wednesday in the towns of Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao and Kabuntalan in nearby Shariff Kabunsuan province.

On Friday alone, 10 rebels were killed, he said.

Salazar said the number of rebel casualties was based on intercepted radio conversations among the guerrillas.

“The group of Commander Kato has abandoned their satellite camp in Datu Piang and our soldiers have taken over,” he said.

More fighting feared

Eleven soldiers were injured when rebels waylaid a military convoy in Guindulungan town on Thursday evening, said Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, deputy spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Cabangbang said the military had met strong resistance and “expected more clashes.”

“Our ground troops are penetrating their main objectives and we will be deploying additional soldiers from Davao City,” he said.

He identified the wounded soldiers as Sgt. Renato Jaime Canuto; Corporals Alfredo Isidro and Edgar Gulerno; Privates First Class Elire Guaro, Jogie Dumon, Ricky Encluna, Bonn Dumaguing, Albert Velasco, Arlan Moanes, Mark Anthony Cabañog, and Pvt. Boni John Tilad.

Salazar said it appeared that Kato’s group was being reinforced by other MILF units.

“We have shelled the rebels’ position since Thursday night until Friday morning. The enemies are getting stronger,” Salazar said.

Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the command center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the 601st Brigade under Salazar “has been engaging the enemy heavily” in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano, Datu Piang, and Crossing Salbo in Maguindanao.

Rice fields and marshlands

Segovia described the battlefield as rice fields and marshlands.

He said artillery and planes had been hitting the MILF’s temporary shelters or satellite camps, which were fortified with foxholes and trenches, and sending the guerrillas “running around in places right now.”

“Some are not so sure where they are going,” Segovia said.

Segovia said that in North Cotabato, the 602nd Brigade under Army Col. Alex Estomo were engaged in “sporadic firefight” with other guerrillas under Abdullah Macapaantar, alias Commander Bravo.

Military targets

Segovia warned other MILF commands not to provide sanctuary to Bravo, Kato and their men.

“Their positions will be military targets,” he said, adding: “Our orders are to crush these groups. This is what the AFP will continue to do. We can’t allow ourselves to be hostaged by their actions.”

Segovia said that since most MILF satellite camps were near populated communities, thousands of residents had evacuated.

Elsewhere, four civilians were rushed to the Cotabato Regional Hospital after they were reportedly hit during the military bombardment.

It was not clear why the civilians were still in their village when most of the people had already evacuated.

Food aid

Based on figures released by the health department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), more than 70,000 people had fled the besieged areas.

Segovia gave reporters in Manila seemingly different figures. He said that according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), there were a total of 84,669 evacuees from Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao staying in 92 different evacuation centers.

Another report from the NDCC, however, placed the affected/displaced people at nearly 200,000.

The NDCC said that the atrocities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte had resulted in 40,138 families or 199,692 people affected.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it had agreed with the government to provide an additional 250 metric tons of rice to help feed the thousands of evacuees.

Fireworks banned

In Koronadal City in South Cotabato, Mayor Fernando Miguel has banned fireworks and public gatherings as the Maguindanao situation appeared to be worsening.

“We want to ensure the safety and security of our constituents amid MILF warning of more rebel attacks and destabilization activities in Mindanao,” Miguel said.

In Sarangani province, Gov. Miguel Dominguez ordered the reactivation of the civilian defense force in the villages as a protection against further MILF attacks.

Dominguez said he would rather that the situation be resolved peacefully.

“I’m just hoping that the government and MILF could find a way to stop the armed fighting and resume the peace process,” Dominguez said.

Third party needed

Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies based in Cotabato City, said the participation of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) was badly needed.

“Recent events showed once again the urgency of third party monitors to sustain the ceasefire in order to keep the peace process on track,” Lingga said.

In North Cotabato, education officials said classes had to be conducted in evacuation centers, especially in the town of Pikit, so that children would not miss their lessons.

In Cagayan de Oro City, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he had asked Speaker Prospero Nograles to order lawmakers to donate at least P100,000 for the needs of displaced residents of Maguindanao. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase, Nash Maulana, Aquiles Zonio and Grace Albasin, Inquirer Mindanao, and Agence France-Presse

================

My Take:

1. MILF camp “falling” is not a big news.  MILF is waging now a guerilla war, so, camps, especially the empty ones will easily “fall.”  The reporter must understand this in order for them to present the correct perspective of the news they are presenting.

2. On air strikes.  Air strikes are not the best form of military offensive.  Air strikes are politically weak.  Another point, the most important point, is this, the Philippine government is pushing air strikes inside their own territory, effectively putting innocent civilians (citizens) in harm’s way.

STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace

August 23, 2008

STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace PDF Print E-mail
Bangsa uth Leaders Forum
Thursday, 21 August 2008 23:20
var sburl8991 = window.location.href; var sbtitle8991 = document.title;var sbtitle8991=encodeURIComponent(“STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace”); var sburl8991=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5010”); sburl8991=sburl8991.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl8991=encodeURIComponent(sburl8991);The Philippine government is once more trying to dupe the Bangsamoro people in its persistent desire to suppress the Moro’s inherent and legitimate right to govern themselves in accordance with the prescriptions of the Holy Qur’an. Still not contented with giving us bogus autonomy named Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which literally further divided not only the Bangsamoro homeland but the Bangsamoro people themselves, the imperial Manila is again granting deceptive concessions in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government has also never showed it can implement agreements it entered into with the Bangsamoro people, like the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

However, with the recent SONA of President Arroyo, worries and frustrations surface all over again for not giving an emphasis on the peace process that the government engages on with the MILF. Further, the situation has been worsened by the issuance of the Supreme Court of the Temporary Restraining Order on MOA-AD instigated by some peace saboteurs and politicians like Cotabato Vice Provincial Governor Emmanuel Piňol, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Congressman Teodoro Locsin, Senator Francis Escudero and United Opposition Spokesperson Adel Tamano, to name a few, who have vested interests in Mindanao and some cabinet officials of the government who have been praying that the peace agreement won’t be realized.   Obviously, the government as in the previous dealings with other legitimate revolutionary fronts doesn’t want peace to reign in the Bangsamoro Homeland.The present scenario only reminisces the agonies and miserable experiences of the Bangsamoro in the hands of the Philippine Government that added insult, injury and even attacked the dignity of the Muslims not only in the Philippines but through out the globe.

With this heartless and deliberate act of some demons disguised as politicians and with the strategies of the Philippine government on how to deceive the Bangsamoro People, the Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum (BMYLF), a broadest alliance of Bangsamoro Youth Leaders in Mindanao and in the country is again expressing its doubt on the sincerity of the government to address the problems of the Bangsamoro people.

Therefore, now, more than ever, is the compelling time for all peace-loving citizens of Mindanao especially the Bangsamoro Youth to join hands and become an agent and a catalyst in achieving peace by all means. This is the idea that binds us together in our commitment and desire to have a lasting peace in our own Homeland. Towards this end, we put forward the following commitment and calls:

1.       Condemning in the strongest term Vice Gov. Pinol, Mayor Lobregat, Rep. Locsin and other allies of PGMA who are anti-Moro and renown saboteurs of peace. Indeed, these personalities deserve to be thrown out of Bangsamoro Homeland;

2.       Appealing to the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on the MOA-AD and finally lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in order for the Peace Process to push through the signing;

3.       Reiterating our all-out support to the Moro Revolutionary fronts in the struggle towards the attainment of Freedom and Right to Self Determination of the Bangsamoro People;

4.       Reminding the MILF to be vigilant and cautious in dealing with the Philippine government which is an expert in the art of treachery and fraudulence;

5.       Reiterating further our call for the Bangsamoro People, MNLF and MILF leadership to unite and to revert to the original objective of struggle, which is “independence” of the Bangsamoro people of Mindanao as an option in order to achieve our aspiration for total peace, justice, development and freedom pursuant to the inalienable right as a people being guaranteed by the Charter of the United Nations;

6.       Finally, we appeal to the international Muslim community to help us in pushing the talks forward to attain the kind of peace that we want, not what others want for us.

Irrevocably, the BMYLF shall continue the struggle Fii Sabillah through to the end. Whenever and wherever we are needed, there we must be!

Contact Persons:

Rahib Kudto                                               Ardan D. Sali                    Bobby Benito
National President, UNYPAD                      Secretary General              Executive Director

United Youth for Peace and Development Bangsamoro Youth Assembly  Bangsamoro Center for JustPeace

Out Now! Coalition questions US presence in Baliki war

August 23, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 August) – A group opposing US military presence in the country is questioning the presence of US troops in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato last Sunday and wants the Senate and House of Representatives to probe “increasing US military involvement in Mindanao and US meddling in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.”

The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao made these calls in a statement signed by Philippine Independent Church Bishop Felixberto Calang.

A MindaNews team chanced upon a team of US soldiers and their Filipino counterparts near a detachment of the 38th IB in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17, searching for unexploded 500-pounder GP (general purpose) bombs fired from OV-10 Bronco bomber aircraft on supposed MILF targets the previous Sunday, August 10.

One of two 500-pounder unexploded bombs was detonated by the joint RP-US team.

A Filipino sergeant said the American soldier he escorted and was seen by the MindaNews team, was with three other US troops.

MindaNews asked one of the American soldiers at the Hill Top Inn in Midsayap, where they were billeted, but he said, “I don’t talk to reporters.”

The soldiers went to Baliki on board two silver Toyota Hi-Lux Vigo vehicles with no plate numbers, just a plate bearing the initials “VFA” (for Visiting Forces Agreement).

The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao in a statement said they question “the presence of US troops involved in actual combat operations in pursuit of Moro rebels in Mindanao.”

“The VFA clearly surrenders our national sovereignty and is being used to legalize the wanton exercise of US hegemony in the Philippines through terror-mongering,” it said.

“Next to the February 4 massacre in Maimbung, Sulu where residents claimed to have seen US soldiers accompanying local troops in military operations, the Baliki incident is another proof that the United States has been engaged in actual military intervention in Mindanao wars,” it said.

“While Philippine Army officials try to justify the US troops’ participation as mere assistance in ordinance disposal, this shows that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is blurring the distinction between ‘exercise’ and ‘actual combat’ to legally justify permanent American presence and engagement in Mindanao,” the group said.

“Government’s failure to disclose to the public the Terms of Reference (TOR) governing the presence of US troops in Mindanao, including the docking of US warships like the USS Vandegrift (in Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Mindanao) in March this year, is highly suspect.

”Out Now!-Mindanao is apprehensive that US military presence is part of the US government’s double-edged policy of engagement with the MILF. While it facilitates peace negotiations and provides post-settlement aid package on one hand,  it is engaged in counter-insurgency pursuit operations in the guise of counter-terrorism on the other,” it added. (MindaNews)

Controversy rages over MoA-AD

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 21, 2008─ The debate over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rages on with another Catholic bishop joining the fray.

Speaking at “The Forum,’ a weekly Church-organized media discussion, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez lamented the inability of the government to consult the public and the lack of transparency from the Arroyo administration.

“The people’s right to participate and the people’s right to know were violated by the government,” Gutierrez said.

United Opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano, for his part, regarded the current deal as “immoral, un-Islamic and un-Christian” adding, “We cannot tear this country apart.”

Senator Richard Gordon who sits Chairman of Philippine National Red Cross said “there’s too much categorization” of the problems in southern Philippines.

“We should always remember we are one nation,” Gordon said.

The agreement was supposed to be signed by panels of both parties in Malaysia last August 4 if not because of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

The deal was aimed to bring lasting peace in the war-stricken Mindanao.

Gutierrez claimed that in his diocese, crimes against property were significantly reduced when sustainable agriculture was introduced to the community composed of Moslems, Christians and Lumads.

“The place was well-known for hold-ups but in 2001, all these crimes stopped because they were honestly earning a living,” the prelate said.

He added for farmers had little profit but “they were already free from debts.”

This means, the 69-year old prelate said, that peace and progress come into areas where “people meet their basic needs in life.” (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

Pretense at Generosity with Full Malice by US Imperialism and the Arroyo Regime

August 21, 2008

BY PROF. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has consistently supported the Moro people’s right to self-determination. This ranges from the right to regional autonomy in a non-oppressive state to the right to secede from the oppressive state that exists in the Philippines. Even an individual who finds himself or herself oppressed by a state has the right to separate from it.

In a manner of speaking, the Filipino people and revolutionary forces within the framework of the NDFP and the growing revolutionary organs of political power have seceded or separated themselves from the oppressive semicolonial and semifeudal state system that is ruled by the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class and are striving to build the new people’s democratic state system that is based on the alliance of the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata.

When I read the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that was supposed to be signed by representatives of the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in Malaysia on Aug. 5, 2008, I thought immediately that the contents which appeared to recognize and concretize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and ancestral domain were too good and too generous to be true. The MOA was so contrary to the greedy and brutal character of the GRP, whose presumptions and actuations I have long known in the course of revolutionary struggle and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

It was almost predictable that the signing of the MOA would be aborted. The public release of the draft only a few days before the date of signing was clearly meant to stir up a controversy big enough to cause the abortion. Had the Arroyo regime really meant to push through the MOA, it should have worked it out with the MILF and other interested parties at the latest within the first half of the year or even late last year. But the MOA was never meant to be, either to be signed or to be realized, as GRP officials would reveal.

Top subalterns of the fake and mendacious president such as Ermita, Esperon and Dureza declared that the MOA was just a piece of paper, subject to existing GRP laws, further legislation and constitutional amendment. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. , whom they had consulted all along, also confirmed that the MOA was nothing more than a piece of paper, despite the regime’s rather expensive much ado about it.

The patriotic and progressive forces and the people are reasonably concerned that the MOA had been devised by the untrustworthy and sneaky Arroyo as a way for pushing a charter change to allow her to stay in power beyond 2010, without really having to give substantial concessions to the MILF. But they must look further into the obnoxious joint objectives of the US government  (together with the Japanese and Australian governments) and the Arroyo regime in seeming to be for the MOA and making the MILF believe that the GRP was serious about signing this.

Under the direction of the US State Department, the US Institute of Peace has been busy in carrying out the Philippine Facilitation Project since 2003 in order to help produce something like the MOA.  It is obvious that the US has been out to sidle up to and ingratiate itself with the MILF and the Bangsamoro in order to further strengthen its position in exploiting the human and natural resources of the Bangsamoro and deploying US military forces in  Mindanao.

At this point, the question is: with the signing aborted, is the MOA still useful to the major parties directly involved in drafting or facilitating it? The MILF can continue to use the MOA as a standard or minimum basis for negotiating with the GRP. The GRP or the Arroyo regime can also use the same thing for putting off serious formal negotiations with the MILF and for hyping the need for charter change. Unilaterally or in cahoots with the GRP, the US can use the  high expectations raised by the MOA among the MILF and Bangsamoro to justify US military presence and advance US hegemony in Mindanao.

Certainly, such expectations can never be realised through the kindness of the US and the GRP and without the persevering struggle of the Moro people.The GRP and its imperialist masters are merely using the MOA as a device of pretended generosity to MILF in order to seize the propaganda initiative, to prolong GRP-MILF informal talks and ceasefire and to deploy larger  US and Philippine military forces against  the MILF and the Bangsamoro.

The pretense at generosity is full of malice. It is calculated to outwit and outflank the MILF and the Bangsamoro and to facilitate frontal military attacks against them. They are being left no choice but to wage revolutionary struggle in order to advance their cause of national self-determination. There is a heightened need for the unity, cooperation of the MILF and the NDFP in their distinct and common concerns and causes against the same adversaries. Posted by Bulatlat

Critics Tell GMA: Don’t Use BJE Issue to Push for Cha-Cha

August 21, 2008

Critics say that it is saddening that a landmark agreement, like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is now being used as a tool to revive Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s charter change drive.

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

QUEZON CITY – As the issue of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) supposed to have been signed Aug. 5 by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), stirred a controversy, Malacañang moved to resurrect its proposal for charter change.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the signing of the MOA-AD following petitions by North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, and other local politicians. In the Aug. 10 oral arguments on the petition, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said some of the MOA-AD’s provisions violate the Constitution.

Malacañang has meanwhile expressed support for Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.’s Resolution No. 10, seeking to establish a federal form of government in the Philippines, saying that it is all systems go for Cha-cha and that Cha-cha is all for “genuine and lasting peace” in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, firefights in North Cotabato between government troops and the MILF since the second week of this month have left 35 dead and resulted in more than 135,000 evacuees.

cha-chaMrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been criticized for using the issue of the BJE to advance its own interest, which is the extension of her term.

In a television interview conducted by Umagang Kay Ganda’s (A Very Beautiful Morning) Anthony Taberna last week, Sen. Francis Escudero said that the MOA did not mention anything about federalism.

“Now, the government is using the peace process as an ad lib (to push for Mrs. Arroyo’s term extension),” said Escudero in Filipino.

Different sectors denounce Cha Cha

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) lambasted Malacañang’s renewed attempt to push Cha-cha, coming as it does after the signing of the MOA-AD, which failed to push through.

“Malacañang is railroading the Cha-cha train by riding on Senate Resolution No. 10, introduced by Senate Minority Floor-leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., which seeks the creation of 11 federal states in the country. Mrs. Arroyo is hell-bent on staying in power beyond 2010. So it is not surprising that she will grab every opportunity to justify Cha-cha. I’ve never seen a president that is so power hungry,” says Ferdinand Gaite, Courage’s national president.

“What really makes us furious is that they’ve even used the quest for self-determination of our Muslim brothers and sisters…in advancing their selfish interests,” Gaite said.

Since the beginning, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines) had doubted the sincerity of the Arroyo government in finally recognizing the rights of the Bangsamoro to their homeland.

Himpad Mangumalas, Lumad leader and KAMP spokesman, said in a statement that the government wants to project itself as recognizing the Bangsamoro’s right to their lands but GMA’s track record alone contradicts this self-portrayal.

“The GRP is in no place to claim that they have accepted and re-established their recognition of the rights of the Bangsamoro, we see it as a mere ploy to re-introduce Charter change,” Mangumalas added. Bulatlat

Satur: Domain Pact Could Lay Trap for MILF

August 21, 2008

The Memorandum of Agreemment on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by the GRP and the MILF has a trap laid by the U.S. for the Moro revolutionary group, a progressive legislator said.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

The Memorandum of Agreemment on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has a trap laid by the U.S. for the Moro revolutionary group, a progressive legislator has said. Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna (People First) said the MOA-AD’s provisions on exploitation of resources in the areas that are to comprise the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as part of the deal could lead to U.S. economic control over the region.

Ocampo expressed this view in an Aug. 14 media dialogue on the MOA-AD jointly organized by the Center for Community Journalism and Devopment (CCJD), Mindanao Peoples Caucus, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project in Quezon City. He was among the speakers in the forum, together with Prof. Rudy Rodil, vice chairman of the GRP Peace Panel in the negotiations with the MILF;  Atty. Musib Buat, MILF Peace Panel member; Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus; and Froilan Gallardo, editor-in-chief of Sunstar Cagayan de Oro.

The Bayan Muna representative was referring specifically to the portion of the MOA-AD that states:

“Jurisdiction and control over, and the right of exploring for, exploiting, producing and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, in situ, fossil fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, whether onshore or offshore, is vested in the BJE as the party having control within its territorial jurisdiction, provided that in times of national emergency, when public interest so requires, the Central Government may, during the emergency, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be agreed by both Parties, temporarily assume or direct the operations of such strategic
resources.”

The MOA-AD, of which copies were distributed during the Aug. 5 forum, was to be signed by the GRP and the MILF last Aug. 5, but the Supreme Court on Aug. 4 issued a temporary restraining order on its signing following a petition by North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, supported by another petition filed by Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat and two congressmen.

The MILF, which originated from a faction that broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1978, has been engaged in peace negotiations with the GRP since 1996 – the same year that the MNLF inked a Final Peace Agreement with the GRP.

Most contentious issue

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations with the group.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, prompting lawyer Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

The December deadlock on ancestral domain was followed by a series of clashes between government troops and the MILF, as well as a partial pullout of the Malaysian contingent from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which is tasked with monitoring the implementation of agreements related to the peace talks, as well as development projects in the areas of conflict.

Even as the GRP-MILF conflict showed signs of re-escalation, however, both sides were talking about the possibility of signing an agreement on ancestral domain sometime this year.

On Aug. 5 both parties were to sign the MOA-AD, which seeks to establish a BJE encompassing areas predominantly inhabited by Moros – including the ARMM, which was to serve as the core of the new region. The residents of the areas sought to be covered by the BJE were to vote in a plebiscite sometime in 2009.

But the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the MOA, following petitions filed by Piñol, Lobregat and other local politicians.

“We were wondering why the GRP allowed (in the MOA-AD) provisions on changing the (country’s) legal framework to make possible the establishment of the BJE,” Ocampo said.

U.S. role

The Bayan Muna representative then made reference to the U.S. role in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations. “The U.S. has had a big role in the GRP-MILF peace talks since 2003,” he pointed out.

This statement by Ocampo is confirmed by no less than a report of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a U.S. quasi-government group, on the peace talks. A report written by G. Eugene Martin, executive director of the USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), and Astrid S. Tuminez, the project’s senior research associate, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines: A Summary and Assessment of the Philippine Facilitation Project, 2003-2007” – states that:

“In 2003, the U.S. State Department, seeking to prevent international terrorist groups from exploiting the conflict in the Philippines, engaged the (USIP) to facilitate a peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF. The State Department felt that the Institute’s status as a quasi-governmental, ‘track one-and-a-half’ player would allow it to engage the parties more broadly than an official government entity could. To accomplish its mandate, USIP launched the Philippine Facilitation Project…”

The report by Martin and Tuminez contains references to a May 2003 exchange of letters between then MILF chairman Salamat Hashim (who died July 2003) and U.S. President George W. Bush.

When Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited the U.S. in May 2003, Bush declared that “the United States will provide diplomatic and financial support to a renewed peace process if the MILF will “abandon the path of violence . . . and addresses its grievances through peaceful negotiations.” (The MILF was then resisting government offensives that were part of an all-out war declared by the Arroyo administration.) U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage added that while “the United States absolutely supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines…we also recognize that the people of Mindanao have legitimate aspirations and some grievances.”

Hashim, in response, wrote to Bush on May 20, 2003 stating that the MILF “has repeatedly renounced terrorism publicly as a means of attaining its political ends,” to which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly replied that the U.S. “recognizes that the Muslims of the southern Philippines have serious, legitimate grievances that must be addressed” – while at the same time reiterating that his government “is concerned about the links between the MILF and international terrorist organizations and asks that those links be severed immediately.” Kelly added that if these alleged links were severed, the U.S. would be ready to politically and financially support the GRP-MILF peace talks.

“The U.S. offered the MILF economic assistance to entice them into the peace talks with the GRP,” Ocampo said.

Ancestral domain workshop

The report by Martin and Tuminez relates how the PFP organized and facilitated a workshop on ancestral domain for members of both the GRP and MILF peace panels. States the report:

“PFP Senior Research Associate Astrid S. Tuminez undertook extensive research on the history, substance, and likely trajectories of negotiations over ancestral domain. She wrote a white paper, which was submitted to members of the GRP and MILF peace panels. Subsequently, PFP conducted a three-day workshop on ancestral domain in Mindanao, bringing together members of the GRP peace panel, MILF-designated representatives, and a small group of Mindanao experts and observers to listen to, and interact directly with, international scholars and practitioners who had dealt firsthand with conflicts in their own countries related to ancestral domain (e.g., land, resources, and governance). International participants shared the cases of Native Americans, Maoris, Sri Lankans, Sudanese, Inuits, Northern Irish, and the Bougainvillean peoples. Each expert underlined common threads of conflict over ancestral domain, highlighted successes and failures in negotiations, and analyzed arrangements reached in their respective case studies. None suggested a ‘right way’ of addressing ancestral domain, but all attested to the difficulties associated with negotiations over land, resources, and governance. Several experts also emphasized the need to buttress any ancestral domain agreement with institutions, procedures, and other forms of support toward effective implementation…

After the ancestral domain workshop, Dr. Tuminez wrote a USIP Special Report, ‘Ancestral Domain in Comparative Perspective,’ which became a reference document for the GRP and MILF teams. Copies were provided to the negotiating panels, and discussions were held with panel members and advisers. PFP also sponsored subsequent visits to Manila and Mindanao by international experts on ancestral domain, conflict resolution, and comparative autonomy… PFP also shared with the peace panels analyses, literature summaries, and materials pertinent to ancestral domain, autonomy, and self-determination. When members of the negotiating panels requested assistance on specific issues or source materials, PFP responded promptly. USIP’s initiatives on ancestral domain also motivated the Canadian embassy in Manila to sponsor a visit to Manila and Mindanao by Canadian government officials and leaders of indigenous groups to share their experience on land claims agreements with the government, Moros, and civil society.”

Ocampo said the U.S. involvement even in the issue of ancestral domain, the negotiations for which led to the drafting of the MOA-AD, explains why the Arroyo administration allowed provisions seeking to establish the BJE. “The Arroyo government allowed this agreement because it has the support and involvement of the U.S.,” he said.

Roots of conflict

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” granted to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in 1976. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao Muslims.

Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest.

Liguasan Marsh

Among the main areas claimed by the MILF as part of the Bangsamoro’s ancestral domain is Liguasan Marsh, the country’s biggest wetland, of which they occupy a significant portion.

Covering 288,000 hectares, Liguasan Marsh cuts across four provinces: North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao. The area is rich in oil and natural gas reserves that as yet remain untapped. MNLF founding chairman and former ARMM Gov. Nur Misuari, citing estimates by American oil engineers, said total earnings from the natural gas reserves of the Liguasan Marsh could amount to $580 billion.

Tuminez stressed the importance of the Liguasan Marsh in a USIP presentation she delivered in 2005. “Because of the marsh’s tremendous actual and potential resources, it is likely going to be a focal point of ancestral domain talks,” she said.

Trap

Ocampo stressed that the MILF needs to be vigilant in its negotiations with the GRP particularly on ancestral domain.

“There is a trap for the MILF, laid by the U.S., in the MOA-AD,” he said. “The MILF should be on guard because the gains it expects from the MOA-AD may end up being plundered.” Bulatlat

‘U.S. Envoy Lying’; Critics Hit U.S. Hand in GRP-MILF Peace Talks

August 21, 2008

After a High Court justice branded as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the U.S. Ambassador was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the pact.

But critics have pointed to the prominent role that the U.S. had played in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

After a Supreme Court (SC) justice declared as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the agreement.

Based on news reports, Kenney said she was merely invited to witness the signing of the MOA-AD by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lying

In a statement sent through email, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that Kenney was “blatantly lying” when she said that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the GRP-MILF peace negotiations nor with the controversial MOA-AD.

Sison said that Kenney has worked closely with the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in “steering the course of GRP-MILF peace negotiations for the sake of US interests.”

The USIP is a quasi-government institution funded by the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the board is J. Robinson West who is chairman of PFC Energy, Washington. Members ex-officio are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project is G. Eugene Martin, a retired diplomat who once served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Sison said that the Special Report 202 by the USIP, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines” http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr202.html proves that Kenney is lying. The said report is a summary and assessment of the USIP Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP). The report declares, “In 2003 the US State Department …engaged the USIP to facilitate a peace agreement between the GRP and the MILF.”

The report states, “Despite the challenges, USIP managed to build productive relationships with both the GRP and MILF, helped the parties come up with creative solutions to stubborn issues of ancestral domain, and started dialogue between disparate Moro ethnic groups… Through its activities, USIP introduced concepts and approaches that were useful to both government and MILF peace panels.”

In a separate statement, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said the USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Inuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. He said, “The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with U.S. interests.”

U.S. interests

Sison slammed the U.S., saying it is not interested in a just and lasting peace in either the Bangsamoro land or the entire Philippines. “It is interested solely or mainly in advancing U.S. interests amidst conditions of armed conflict. It merely pretends to facilitate the GRP-MILF peace negotiations when its sees big advantages in doing so.”

Sison noted that the USIP report is quite frank in admitting the selfish interests of the U.S. The report states, “Today’s complex diplomatic landscape increasingly requires new tools and techniques of conflict management, including quasi- and nongovernmental actors, to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. Because of its ability to deal with non-state actors and sensitive issues underlying civil conflict, USIP can be a useful instrument for advancing U.S. interests.”

Sison said that Kenney frequently travels to Mindanao and oversees U.S. interests there, including U.S. direct investments, military forces and pseudo-development projects. “The Filipino people know that the U.S. covets the oil and other natural resources of Mindanao and wants to establish U.S. military bases there to protect U.S. imperial interests,” he said.

Bayan’s Reyes cited the $100-million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu by American oil giant Exxon Mobil as an example of the interests being protected by the U.S.

Reyes also noted that the USIP report also states that the U.S. embassy coordinated with the U.S. Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The report, Reyes said, describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include ‘diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.’

The Bayan leader said that this could mean that the U.S. government is also open to direct military intervention.

Arroyo, liable

Reyes said that the Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported U.S. intervention in peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.

Reyes said, “Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Citing the USIP report, Reyes said Arroyo had three meetings with the USIP officials.

Based on the report, a PFP delegation met with Arroyo in August 2003. It also states that when Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute.

The report also cites that Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with Arroyo in California after her 2004 election “to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

”The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention,” said Reyes.

Cha-cha

He deemed, “Arroyo and U.S. interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of U.S. investments in Mindanao.”

Reyes said the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change. The report states that some provisions in the MOA-AD might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Reyes said, “The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.” Bulatlat

Arroyo temper flares up again

August 20, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:58:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s famous temper flashed yet again on Monday, in full view of members of the media.

Journalists assigned to the Palace had just arrived from covering the installation of the bust of ex-Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 when word spread that Ms Arroyo was to give a statement on the Moro rebel attacks in Lanao del Norte, according to the account of Philippine Daily Inquirer photographer Lyn Rillon.

The journalists proceeded to the press briefing room at the New Executive Building (NEB). As they ran up the stairs to the second floor, they met the President dressed in a yellow Callaway golf suit.

Ms Arroyo went direct to the briefing room, where the crew of Radio-TV Malacañang (RTVM) was hurriedly setting up its equipment, and sat on the lone chair on the platform.

“Where is the teleprompter?” she said. And then, apparently annoyed that it was not yet in place, she rose and walked out of the room.

Flurry of activity

It was a little past noon, according to Rillon.

The room was a flurry of activity. An RTVM member said the teleprompter had just been brought back from NAIA 3 and was in transit to the NEB.

A close-in officer of the Presidential Security Group stepped in and out of the room, inquiring urgently how much more time it would take to set up the teleprompter, and requesting to be informed so he could tell Ms Arroyo.

“Sabihan nyo kami para ma-feedback namin,” the officer said.

Fifteen minutes or so, someone said.

Another RTVM member hurried to hang the presidential seal on the blue wall directly behind Ms Arroyo’s chair.

Hoping to catch the President as she walked through the door from a passageway connecting the NEB to the Premier Guest House, Rillon took a position at the end of the narrow corridor.

This was how the photographer narrated the encounter:

Ms Arroyo came through the door, saw Rillon aiming the camera at her, and said in a raised voice: “Huwag mo akong kuhanan ng litrato (Don’t take my picture)!”

Surprised at the unexpected anger, Rillon stepped back and Ms Arroyo swept past.

Take 2, 3

In the briefing room, the President curtly announced that there would be no press conference but just a taping of her statement on the fighting in Kolambugan.

Then she again appeared impatient and asked for the teleprompter: “Where is it now?”

She stood up, strode through the side door straight to the cramped control room at the back of the briefing area, where RTVM personnel were setting up the audio and video systems, and walked out again.

It took 10 more minutes for the Palace staff to get the camera and teleprompter in place.

When she entered the room for the third time, Ms Arroyo was flushed.

She delivered a statement condemning attacks by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on some towns in Lanao del Norte. She announced an emergency National Security Council (NSC) meeting in Malacañang, then, she quickly left the room.

Later, her image director Lupita Kashiwahara explained that the taping of Ms Arroyo’s statement was to have been done in the Palace’s Rizal Hall but that miscommunication led to its being held in the briefing room, with members of the media as audience but no questions allowed.

‘Very normal reaction’

Defending his boss’ show of temper, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza Tuesday said Ms Arroyo merely wanted to send her message to the troops right away.

Dureza said that early on Monday following the MILF attacks, Ms Arroyo had already wanted to issue her statement and directives.

“She was insistent on immediately getting her orders and clear message out because things were happening badly in Lanao del Norte at that time,” Dureza said.

He described Ms Arroyo’s behavior as “a very normal reaction coming from a President who is facing a big disturbance there in Lanao, and she wanted her message immediately out and announced.”

No laptop throwing

“That presidential announcement being an hour or 30 minutes late can mean a lot on the ground,” he added.

Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia also denied that Ms Arroyo had thrown a laptop in disgust.

“Contrary to the TV report, there was no such laptop-throwing incident,” said Capadocia, who was with the President during the taping of her statement. Reports from Lyn Rillon and Christine O. Avendaño

================

My Take:

Now, that’s our President.

So never wonder why she runs our country like mad.

Oops. I did not say she’s crazy huh? 🙂

4,000 families cross Pangil Bay to seek refuge in Ozamiz

August 20, 2008

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:23:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—More than 4,000 families have fled their homes in Lanao del Norte and crossed over to Misamis Occidental after Moro rebels went on a rampage on Monday, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said Tuesday.

Some 4,700 families from Lanao del Norte sought refuge in Ozamiz City, the capital of neighboring Misamis Occidental, staying in evacuation centers there, Cabral said.

“Our regional staff in both Regions 10 and 12 are conducting stress debriefing and counseling to the evacuees,” she said in an interview by phone.

Another 6,600 families displaced by Monday’s violence in Kauswagan, Kolambugan, Maigo and Bacolod in Lanao del Norte fanned out across the province. Of these, 1,500 families took shelter in evacuation centers in Iligan City, Cabral said.

Another 300 families and 320 families fled their homes in Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, respectively, after Monday’s violence and sought refuge in evacuation centers in safe areas, according to her.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday ordered a massive humanitarian effort for the displaced residents of Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.

The President has asked Cabral and Health Secretary Francisco Duque to “personally oversee intervention measures,” according to Press Secretary Jesus Dureza.

Ms Arroyo also ordered the National Disaster Coordinating Council to release funds for relief and rehabilitation of affected families.

“The Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Highways were directed to inspect, assess and immediately take action to rebuild destroyed structures,” Dureza said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development was delivering P2 million worth of provisions, such as rice, canned goods, packs of noodles and dried fish to the thousands of evacuees.

This was on top of P3.8 million allocated for the purchase of food provisions of an earlier batch of evacuees in North Cotabato.

Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima said she also requested assistance from the European Commission for the displaced persons in Mindanao.

“We’ve requested relief aids such as tents, potable water, medicine and the like,” De Lima said in a text message. “They offered aid last week, and was simply awaiting assessment of the CHR through the special team dispatched to Cotabato.”

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, said volunteers had been barred from entering some conflict areas “for their safety” due to the fighting.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said aid and health workers were “at risk” of being victims of the war.

“We are all affected. We have made emergency measures and all hospitals have been on heightened alert,” he said.

The delivery of relief and medical supplies could have been faster, Gordon said.

But since there are no airports in the cities of Ozamiz and Iligan cities, Red Cross had to have the supplies brought to the airport in Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, Gordon said. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Kristine L. Alave

MOA deal off, SolGen tells high tribunal

August 20, 2008

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:22:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The deal’s off.

A day after guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rampaged in Mindanao, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera Tuesday told the Supreme Court that “circumstances have changed” since the aborted deal with the rebel group two weeks ago.

Devanadera noted the outbreak of fighting in some areas of Mindanao and the MILF’s occupation of towns in Lanao del Norte province that had led to the deaths of 40 civilians.

In a six-page statement, she urged the court to dismiss the case filed by local officials in Mindanao questioning the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain with the MILF.

“The issuance by the honorable court of a temporary restraining order, coupled by present conditions in some areas in Mindanao dictate that the MOA, in its present form, must undergo a thorough review. In fact, the executive department will pursue further negotiations with the MILF to address the issues hurled against the MOA,” Devanadera said.

She said that the administration was “clearly not insensitive” to the views aired by some justices during the oral arguments on the case on Friday.

Justice Antonio Carpio said that several provisions in the MOA clashed with the Constitution. Justice Adolf Azcuna described the accord as “patently illegal.”

Devanadera said that further negotiations with the MILF would “necessitate consultation with various stakeholders, including those who will be affected by the expansion of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”

Petitioners told to comment

In an en banc session Tuesday, the court ordered the petitioners to file their comment on Devanadera’s manifestation not later than 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The court, which on Aug. 4 stopped the signing of the MOA in Malaysia, resumes hearing oral arguments for the case on Friday.

Local officials in Mindanao, later joined by senators and concerned groups, had petitioned the court to stop the agreement aimed at ending four decades of civil strife in Mindanao that had left more than 120,000 people dead and 2 million uprooted.

The officials said they were not consulted on the deal, hammered out in secrecy in talks under the auspices of Kuala Lumpur. They also feared that the expanded Moro homeland envisioned in the accord amounted to the dismemberment of the Philippine republic and the creation of an independent state.

Devanadera noted that the administration had been consistent in its position that the MOA was “merely a codification of consensus points reached between both parties and the aspirations of the MILF to have a Bangsamoro homeland.”

She said this could only be achieved “by complying with the existing legal processes such as the enactment of appropriate legislation, amendment of the Constitution itself as well as the holding of a plebiscite,” she added.

Following the scuttled signing on Aug. 5 of the MOA, the MILF said that the draft accord was a “done deal.” Moro rebels went on the offensive. Guerrillas pillaged towns in North Cotabato, ambushed an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur, and raided five towns in Lanao del Sur and Sarangani provinces.

MILF spokespersons said that raids were launched by commanders disenchanted by the government’s failure to carry out the accord.

Special meeting

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called a special meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Council on Friday to discuss the situation in Mindanao and the peace process, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Tuesday.

He said that the opposition and sectors that would be affected by the expanded Bangsamoro homeland would be invited to the meeting.

“I think the situation is serious enough for the President to call for a multisectoral, and a wide-ranging group of leaders who can advise on this particular problem that is currently afflicting Mindanao,” said Dureza, a former peace adviser.

Dureza took exception to the statement by MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar that the MILF could not control its men after the MOA was stopped.

“It shows it is a possibility that they are also using this as a pressure tactic on government,” he said. “So if it’s a pressure tactic on government, we should never allow it.”

“We want to know if we are to sign a peace agreement, if this is for real or maybe just a game,” Dureza said.

MILF: No to renegotiation

Jaafar Tuesday rejected talk of renegotiating the MOA “even if it means an indefinite postponement of the 11-year-old peace process.” He said that the agreement was an “acceptable” product of hard work and not of overnight negotiations.

He said that the attacks in Mindanao by MILF commanders were an expression of impatience over the stalled accord.

“This angered some of our field leaders, they thought that the efforts to bring about peace in Mindanao had been lost,” Jaafar said.

But he said the MILF was not justifying the wrong doings of Commander Bravo and Commander Ombra Kato who led the attacks in Mindanao.

“We will discipline them, we will punish them after due course,” Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, said in a separate interview.

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters Tuesday that the peace process could only be sustained by developments on the ground, “if we can say we can still enforce the laws.”

“But if these [attacks] continue, it might be hard to sell the idea of peace if they can’t control their people,” said Esperon in a brief interview at the airport on his return from an undisclosed mission in Malaysia.

“Despite all these things, we must never give up on peace. The peace process must continue,” Esperon said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said that the conduct of the peace talks should be thoroughly reviewed, “especially the aspect on whether the people they are negotiating with are in full control of the forces they represent.”

“The way it appears some factions do not follow the cue and just go on rampage on their own. So we may be talking peace but they may have another agenda,” Nograles said.

Senate President Manuel Villar said that it would be impossible to hold the peace talks in view of the MILF’s attacks.

“It is clear that the MILF has no hold on its men, so who will the government talk to for peace?” Villar asked. As far as he was concerned, Villar said the ceasefire was not in effect because the AFP has to fight back and show who was in control in Mindanao.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said the government should abandon the peace process and hunt down the MILF guerrillas. “The only remaining act of government is to officially declare that the MILF is now categorized as terrorists, like the Abu Sayyaf,” Biazon said.

Biazon and five other senators issued a statement urging the Arroyo administration “to immediately restore law and order, taking a proactive stand to degrade the military capability of the rebels and thereby prevent further loss of lives of the innocent as well as of our troops.”

The statement was also signed by Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal and Manuel Roxas II.

Sen. Allan Cayetano also said the government should now reexamine how to categorize the MILF. “Are they rebels fighting for a political cause? Are they terrorists?” Cayetano said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the government should not resume negotiations until the status of the commanders behind the rash of violence in the MILF hierarchy was clear.

$25-M US aid stands

Also Tuesday, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney told reporters that Washington’s $25-million peace assistance to the Philippines was still available.

“It’s my strongest hope that no one sees violence as a way to peace. An important thing for all of us in the Philippines is to find the right framework for lasting peace in Mindanao,” Kenney said. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Norman Bordadora, Tarra Quismundo and Cynthia D. Balana and Inquirer Mindanao

====================

My Take:

I told you so.

The Mindanao war initiated by the gvernment is their way out of their very own MOA-AD mess.

Hah!

Editorial Cartoon: On the MOA-AD

August 18, 2008

Screwing Mindanao

Jihad At Bangsamoro

August 17, 2008

Rogelio L. Ordoñez

BATAY sa maniobra ng mga basalyos ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, maliwanag na ginagamit lamang na instrumento ng Reyna ng Malakanyang ang usapin ng Bangsamoro upang makapanatili siya sa poder matapos man ang kanyang termino ng panunungkulan sa 2010. Alam na alam nila na kung hindi pansamantalang ipinatigil ng Korte Suprema at natuloy agad ang pirmahan ng kasunduan sa Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia kamakailan sa pagitan ng mga kinatawan ng MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) at ng Republika ng Pilipinas na magpapalawig sa teritoryong bumubuo ngayon sa ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) na magiging isang nagsasariling Bangsamoro, hindi naman agad maipatutupad ang mga nilalaman ng naturang kasunduan. Kailangan pang lumikha ng isang batas ang Kongreso, magdaos ng isang plebisito at susugan o baguhin ang Konstitusyon ng bansa upang maisakatuparan ang pagkakaroon ng isang Bangsamoro na may sariling lehislatura, hukuman at pulisya, at karapatang makinabang sa likas na mga kayamanan sa katutubong lupain (ancestral land) ng mga Muslim doon.

Katunayan, binigyang-diin ni Sekretaryo Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., tagapayong pangkapayapaan ni La Gloria, na “hindi sakop ng kasalukuyang Konstitusyon ang pagkakaloob ng kapangyarihan sa BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) na mangulekta ng lokal na buwis, magkaroon ng administratibong hurisdiksiyon, at kontrolin ang mga minahan at iba pang likas na yaman sa sakop ng lupain nilang katutubo.” Samakatuwid, ayon na rin sa kanya, kailangang susugan o baguhin ng Kongreso ang kasalukuyang Konstitusyon at ganito rin ang opinyon ni Rodolfo Garcia, punong negosyador ng gobyerno hinggil sa kapayapaan. Idinagdag pa nga ni Esperon na “hindi kasarinlan” ang ipagkakaloob ng gobyerno sa Bangsamoro kundi gagawin lamang itong “isang estado sa loob ng isang estado” na tinatawag na pederalismo.

Sapagkat, noon pa man, isinusulong na ng kasalukuyang rehimen ang Cha-Cha (Charter Change) o pagbabago sa Konstitusyon at gawing parlamentaryo/pederal/may isang kapulungan — hindi na presidensiyal — ang sistema ng gobyerno at, kung maaari, magawa ito bago matapos ang termino ni La Gloria, hindi tuloy maiwasang hinalain ngayon na talagang hindi ang paglutas sa problema ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw ang layunin ng kasalukuyang rehimen kundi, sa kabilang banda, ang minimithing Cha-Cha sa udyok na rin ng makasarili’t gahamang interes sa kapangyarihan. Kung parlamentaryo na nga ang sistema ng gobyerno, kuwalipikado pang muling maging presidente o punong ministro si La Gloria. Puwede ring palawigin ng bastardong mga pulitiko ang termino ng kanilang panunungkulan. Higit sa lahat, sa dikta ng imperyalismong Amerikano, aalisin sa bagong Konstitusyon ang mga limitasyon upang makapagmay-ari na ng mga lupain dito ang dayuhang mga kapitalista, 100% makontrol ang mga korporasyon at pasukin maging ang pambayang mga utilidades — tubig at kuryente, telekomunikasyon at transportasyon, at maging “mass media,” mga ospital, mga kolehiyo at unibersidad na, kung tutuusin, talagang dapat na hawak o kontrolado lamang ng mga Pilipino alang-alang, unang-una, sa pambansang seguridad at makabayang ekonomiya.

Dahil nilalaro lamang sa dulo ng mga daliri ng pambansang liderato ang usapin ng Bangsamoro, at tinitingnan pa ng maraming pulitiko sa apektadong mga lugar sa Mindanaw na tunggalian ito sa pagitan ng mga Muslim at mga Kristiyano — halimbawa sa Hilagang Kotabato , Zamboanga at Iligan, lalo’t susuriin ang mga pahayag at hakbang ng lokal na mga opisyal doon – maaari tuloy mauwi sa armadong mga karahasan o sagupaan ang bagay na ito. Maliwanag naman na tutol lamang sila sa pagkakaroon ng isang Bangsamoro dahil mababawasan ang kanilang pampulitikang teritoryo at limpak-limpak na pakinabang sa puwesto tulad din ng pagtutol ng dayuhang mga kapitalistang namumunini sa likas na mga kayamanan ng Mindanaw at, ipinagdaralita naman, sa kabilang banda, ng libu-libong pamilyang Muslim doon.

Bakit nga ba nagrebelde, at patuloy na nagrerebelde, ang kapatid nating mga Muslim sa Mindanaw? Kung uugatin, hindi ito kuwestiyon lamang ng usapin sa teritoryo o kultura o paniniwalang panrelihiyon kundi, higit sa lahat, malubhang usapin ito ng labis na kapabayaan at kainutilan ng gobyerno — ngayon at noon pa mang nagdaang mga rehimen — na paunlarin ang Mindanaw kaya atrasado at alipin ng karalitaan at inhustisya ang maraming lugar doon. Hindi maikakaila, ilang grupo lamang ng maimpluwensiya’t makapangyarihang mga tao, kasama na ang mapandambong na dayuhang mga kapitalista, ang lubos na nakikinabang sa likas na mga kayamanan ng lugar sa kapinsalaan, unang-una, ng libu-libong pamilyang Muslim. Masisisi ba, kung gayon, na mithiin ng mga Muslim na magkaroon sila ng isang nagsasariling Bangsamoro upang pangalagaan ang kanilang kapakanan at kinabukasan?

Dahil sa ipinamamalas na armadong tunggalian ngayon ng mga puwersa ng gobyerno at ng MILF — na ginagatungan pa nga ang apoy ng iresponsableng mga pahayag ng lokal na mga opisyal doon upang tingnan ang lahat bilang labanan ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano – hindi tuloy malayong mauwi sa banal na pakikidigma o jihad ang pakikibaka ng kapatid nating mga Muslim tungo sa kanilang mithiing pamahalaan ang kanilang sarili sa pamamaraang angkop sa kanilang mga pangangailangan at kultura at pangalagaan at pakinabangan, higit sa lahat, ang likas na yaman ng lupain nilang katutubo na pinagpapasasaan lamang ng mapandambong na interes ng iilang piling grupo ng mga tao.

Sa maikling salita, hindi dapat laruin lamang — at guluhin — ng pambansang liderato ang usapin ng Bangsamoro o gawin lamang itong instrumento ng kanilang makasarili’t gahamang interes sa kapangyarihan. Kapag nagkataon, higit na magiging masalimuot ang lahat — at hindi kayang lutasin maging ng susunod na rehimen — kung mauwi sa jihad ang lahat. Kung dahas pa rin ang itutugon ng pamahalaan sa lehitimong mithiin ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw, panahon na marahil na maunawaan ng pambansang liderato ang napakahaba nang kasaysayan ng kanilang banal na pakikidigma o tinatawag na jihad.

Sa simula pa ng kasaysayan ng Islam, kakambal na nito ang pakikidigma. Sinakop ng propetang si Mohammed ang Mecca sa pamamagitan ng dahas. Nakipaglaban siya sa siyam na pakikidigma at iniutos ang marami pang ibang mga pakikipaglaban. Nang idikta niya ang mga nilalaman ng Koran, malinaw na inilahad na makatuwiran ang armadong jihad bilang kasangkapan ng ebanghelismo, bagaman ipinahihintulot din ang di-marahas na jihad sa pamamagitan ng puso, dila at kamay.

Pinagkaisa noon ng bagong pananampalatayang ito — na tinatayang halos milyon na ngayon ang mga tagasunod — ang marahas na mga tribong Bedou ng peninsulang Arabiano, at sila ang naging panagupang tropa sa mga pakikidigma para sa Islam. Matapos mamatay si Mohammed noong taong 632, naglunsad ng sunud-sunod at waring walang katapusang mga jihad ang mga kalipang humalili sa kanya, una laban sa mga tribong tumalikod sa Islam at pagkatapos ay laban sa mga kanugnog-bansa. Mabilis na nasakop ng hukbong Bedou ang Syria, Iraq, Palestina, Ehipto at Persia (Iran ngayon). Isinulong ang jihad hanggang Hilagang Aprika at Espanya at nasugpo ang paglaganap noong 732 sa napabantog na labanan sa Tours, Pransiya.

Noong mga unang taon ng 1900, sa pamamagitan ng madugong mga jihad, nanalasa ang hukbong Wahhabi Bedou, minasaker ang mga kalaban ng Islam, hanggang maitayo nila ang makabago ngayong kaharian ng Saudi Arabia. Bago ito, sa ibang panig ng mundo, dumanak din ng dugo dahil sa mga jihad.

Noong mga 1880, sa rehiyong Nile ng Sudan, ipinoroklama ni Muhammad Ahmad ang sarili bilang Mahdi o pinapatnubayan ng banal na espiritu at nagdeklara siya ng jihad laban sa mga “hindi nananampalataya” at dinurog ng kanyang puwersa ang 10,000 sundalo ng hukbo ng Ehipto, nilipol pagkatapos ang mga nagtanggol sa Khartoum, kabilang ang Ingles na heneral na tinawag na “Chinese” Gordon. Pagkamatay ni Ahmad, itinuloy ng pumalit sa kanya ang banal na pakikidigma hanggang talunin ng magkasanib na hukbong Ingles-Ehipto ang puwersa nito. Sa loob lamang ng isang araw, 20,000 Mahdista ang napatay ng isang pangkat ng naturang hukbo na nasa ilalim ni Sir Herbert Kitchener at ng isang batambatang opisyal na si Winston Churchill dahil sa kanilang mga baril na Maxim o “machine gun” ngayon.

Batay sa nabanggit na kasaysayan ng mga jihad, dahas pa rin ba ang itutugon ng pamahalaan sa lumulubhang usapin ng Bangsamoro? Lubhang napapanahon na nga na matapat na harapin ng pambansang liderato — hindi laruin at gawing tuntungan ng makasariling mga interes — ang pakikipagnegosasyon sa MILF upang malutas ang deka-dekada na ring rebelyon ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw. Higit sa lahat, hindi dapat ipinta sa mata ng sambayanan ng ambisyoso’t bastardong mga pulitiko na tunggalian ito ng Muslim at Kristiyano upang hindi mauwi sa jihad ang lahat. Panahon nang aminin, at lunasan ng mga kinauukulan, na nag-ugat ang lahat-lahat sa kapabayaan at kainutilan ng pamahalaan na isulong ang kaunlaran ng Mindanaw noon pa man. Mananatiling nakabalandra ang mukha ng rebelyon doon hanggang biktima ng karalitaan at inhustisya ang kapatid nating mga Muslim sa naturang rehiyon.(PinoyWeekly)

Konteksto: Anomalya sa estruktura

August 17, 2008

Danilo Araña Arao

IBA ang intensiyon sa nakasulat sa teksto. Kabaligtaran ng opisyal na pahayag ang aktuwal na adyenda.

Hindi man lubusang nauunawaan ang mga partikular na probisyon ng MOA (memorandum of agreement) sa pagitan ng gobyerno at MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), madaling makita ng ordinaryong mamamayan ang iregularidad hindi lang sa aktuwal na proseso kundi sa kasalukuyang estruktura ng pamamahala.

Unang una, bakit tila napakaikling panahon at minadali pa ang pagbubuo ng nasabing MOA? Kung noon ay napakahabang diskusyon ang nangyari bago bigyan ng awtonomiya ang mga probinsiyang bahagi ng Cordillera at ng Muslim Mindanao, bakit ngayon ay basta na lang bumulaga ang balita tungkol sa pagbibigay ng hiwalay na estado sa ilang bahagi ng Mindanao?

Kung pagbabatayan ang pahayag ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, ang MOA ay isang malaking tagumpay sa prosesong pangkapayapaan. Pero hindi natin masisisi ang mamamayan kung duda pa rin sila sa adyenda ng mga nasa kapangyarihan.

Hindi na kailangang maging dalubhasa sa agham pampulitika para malamang ang sistema ng gobyerno sa kasalukuyan ay hindi akma para magbigay ng isang hiwalay na estado sa isang rehiyon o anumang bahagi ng bansa. Kung tutuusin nga, masasabing problemado ang ibinigay na awtonomiya sa dalawang rehiyon dahil hindi dapat na nangyayari ito sa ilalim ng isang presidential system.

Sa konteksto ng pagbibigay ng anumang porma ng awtonomiya, alam nating lahat na hindi lang magkakaroon ng estruktural na anomalya kung magkakaroon ng sistemang pederal (federal system) sa ating bansa.

Pero hindi tulad ng isyung MOA na basta na lang nabalita ang nakatakdang pirmahan sa Malaysia at kinailangan ang mabilisang desisyon ng Korte Suprema para pansamantalang itigil ito, matagal nang debate ang pagbabago sa sistema ng pamahalaan. May nagnanais na baguhin ito para magkaroon ng sistemang parlamento sa Pilipinas at may naninindigan naman para sa sistemang pederal.

Sa kabila ng mga pahayag ng mga nagtataguyod ng pagbabago sa sistema ng gobyerno na walang intensiyong palawigin ang termino ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, hindi pa rin maiwasang mag-isip nang ganito ang mga mamamayan. Dahil sa napakaraming isyu ng korupsiyon at iba pang katiwalian laban sa kanya, siguradong hinihintay ng napakaraming grupo ang kanyang pagbaba sa puwesto para sampahan siya ng kaso.

Matatapos ang kanyang termino sa taong 2010 at maraming nagsasabing ginagawa niya ang lahat para palawigin pa ang kanyang termino. Ang pagbibigay ng hiwalay na estado sa Muslim Mindanao ay tinitingnan tuloy bilang isang paraan para isulong ang pagbabago sa Saligang Batas para magkaroon ng isang sistemang pederal. At kung magkakaroon ng pagbabago sa sistema ng gobyerno, malamang na hindi na magkakaroon ng legal na balakid para mapatagal pa sa puwesto hindi lang si Macapagal-Arroyo kundi ang mga tauhan niya.

Kailangang tandaang noong panahon ng Batas Militar, binago rin ni dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos ang sistema ng gobyerno para maging parlamento. Pero nakakatawa ang ibinunga nito dahil ang Pilipinas ay nagkaroon ng Presidente (Marcos) at Punong Ministro (Cesar Virata). May anomalya man sa estruktura noon, nagpatuloy pa rin ang kalakaran dahil ang malinaw na adyenda naman ng administrasyon noon ay bigyan ng legal na batayan ang diktadura.

Sa kasalukuyang panahon, ang mga anomalya sa estruktura ay repleksiyon ng pagsusulong ng pansariling interes ng mga nasa kapangyarihan. Hindi tuloy masisisi ang mga mamamayan kung sa bawat plano ng pamahalaan ay may pagdududa sila.

Para makipag-ugnayan sa awtor, pumunta sa http://www.dannyarao.com.(PinoyWeekly)

The MOA, the Cha-Cha, and the US Ambassador

August 17, 2008

So much controversy has surrounded the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Instead of engendering peace, it has led to the escalation of the conflict; instead of bringing about unity and the community of peoples, it has led to tensions between the MILF and the affected communities of North Cotabato. Events became clearer when suddenly the Arroyo government began pushing for charter change purportedly to achieve peace in Mindanao; and US ambassador Kristie Kenney showed up in the aborted signing of the MoA in Malaysia.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, no. 28, August 17-23, 2008

So much controversy has surrounded the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In stead of engendering peace, it has led to the escalation of the conflict; in stead of bringing about unity and the community of peoples, it has led to tensions between the MILF and the affected communities of North Cotabato, no less aided by the word war between Vice Gov. Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol and ‘peace’ adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

The controversy came to a head with the declaration of the Arroyo government that it’s “all systems go” for charter change, purportedly to initiate the shift to federalism to accommodate the demands of the MILF for autonomy. This stirred the hornet’s nest.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joker Arroyo raised questions regarding the presence of US Ambassador Kristie Kenney in the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement with the MILF in Malaysia. Quick to the defense was Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez who castigated people for questioning the presence of Ambassador Kenney, which to him was normal.

Clearly, there are three interested parties in the ongoing negotiations between the government and the MILF.

First is the MILF and the Bangsamoro people.

The struggle of the Bangsamoro people for their right to self-determination dates back to the American colonial period. It was revived with the Jabidah massacre and the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1968. The armed conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MNLF erupted upon the declaration of Martial Law. The Organization of Islamic Conference intervened and pushed for peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF.

Talks between the GRP and the MNLF gained some ground with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which declared the ”establishment of Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.” The “areas of autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines”, as provided for by the Tripoli agreement are Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Palawan, and “all the cities and villages situated in the above-mentioned areas.” The autonomous government would have had a Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council. Courts implementing the Islamic Shari’a laws would have been set-up. And they should have had their own economic and financial system. In addition, a “reasonable percentage” derived from revenues from mines and mineral resources should have been allotted “for the benefit of the areas of autonomy.”

But it was only in 1996 when the Final Peace Agreement was signed. According to the agreement, Phase 1, lasting three years, began with the issuance of the Executive Order establishing the Special Zone of Peace and Development and the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development. Phase II should have involved the amendment or repeal of the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or RA 6734. In a plebiscite in November 2001 only Marawi city and Basilan (except Isabela city) elected to be part of the ARMM.

It took 20 years from the signing of the Tripoli agreement before a Final Peace Agreement was sealed. And after more than ten years after the Final Peace Agreement was forged, seemingly the implementation has barely gone beyond Phase 1. The implementation or non-implementation of the Final Peace Agreement has been a constant source of tension between the GRP and the MNLF and has led to sporadic fighting between AFP and MNLF forces.

Without settling the problems in the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, the Arroyo government entered into a MoA with the MILF covering the same areas. The past few weeks manifested the sincerity, or rather the lack of it, of the Arroyo government in responding to the historic demand of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination. The Arroyo government made a show of insisting on the MoA with the MILF while leaving the MNLF – which is waiting for the long overdue review of the implementation of the peace agreement – hanging in the balance, and at the same time, pushing through with the ARMM elections with its political allies in Mindanao taking control over the ARMM. By doing so it is dividing the Bangsamoro people.

Worse, it is trying to provoke a conflict between Moro and Christian communities by making the MILF believe that the MoA is a done deal while keeping the provisions of the agreement a secret thereby unsettling Christian and Lumad communities.

And for what? A lot of people think the Arroyo government is merely providing an excuse for pushing for charter change to keep itself in power beyond 2010. Obviously, the Arroyo government is the second interest group. It claims that its only purpose in pushing for charter change is to achieve peace in Mindanao. But its actions belie its supposed intentions.

If it genuinely wanted to achieve peace in Mindanao, it could have settled the unresolved issues with the MNLF early on. This is not to say that the MNLF and MILF are one and the same and that solving the problems with the implementation of the MNLF peace agreement would likewise resolve the conflict with the MILF. But if the government was not able to implement the peace agreement with the MNLF, which required less concessions from it, how can it be relied on to implement the MoA with the MILF? Besides both the MNLF and the MILF are working for the benefit of the whole Bangsamoro people. Which brings us to the next point.

Why is it that after more than 30 years of the Tripoli agreement and more than ten years after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, the Bangsamoro people remain marginalized, oppressed and in a deteriorating state of poverty? How could things be different if the MoA and a final peace agreement is signed with the MILF? If the government is serious in working for peace and development in Mindanao it could have addressed the problems of marginalization and poverty besetting the Bangsamoro people early on. But it did not. And now it is suddenly concerned with peace in Mindanao. Did it experience an epiphany of sorts that it suddenly decided to become magnanimous or is the government taking the MILF for a ride? Why is it in a hurry to forge a deal with less than two years before it is supposed to step down? Why is there a sudden urgent need to shift to a federal system of government?

This government has never been known to uphold democratic processes or people’s rights. On the contrary, during the last seven years of its rule, all it did was to keep itself in power at all costs through political maneuvering and through bribing, rewarding and accommodating politically its allies, and harassing, killing and abducting its critics. Perhaps that is not all it did because it has also been involved in numerous corruption scandals. That is why, it is to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s interest to keep itself in power beyond 2010 or to at least ensure that an ally would succeed her

The third interested party is the US. More than half of aid from the US government is pouring into Mindanao. US troops have established a continuous presence in Mindanao since 2001 through the Balikatan joint military exercises as well as for “trainings” through the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines. The US is as interested in bringing democracy and development to the Bangsamoro people as much as it does with the Iraqi and Afghan people. After all, the Philippines was declared by the US as the “second front in the war against terror.”

The positioning of the US in Mindanao is all about geopolitics, securing US interests in the region, and access to the island’s rich natural resources, including oil and natural gas. The report that Eid Kabalu of the MILF hinted that US authorities approached them to secure their agreement to the establishment of US bases in Mindanao once a final peace agreement is forged is not surprising.

The Bangsamoro people is dealing with forces that have oppressed it for centuries, the US and the GRP. Worse, it is dealing with an administration that knows no bounds in its greed for power and wealth, and does not respect any institution or process in its efforts at political survival. It is also dealing with the almighty US that is deeply in crisis and is preoccupied not with spreading democracy and development but with asserting its political-military hegemony and protecting its economic interests. The involvement of the US in Mindanao is not about development, it is about its self-proclaimed “war on terror.” The motive of the Arroyo government is not to grant genuine autonomy to the Bangsamoro people but to perpetuate itself in power. And they have been pitting the Bangsamoro and the Filipino people against each other to achieve this. How can the Bangsamoro people then achieve genuine peace and development under this government? Bulatlat

Critics Hit US ‘Intervention’ in Peace Talks

August 17, 2008

After a High Court justice branded as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the U.S. Ambassador was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the pact. But critics have pointed to the prominent role that the U.S. had played in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

After a Supreme Court (SC) justice declared as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the agreement.

Based on news reports, Kenney said she was merely invited to witness the signing of the MOA-AD by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lying

In a statement sent through email, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that Kenney was “blatantly lying” when she said that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the GRP-MILF peace negotiations nor with the controversial MOA-AD.

Sison said that Kenney has worked closely with the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in “steering the course of GRP-MILF peace negotiations for the sake of US interests.”

The USIP is a quasi-government institution funded by the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the board is J. Robinson West who is chairman of PFC Energy, Washington. Members ex-officio are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project is G. Eugene Martin, a retired diplomat who once served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Sison said that the Special Report 202 by the USIP, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines” http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr202.html proves that Kenney is lying. The said report is a summary and assessment of the USIP Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP). The report declares, “In 2003 the US State Department …engaged the USIP to facilitate a peace agreement between the GRP and the MILF.”

The report states, “Despite the challenges, USIP managed to build productive relationships with both the GRP and MILF, helped the parties come up with creative solutions to stubborn issues of ancestral domain, and started dialogue between disparate Moro ethnic groups… Through its activities, USIP introduced concepts and approaches that were useful to both government and MILF peace panels.”

In a separate statement, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said the USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Inuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. He said, “The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with U.S. interests.”

U.S. interests

Sison slammed the U.S., saying it is not interested in a just and lasting peace in either the Bangsamoro land or the entire Philippines. “It is interested solely or mainly in advancing U.S. interests amidst conditions of armed conflict. It merely pretends to facilitate the GRP-MILF peace negotiations when its sees big advantages in doing so.”

Sison noted that the USIP report is quite frank in admitting the selfish interests of the U.S. The report states, “Today’s complex diplomatic landscape increasingly requires new tools and techniques of conflict management, including quasi- and nongovernmental actors, to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. Because of its ability to deal with non-state actors and sensitive issues underlying civil conflict, USIP can be a useful instrument for advancing U.S. interests.”

Sison said that Kenney frequently travels to Mindanao and oversees U.S. interests there, including U.S. direct investments, military forces and pseudo-development projects. “The Filipino people know that the U.S. covets the oil and other natural resources of Mindanao and wants to establish U.S. military bases there to protect U.S. imperial interests,” he said.

Bayan’s Reyes cited the $100-million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu by American oil giant Exxon Mobil as an example of the interests being protected by the U.S.

Reyes also noted that the USIP report also states that the U.S. embassy coordinated with the U.S. Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The report, Reyes said, describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include ‘diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.’

The Bayan leader said that this could mean that the U.S. government is also open to direct military intervention.

Arroyo, liable

Reyes said that the Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported U.S. intervention in peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.

Reyes said, “Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Citing the USIP report, Reyes said Arroyo had three meetings with the USIP officials.

Based on the report, a PFP delegation met with Arroyo in August 2003. It also states that when Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute.

The report also cites that Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with Arroyo in California after her 2004 election “to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

”The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention,” said Reyes.

Cha-cha

He deemed, “Arroyo and U.S. interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of U.S. investments in Mindanao.”

Reyes said the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change. The report states that some provisions in the MOA-AD might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Reyes said, “The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.” Bulatlat

Dureza confirms ‘some phrases’ were inserted in MOA

August 16, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:53:00 08/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The changing of the guard at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) preceded “breakthrough” changes made in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Friday.

Dureza said “some phrases” were inserted into the document after he left the OPAPP in the hands of Hermogenes Esperon Jr., then newly retired as chief of staff of the Armed Forces, on June 16.

“When I left the OPAPP, we were still at that particular stage,” Dureza said at a press conference, referring to the yearlong stalemate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the issue of the expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

As per Dureza’s account, negotiations bogged down when he was still OPAPP chief because of the MILF’s insistence that any agreement signed by the two panels on the issue of ancestral domain should be “implementable.”

He said the government had been insisting that the peace talks should be done within the confines of the Constitution.

When Esperon took over, “it was ripe for a breakthrough,” Dureza said.

“Some phrases were put in, some paragraphs that would clearly state that those changes that will bring about peace in Mindanao will have to go through our internal processes,” he said.

Mutually acceptable

Asked to elaborate on the “new phrases,” Dureza said these had been put across the negotiating table a long time ago.

Asked which side had relented, he said: “Well, you know, when you say ‘relented,’ that is unfair. It’s not an accurate description. In a negotiation, you consider each other’s position and come up with something mutually acceptable.

“From the very beginning, both shared the same context of attaining peace together. So there’s no question that both the MILF and the government were committed to find a real solution to the problems in Mindanao.”

US won’t back dismemberment of Mindanao

August 16, 2008

By Jose Rodel Clapano
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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The US government will not support or recognize a separate and independent Mindanao, Ambassador Kristie Kenney said yesterday.

Kenney said Washington will not intervene in the ongoing conflict between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the proposal for a Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao, but would not support a separate juridical state.

“The US does not support independence for Mindanao. The US supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines,” Kenney said.

Kenney said the US government would leave the issues of the Bangsamoro homeland for the Philippine government to resolve since it is an internal issue.

Kenney revealed before the gathering of the 45th National Defense College of the Philippines Alumni Association Inc. that the US government is against the proposal to separate Mindanao from the Philippine territory.

Kenney belied reports that Washington gave her instructions to influence the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF, particularly on the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was stopped by the Supreme Court due to constitutional questions.

The MOA-AD would give the rebels self-rule over the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to be carved out of an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“I do not know the content of the MOA. I am not part of that. That is for the Filipinos to determine. Every nation has the right to determine issues based on its own policy. I don’t know any details of the MOA because I haven’t seen (it),” Kenney said.

Kenney admitted she was among the foreign dignitaries invited to witness the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Aug. 5.

But this does not mean that the US government has any direct interest on the issue, she said.

“The diplomatic corps was invited to the MOA signing. I was invited. (But) we are not involved in combat. This is a sovereign nation,” Kenney said.

She reiterated the US government’s stand on the Mindanao conflict is to achieve a lasting peace in the region.

Kenney said the conflict in Mindanao is an important issue to resolve since the end of it would lead to economic growth in the region and benefit the country as well.

“Today, the Philippines faces an important issue that is in Mindanao. senators, the President and other officials are working together for the Mindanao conflict to be deflected. It is the food basket of the Philippines. A peaceful Mindanao means security. Peace in Mindanao will give economic growth in the Philippines,” Kenney stressed.

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My Take:

The US certainly likes the present set-up. 🙂

Business groups oppose MOA-AD

August 16, 2008

By Elisa Osorio
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Four business groups criticized the government’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“It is a mistake to have the MOA-AD signed in Malaysia before bringing it to Congress because a signing would signify that it is already a done deal,” said Jesus Arranza, president of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI).

Arranza said the government should have conducted a public hearing before agreeing to sign the MOA-AD.

“The first step after deliberations should have been a public consultation. They should not have sprang this on us,” Arranza explained.

He said the idea of separating Mindanao from the rest of the country might have a negative effect on investors. Arranza explained that this might pose a challenge to businessmen operating in both Luzon and Mindanao.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the MOA was made without adequate consultation.

PCCI president Edgardo Lacson said the group will leave the legality aspect to the courts but he stressed the need to keep the country intact.

“We are one nation and one people,” Lacson stressed.

When asked if this would have any effect on the investment appetite of businessmen, Lacson said people would have different perceptions. “Some may be scared while others may welcome this.”

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) expressed support for the peace talks with the MILF, but the group assailed the MOA-AD that has sown confusion and raised tensions in Mindanao and the rest of the country, to the point of endangering the whole peace process.

In a statement, MAP said the situation is the direct consequence of a totally insufficient consultation with the people and the lack of transparency in the deliberation of the provisions of the agreement.

MAP said any peace accord should respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Philippines.

“We oppose any attempt to dismember our country by laying the foundation for the creation of an independent and sovereign Bangsamoro state, which will be given exclusive ownership of the areas delineated as their homeland,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the Makati Business Club (MBC), one of the most influential business groups in the country, also opposed the MOA that paves the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“It is flawed in the process just as it is flawed in its provisions. What was lost in the process was any appreciation for legitimacy in a democracy that stems from winning consensus, including the consent of the governed. Many, if not all, of its provisions violate the Constitution, which strangely enough the Memorandum never mentions by name,” the group said in a statement.(PStar)

Gov’t eyes new deal with MILF

August 16, 2008

By Paolo Romero
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Malacañang is eyeing a renegotiation of the agreement on ancestral domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but it remains firm on amending the Constitution to convert the Philippines into a federal state to give greater autonomy to Muslims.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio said negotiations with the MILF would be “retooled” if the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional the agreement on ancestral domain and the Senate junks a resolution calling for a shift to a federal system of government.

The administration will continue to push for Charter change before President Arroyo’s term ends in 2010, the two officials said.

At the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday several provisions of the agreement on ancestral domain are unconstitutional.

Carpio spoke during oral arguments at the SC on two petitions seeking to stop the government from signing the agreement with the MILF.

Carpio raised questions on whether the Lumads and other indigenous peoples are part of the “Bangsamoro people.”

He also wanted to know if the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) would have control over natural resources in the area, create its own police force, establish its own central bank, and hold its own elections without the aid of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“This is unconstitutional because all natural resources belong to the state and BJE is not a state,” he said.

Carpio said the Comelec is authorized to supervise all elections in the country, while the police are under a police commissioner.

“Can government create a separate police force?” he asked.

Carpio said the BJE could not also have its own central bank.

“We can only have one central bank,” he said. “We cannot have two monetary authorities.”

On the judiciary, there must be a united judicial system, and that the SC reviews the performances of all the courts in the country and dismisses judges, Carpio said.

During the oral arguments, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said all the country’s presidents have taken an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution.

The province of Zamboanga del Norte also filed a petition questioning the agreement with the MILF, Puno said during the proceedings.

The next hearing was scheduled on Aug. 22 at 9 a.m.

Dureza said the government has no other recourse but to have the Constitution amended to put in place a federal state.

“Negotiation is not simple,” he said.

“You have to look at dynamics… how it moves forward. It will be a little complicated in due time when things settle down… at this point in time it’s hard to discuss this because nothing has been signed yet.”

Dureza said when he was presidential adviser on the peace process, the MILF refused to recognize the Philippine Constitution and wanted the agreement on ancestral domain to be immediately executory.

The MILF later agreed to recognize the “existing legal framework, and the deadlock was broken,” he added.

Dureza said Mrs. Arroyo is determined to push peace despite adverse developments in the Senate and indications that the SC would declare the agreement on ancestral domain unconstitutional.

“Search for peace is constant so resolve is always there… the alternative to a situation of not getting peace settlement is unimaginable,” he said.

“The alternative is war. From the beginning of her term, she is hoping and working for building blocks of peace for Mindanao not just for Muslims, but for Lumads and Christians and for the whole country.”

The administration is reviving Charter change to attain “lasting peace” in Mindanao, Dureza said.

Claudio said the government will never run out of avenues for peace.

“If a path is closed, we will go to another,” he said.

“Let’s wait for the final word of the Senate and there might be something in the decision of the SC that will guide us on how to proceed with legal processes to give life to the intent of the MOA.”

Claudio said Malacañang will push the peace process to satisfy the aspirations of the Bangsamoro for greater autonomy through a federal system of government.

“I think it behooves the government, the peace panel and everybody concerned to have a backup plan if we are really determined to pursue the peace plan,” he said.

“I’m not just talking about Charter change… we won’t die without Charter change. We will not stop. You know no setback is big enough to stop us from pursuing this.”

‘Renegotiate agreement’

Two senators urged Malacañang yesterday to renegotiate the agreement on ancestral domain ahead of the SC ruling to save itself from embarrassment.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II and Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said the agreement was obviously unconstitutional.

“We have learned over the past several weeks how unaware the affected local governments and their people were to what the government peace panel was doing behind their backs,” Roxas said.

“By creating a separate Bangsamoro Juridical Entity within the country, the government would have only succeeded in increasing hostilities in the south, under the guise of a ‘peace agreement.’”

The government peace panel had mishandled negotiations with the MILF, leading to an unconstitutional agreement, Roxas said.

On the other hand, Pangilinan said it would be better for Malacañang to renegotiate the agreement because its provisions are unconstitutional.

“Only peace negotiations and aggressive efforts at effective governance with concrete results will bring about lasting peace and prosperity,” he said.

Pangilinan said there was no way the agreement could be forced down the people’s throats.

“The credibility of the peace pact is now highly suspect with Malacañang pressing for Cha-cha along with it, and the flawed, exclusive process undertaken to have the agreement,” he said.

Residents rally vs Bangsamoro entity

In Tacurong City, some 10,000 residents rallied yesterday to dramatize their opposition to the agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF.

Tacurong City Mayor Lino Montilla said the rally was aimed at urging the government to make public the contents of the agreement.

“It is imperative for them to take a stand and sympathize with those opposing the inclusion of Mindanao communities in the planned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” he added.

Montilla said the Tacurong City Council has passed a strongly-worded resolution asking the Supreme Court to void the agreement on ancestral domain.

“Our local leaders and the people in the so-called villages covered by the BJE were not consulted before the document was laid down for finalization by both panels,” he said. — With Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, John Unson, Katherine Adraneda, Artemio Dumlao

MOA on ancestral domain meant to fail–communist leader

August 15, 2008

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:19:00 08/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison said the unsigned Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was meant to fail because it was “too good and too generous to be true.”

Upon reading the document, which was to have been signed in Malaysia, Sison said: “I thought immediately that the contents which appeared to recognize and concretize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and ancestral domain were too good and too generous to be true.”

“The MOA was so contrary to the greedy and brutal character of the GRP [government of the Republic of the Philippines], whose presumptions and actuations I have long known in the course of revolutionary struggle and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” said Sison, who now carries the title chief political consultant of the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines, in an e-mail sent to media Friday.

Sison called for a united action and cooperation between the MILF and the NDFP.

“The pretense at generosity is full of malice. It is calculated to outwit and outflank the MILF and the Bangsamoro and to facilitate frontal military attacks against them. They are being left no choice but to wage revolutionary struggle in order to advance their cause of national self-determination. There is a heightened need for the unity, cooperation of the MILF and the NDFP in their distinct and common concerns and causes against the same adversaries,” he said.

Sison accused the government of insincerity in getting the MOA-AD signed. He said that if the government were sincere about granting Moros the right to self-determination, it would have released the document to the public way before the signing for more discussions on the issues contained in the MOA.

“It was almost predictable that the signing of the MOA would be aborted. The public release of the draft only a few days before the date of signing was clearly meant to stir up a controversy big enough to cause the abortion,” he said.

The communist in exile echoed the concerns of the opposition that the MOA-AD was a “sneaky” way for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to effect Charter change so that she could extend her term beyond 2010.

At the same time, Sison accused the United States, together with Japan and Australia, of trying to ingratiate itself to the MILF so that it could exploit its human and natural resources if and when a peace agreement has been finalized.

“It is obvious that the US has been out to sidle up to and ingratiate itself with the MILF and the Bangsamoro in order to further strengthen its position in exploiting the human and natural resources of the Bangsamoro and deploying US military forces in Mindanao,” he said.

Sison said that under the direction of the US State Department, the US Institute of Peace has been busy in carrying out the Philippine Facilitation Project since 2003 in order to help produce a document like the MOA.

To the MILF, Sison said, the MOA could be used as a standard or minimum for negotiating with the government. To the government, it can be used to put off the formal peace talks which would have followed immediately after the signing of the agreement.

“Unilaterally or in cahoots with the GRP, the US can use the high expectations raised by the MOA among the MILF and Bangsamoros to justify US military presence and advance US hegemony in Mindanao,” he said.

He warned that the document would be used “as a device of pretended generosity” to advance the government and the United States’ public standing.

This in turn will “prolong GRP-MILF informal talks and ceasefire and to deploy larger US and Philippine military forces against the MILF and the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Editorial Cartoon: Ang MOA-AD at Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

Hasty Mistake

Sec. Garcia to Abp. Valles: ‘I’m sorry, it was a costly mistake.’

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 –No less than the Government Peace Panel Negotiator Secretary Rodolfo Garcia who said sorry to Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles for what he termed as “ a very costly mistake” in the inclusion of Barangays Zone 3 and 4 in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“We did what we could. We have tried our best to come up with this sub-agreement on the third substantive aspect identified by the parties under the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. I’m sorry if it felt short of your expectation, Bishop, and the expectations of your people in Zamboanga,” said Garcia.

Valles, during the open forum of the high level briefing on the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made a strong comment on the government’s failure to consult the people on the areas to be placed under the self-governance system of BJE.

He questioned the GRP panel for inadequacy of dialogue and consultation especially the people of Zamboanga in the proposed MOA–AD which now contains the general principles concerning, among others, Bangsamoro identity and rights, the establishment of a genuine self-governance system appropriate for the Moro, the areas to be placed under this self-governance system, and the protection and utilization of resources found therein.

“For what you (GRP) have done, you (GRP) have lost the people of Zamboanga City. You missed to conduct consultation and dialogue which are very important,” Valles sturdily said in public during the forum.

Garcia admitted that the two barangays Zone 3 and 4 were never discussed to be part of those areas to be placed under the BJE.

“It was a very costly mistake that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 [were] included in the MOA –AD,” he told Valles.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE namely: Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon. Covered also are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar Shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

While Garcia recognized the need to consult the people, he was quick in saying, “it is not always at all times that we have to consult the people, otherwise, the process will become interminable.”

But, Valles who was so disgusted declared, “I have strong disagreements of what Garcia, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said.”

In a separate interview, Valles told CBCPNews that the MOA- AD was crafted with so much haste and lack of consultation.

“I will still stand by what I have said in public that I have strong disagreements with the statements of the GRP panel,” said Valles.

He also said the BJE would be divisive and only sow confusion among the people for lack of proper consultations.

“The BJE instead of gaining the trust of the people, breeds mistrust for the people of Zamboanga City,” added Valles.

“Had not the proposed MOA-AD between GRP-MILF made public, we would never have known that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 have been included in the BJE,” said Valles, adding:

“We have nothing against peace process. We don’t want to breed hatred and mistrust between Muslims and Christians. What we need are transparency, proper consultation and dialogue.” (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Surgical Amendment, Not Possible – Laywers

August 13, 2008

A group of lawyers slammed Preident Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposal for a ‘surgical amendment’ of the Constitution, saying that the proposed constituent assembly can overhaul the entire Constitution at its discretion.

In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said, “Arroyo’s deception is further exposed by the fact that federalism cannot be achieved by the mere amendment of one or two provisions.” The NUPL said that the change from a unitary system to a federal form of government requires amendments in at least eight articles of the Constitution.

The group maintained that Arroyo’s proposed mode of constituent assembly provides no constitutional restriction to revise, not merely amend one or two provisions in the Constitution. Should both Houses pass a joint resolution constituting itself as a ‘constituent assembly’ to amend a specific provision, there is no stopping the Constituent Assembly from enlarging its mandate and amending other provisions, said NUPL.

“Congress, as a Constituent Assembly, assumes a different constitutional entity and function and cannot, therefore, be bound by a legislative act (such as a joint resolution) since it is empowered by the Constitution to amend not a mere law but the Constitution itself,” it added.

The NUPL deemed that Arroyo does not actually aim for the shift to federalism but for the deletion of that portion in Article VII, Section 4 which states that “The president shall not be eligible for any reelection”.

The group said, “It is, therefore, clear that Arroyo is merely riding on the issues of federalism and peace in Mindanao to push for charter change which is ultimately aimed at prolonging her stay in power and eliminating the protectionist economic provisions in the Constitution. In fact, she can stay beyond 2010 via the ‘surgical amendment’ of deleting the term limit on the presidency in Article VII, Sec. 4.”

The NUPL urged senators who support federalism, especially Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, not to support the renewed call for charter change and allow their advocacy to be used as a stepping stone for the ‘perpetuation of one of the most brutal and corrupt administration in Philippine history.’ Bulatlat

MoA on Ancestral Domain: It’s Not Over, Yet

August 13, 2008

The strong backlash ignited by the MoA deserves a second look by the MILF leaders. A lesson that can be drawn is the fact that the war for self-determination involves not only taking arms and talking but also a political war to win the broadest support for the just and historic struggle of the Bangsamoro people.

BY THE POLICY STUDY, PUBLICATION, AND ADVOCACY
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) does not automatically bind the Arroyo government to honor the territorial claim of the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao, Palawan, and Sulu. If there is any clear commitment made by the Philippine government based on the MoA, it is on explicit assurances that under any final accord with the MILF the property rights and investments of big landowners, transnational corporations, and foreign powers that are formalized in a myriad of agreements and treaties will be protected.

As to the ancestral domain, territories and resources, and authority of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) – all of these are subject to the yet-to-be cobbled Comprehensive Compact due in November 2009, a plebiscite, and charter change which are foreseen to be acrimonious and drawn-out in the coming years.

The MoA on Ancestral Domain, a by-product of a series of peace talks and agreements between the Arroyo government and the MILF since 2001, was to be signed by both parties on August 5 in Malaysia where the talks are being hosted by the Kuala Lumpur government. It was stopped by a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued August 4 by the Supreme Court (SC) acting on a petition filed against the MoA by local executives and politicians in Mindanao.

The MoA was hastily put together under instructions made to the government panel by Malacanang to come up with an agreement which the President would show as her “legacy of peace” during her State-of-the-Nation Address on July 28. A temporary deadlock in the talks changed all that, however. But the paper had to be drafted anyway by both parties under pain of losing the International Monitoring Team (IMT). Malaysia, which heads the IMT that is overseeing a ceasefire, had threatened to end the team’s tour of duty on August 31 unless progress is made in the talks.

Secrecy

The street protests generated by the agreement particularly in Mindanao this week were inevitable in a peace process shrouded with secrecy. Although the positions of both government and MILF on the issues under negotiation have been well-publicized, the contents of the MoA were kept under wraps until a former AFP general privy to the peace talks reportedly leaked the document to test the waters, so to speak.

Basically, the MoA is a set of consensus points forged together by the two negotiating panels in the roadmap to peace that will culminate in the Comprehensive Compact. The next discussions after the MoA signing will prove to be more contentious as both sides tackle the specifics of the territorial and maritime resources claimed by the MILF covering, aside from the expanded Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), about 1,000 barangays (villages). Other discussions are on the mechanics and modalities of the BJE; the final scheduling of the local plebiscite among peoples including indigenous peoples and other non-Muslims covered by the Bangsamoro homeland; and, finally, amending the charter to establish a new federal system (with the Bangsamoro as a federated state) and parliamentary government that will be ratified nationwide in a second plebiscite.

Now that the contents of the MoA are out, with many pressure groups in Mindanao calling it a “sell-out,” the next negotiations should anticipate a storm of fireworks and a possible derailment. The tit-for-tat in the SC dealing on the MoA’s constitutional implications would be interesting to observe. Knowing, however, the high court’s well-established deference to the chief executive’s policy imperatives, it will likely rule in favor of the government no matter the insurmountable political backlash it would create.

But should the MoA, in the first place, be considered as a breakthrough in the Bangsamoro people’s historic struggle for self-determination? A closer scrutiny of the unsigned agreement reveals that while the Philippine government pledges to recognize the ancestral domain claim of the Bangsamoro people in motherhood principles it appends several conditions. Among others, the conditions are: First, it exempts territories covered by “government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities, or institutions.” Second, although the BJE has jurisdiction and control over potential sources of energy including oil and natural gas, these will remain under the operation of the central government “in times of national emergency” or “when public interest so requires.” Third, although the autonomous Bangsamoro government may engage in economic and trade relations with other countries, the central government reserves its jurisdiction on “external defense.”

Excluded

As formulated, these conditions effectively exempt from the ancestral domain and BJE authority the mining, forest, and other resource areas covered by existing laws, executive agreements, and policies in favor of foreign corporations, local landowners, and other non-Muslim stakeholders. Likewise, the central government can always invoke “emergency situation” and “national interest” to exercise authority over energy resources.

Moreover, the presence of foreign military forces is also guaranteed in pursuit of the central government’s “external defense” responsibility. The presence of U.S. troops, special operations forces, basing facilities, and surveillance systems in Moro-dominated areas and waters is guaranteed by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other agreements signed secretly by Arroyo with the U.S. government since 2002 which the MoA implicitly honors.

Arroyo officials claim that the President aims to sustain the momentum of the peace process with the MILF until her term ends in June 2010. Critics and anti-Arroyo opposition groups are wary, however, that the peace talks are being calibrated to justify charter change en route to Arroyo’s extending her power as prime minister under a federal cum parliamentary system that will also formalize the Bangsamoro homeland as a federated state. Considering that anti-Arroyo opposition groups are all gears for the 2010 elections, the Malacanang agenda will likely end up as another debacle akin to the fate suffered by her two previous attempts.

The MILF, on the other hand, views the MoA as a step forward for its goal of self-determination. Its leaders can always invoke the general concepts and principles of the MoA on Ancestral Domain to pursue the MILF’s political goal more so if they choose to declare unilaterally a separate state later on.

But they should be pragmatic enough to learn from the mistakes of the MNLF when, its armed strength weakened by strategic setbacks and factionalism, and abandoned by its foreign backers, it forged a final peace accord 12 years ago that yielded neither real autonomy nor effective political authority and development for the Bangsamoro people. Ever incremental in their objectives, the MoA – for that matter the peace talks with Arroyo – is an incidental part of the MILF’s 50-year jihad that its leaders declared in 2000. MILF ground forces continue to train and hold on to their arms knowing that their struggle for self-determination includes fighting and negotiating.

The strong backlash ignited by the MoA deserves a second look by the MILF leaders. A lesson that can be drawn is the fact that the war for self-determination involves not only taking arms and talking but also a political war to win the broadest support for the just and historic struggle of the Bangsamoro people. A lot of hard work needs to be done in this area. Posted by Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: Diversionary Tactic

August 9, 2008

Lumang Style

MILF rebels pull out but new ones arrive

August 9, 2008

By Inquirer Mindanao, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:21:00 08/09/2008

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels on Friday started withdrawing from the areas they had occupied in the province of North Cotabato as the 24-hour deadline set by the government expired, Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said.

Esperon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Mindanao bureau over lunch Friday that the rebels had pulled out of the towns of Midsayap, Aleosan, Alamada and Pigcawayan.

The rebels were reported to have occupied nine villages in five towns in North Cotabato.

North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan said, however, that while some MILF forces had left the occupied areas, including Baliki village in Midsayap town, fresh rebel troops had begun arriving.

“We want a total pullout. If they will not leave by morning [Saturday], we will implement the law,” Sacdalan warned.

Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Sealana, co-chair of the joint Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), said the rebels “began to move” at around 4:30 p.m. Friday.

“We supervised their movement,” Sealana told reporters in the Camp Aguinaldo military general headquarters in Metro Manila by phone.

He said the joint CCCH had deployed a joint monitoring team to ensure that the military or civilian volunteer organizations would not enter the concerned areas until the MILF had made a complete withdrawal.

He added that the joint CCCH would return to the villages Saturday morning to check on the MILF troop movement.

MILF civil-military affairs chief Eid Kabalu also said members of the International Monitoring Team had been deployed to address problems that could aggravate the situation.

On foot or by boat

Sealana said that in the villages of Dualing and Dunguan in Aleosan town, he saw around 100 MILF rebels move by foot or on pump boats toward the neighboring province of Maguindanao.

He said the rebels were informed during negotiations that a resolution had been signed by the joint CCCH and the International Monitoring Team stating that the MILF should “reposition its forces” to their original areas prior to July 27, when five skirmishes occurred in North Cotabato between the rebels and government troops.

“We told them that we should honor the joint resolution, which indicated that the MILF chief of staff had signed a letter directing its forces, except for the local MILF, to pull out and return to where they came from,” Sealana said.

The MILF central committee had also given orders to its troops to “reposition.”

However, Kabalu himself admitted that there had been no “repositioning” of troops as yet.

“This is not easy,” he said. “The CCCH has a proposal submitted to the MILF leadership. We will set up a joint monitoring team. Measures are being drawn up. What we are more concerned with is the aftermath of this. If it’s repositioning for the sake of repositioning, it will only be a cycle.”

In Cotabato City, Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said both sides had agreed that rebel forces would “gradually” move out of the villages.

“It may take some time. We are doing it gradually, and both sides have agreed: No more firing of guns,” Jaafar told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that the MILF had not forcibly occupied the villages.

“We are moving out slowly and we are doing it because we recognize the existence of a ceasefire agreement,” he said.

No force necessary

Maj. Gen. Armando Cunanan, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said peace had been restored in the occupied areas.

Cunanan said the military did not have to use force in convincing the rebels to withdraw because diplomatic efforts aimed at preserving the peace process had succeeded. He said it had become Esperon’s policy “not to promote the culture of war.”

“There is a ceasefire committee that has to resolve the breakdown of law and order. We will act only upon instruction by higher headquarters,” Cunanan said, but added that the military had not abandoned the civilian population.

Earlier Friday, the opposing camps were in a virtual standoff in North Cotabato as they awaited the results of the CCCH negotiations to convince “recalcitrant” MILF troops to withdraw.

“If they will not leave, the signal will be given for us to go there. But as of now, we are waiting,” said Lt. Col. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion, stationed in North Cotabato. He told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo by phone that the CCCH was “still talking” to the MILF troops.

Carreon said his troops were “just waiting for the order to cross the line of departure,” the military term for the invisible line that divides the two opposing camps.

“When the ‘go’ is given, we will move forward. If they are still there, there will be fighting,” Carreon said.

Restraint

In Cagayan de Oro City, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano ordered government troops to exercise restraint.

Speaking at a command conference with officers of the Fourth Infantry Battallion in Camp Evangelista, Yano also said he had told North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol that the AFP was “duty-bound to protect the people in all areas.”

Yano told the officers, “We are hoping for the best while expecting the worst. Let us continue our calibrated response to the situation in Mindanao. I commend you for showing exceptional restraint despite the heightened situation and alleged provocation from the other side.”

Director Silverio Alarcio of the Philippine National Police (PNP) also told reporters at the PNP general headquarters Camp Crame in Metro Manila that the PNP was giving way to negotiations for the rebels’ withdrawal.

Alarcio said the MILF leadership had ordered a pullout and that emissaries from its 105th Base Command had been sent to collect the rebels still in the area “to complete the pullout.”

“The deadline has already lapsed, but what is important is they leave the villages,” he said.

On the phone, Sealana said the “on and off fighting for more than a month” in North Cotabato had led to the occupation of the nine villages in the towns of Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan and North Kabuntalan.

The MILF forces are under the 105th Base Command of Commander Umbra Kato, who remained in his camp in Liguasan Marsh, Sealana said.

‘3 Dodongs’

Esperon said among the things needed to resolve the situation was for certain officials to talk peace, not fight. He did not name the officials, but referred to them as the “three Dodongs.”

“There will be no end to this if we try to resolve everything through war,” he said.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he and two like-minded other officials were not fighting but “asserting our constitutional rights.”

Lobregat said the seeming fighting stance presented by North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz and himself would not have happened “if only we were consulted” on the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the MILF “and they listened to the people.”

The proposed memorandum—the signing of which was temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court on the request of North Cotabato officials—lays down the provisions for a Bangsamoro homeland.

(During the peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front, there were the so-called “Tres Marias”—then Representatives Ma. Clara Lobregat and Daisy Fuentes and Rep. Lualhati Antonino—who opposed the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.)

Request for ammo

Esperon said he had no problem with the stance of the “three Dodongs” but added they should confine it to the legal process and not instigate their people to take up arms.

He cited his July 14 meeting with a North Cotabato official at which, he said, he was asked for ammunition.

He said the request was made even before North Cotabato executives had started questioning the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, or MOA-AD.

“They were asking for additional ammunition. ‘Why?’ we asked. I told them that we have to leave it to the security forces to defend the people and the state,” Esperon said.

He said that was the time when he learned about the three officials’ plan to contest the MOA-AD before the Supreme Court.

It was also during that time, he said, that he told Piñol it would be better for them to be prepared for the consequence of their action because “it is no longer 2000, when we were poised to attack for you.”

In 2000, then-president Joseph Estrada administration waged an “all-out war” against the MILF.

Lobregat said, however, that the meeting with Piñol and Cruz was aimed at consolidating the position of those opposing the MOA-AD. “I invited them for the reason that we want to come up with a concerted effort, a unified move, and to avoid duplication in our legal case,” he said.

Lobregat said the meeting was attended by Senator Manuel Roxas II, and other senators—including Juan Ponce Enrile, Rodolfo Biazon and Francis Escudero—indicated support for their cause. Julie Alipala, Charlie Senase, Jeoffrey Maitem, Germelina Lacorte, Jeffrey Tupas, Richel Umel, Aguiles Z. Zonio, Orlando Dinoy, Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez and Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao; Alcuin Papa in Manila

Separation of two warring forces in Aleosan starts today (Full Text of the Joint Resolution on the “Separation” included)

August 8, 2008

August 8, 2008
Rasid T. Ladiasan, Correspondent

The Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) together with the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) will give way today for the repositioning of the warring forces in Aleosan, Cotabato Province .

In a special meeting last night, the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT flesh out the facilitation for the withdrawal of forces belonging to the MILF and Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVOs) / CAFGU and military. This morning the Joint CCCH and IMT will go to Aleosan tojumpstart the repositioning of troops.


The non local residents who got entangled with the three-weeks long sporadic firefight between the MILF forces and government forces in the embattled barangays of Pagangan, Bago Libas, Dualing, and Dungguan in Aleosan and in barangays Baliki, Upper and Lower Labas in Midsayap shall be moved out from the area back to their places of origin.


The repositioning of warring troops, particularly those who not from of the area, is part of the Joint Resolution of the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT forged last August 1, 2008.


The full text of the joint resolution is as follows:


JOINT RESOLUTION


WHEREAS, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH) in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997 with the primary intent of providing a conducive environment for the GRP – MILF peace process aimed ultimately at forging a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro problem.


WHEREAS, there has been an intermittent armed clashes and hostilities in some barangays in Aleosan, Cotabato between the armed local Civilian Volunteers Organizations (CVOs) and forces of the MILF which started on July 14, 2008 , which can potentially affect the bordering barangays at the adjacent municipality of Midsayap , Cotabato.


WHEREAS, the prevailing situation had rendered adverse effects and repercussions to the civilians, good relationships, and the GRP-MILF peace process.


WHEREAS, there is an immediate need to stop the aforementioned armed clashes and hostilities between the two contending forces in order to sustain the truce, preclude unnecessary loss of lives, destruction of  properties, displacements of civilians, effect restoration of normalcy in the area, and above all, uphold the primacy of the peace process.


THEREFORE BOTH PARTIES, resolve as it is hereby resolved:

A. That both the warring forces must immediately cease and desist from firing each other and strictly adhere to the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities signed in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997, particularly and especially on the movements and activities of respective forces.


B. That a JOINT MONITORING and ASSISTANCE TEAM (JMAT) composed of representatives from GRP CCCH, MILF CCCH, IMT and Bantay Ceasefire be established immediately in a strategic area, mutually agreed upon, in Aleosan to maintain and monitor the ongoing Ceasefire Agreement; and that to strengthen the existing JMAT-Rangeban in Midsayap in order to prevent spillover of the conflict.


C. That the repositioning of warring forces be facilitated in order to preclude repetition of armed clashes and hostile acts that undermine the Ceasefire Agreement and the peace process.


D. That a Fact-Finding Committee to be composed of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), GRP CCCH, MILF CCCH and Bantay Ceasefire be created in order to verify the proximate cause of the armed clashes and come up with a viable solution / recommendations leading to the normalization of the situation.


E. That the return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) must be facilitated through concerted efforts of duly constituted and concerned entities.


F. That relief and rehabilitation programs must be given priority for the affected areas / communities / families / individuals.


G. That peace advocacy, dialogue and reconciliatory programs must be undertaken particularly in the municipalities of Aleosan and Midsayap, both of Cotabato Province.


H. That advocacy and engagements, as far as practicable, with the concerned local government units must be initiated to ensure their support for the implementation of this resolution.


Meanwhile, the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT appealed for the full cooperation of all concerned agencies and stakeholder in order to ensure the success of the resolution.They also expressed confidence that the 24-hour ultimatum given by the government for the withdrawal of the MILF forces from the area, who are non locals, will also give way for the smooth and successful implementation of the resolution.


JMAT, paragraph B of the Joint Resolution, was already installed last week August 2, 2008.

MILF agrees to pull out troops in North Cotabato

August 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:50:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Less than 12 hours before government’s 24-hour ultimatum expires, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to pull out its troops from nine villages it allegedly occupied in North Cotabato province, a rebel official said Thursday evening.

“Repositioning, this means that troops occupying a certain area will be moved,” MILF Vice Chairman for political affaird Ghadzali Jaafar said in a phone interview.

Asked if the “repositioning” meant a pullout from the villages identified by government security forces, Jaafar said: “I think that is the meaning of that.”

The decision was reached Thursday evening after a meeting of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a ceasefire implementing body jointly chaired by the government and the MILF in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

Jaafar was evasive when asked if the MILF’s move was in response to the government’s 24-hour ultimatum, which expires at 10 a.m. Friday.

He said the MILF had planned to “reposition” troops there as early as two weeks ago, but “they had a hard time enforcing it because emotions were running high” in the areas.

“I think they decided that now is the right time to enforce their decision, and the decision is repositioning,” he said.

Asked if the rebels’ decision would avert possible fighting when the ultimatum lapses, Jaafar said: “Tingnan natin [Let’s see]. We hope.”

Security officials have warned the MILF that they would forcibly remove the rebels from the North Cotabato villages if they refuse to leave voluntarily. Three battalions of police commandos have been sent to the area.

The tension in North Cotabato rose as peace negotiations between the government and the largest Moro rebel group in the country hit a snag after the Supreme Court issued last Monday a temporary restraining order stopping the signing of a memorandum of agreement that would ultimately expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to include 712 more villages.

======================

My Take:

I think the MILF has come to its senses.  This move is really a repositioning of their forces, in anticipation to the possible armed confrontation, after the government-initiated deadline’s expiration tomorrow morning.

The war in some parts of Mindanao is about to start tomorrow.  It is inevitable.  Kung di man magsimula bukas, hindi ito nangangahulugan na wala nang digmaang magaganap.

AFP chief: ‘Armed conflict possible if deadline not met’

August 7, 2008

But situation ‘not that heated,’ says Yano

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:19:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Armed Forces on Thursday said armed conflict is “possible” if Moro rebels ignore a 24-hour deadline to leave nine villages they have allegedly occupied in North Cotabato, even as he said local officials described the situation in the province as “not that heated and tense.”

General Alexander Yano hastily flew to North Cotabato to assess the situation Thursday morning, following a meeting of the National Security Council the evening before.

Asked if hostilities could break out if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ignore the deadline to leave the villages by 10 a.m. Friday, Yano said: “That could be possible. But we are still confident that these groups will understand that they are supposed to leave the area, and if they can leave peacefully, much the better.”

Earlier, the MILF denied making incursions into North Cotabato. While the rebels promised to withdraw any forces that have entered the province, they also said this was unlikely to be necessary.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said their forces in North Cotabato have been there before, they are local MILF.”

“It is a delicate situation [that] requires a delicate balance of judgment,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Crame.

Asked if troops were positioned in the contested villages ahead of the deadline, Yano said: “We can’t discuss operational details like that. Rest assured [that] this will be spearheaded, as I’ve said, by the Philippine National Police because this is an enforcement of our laws.”

Yano was also evasive when asked when the military would step in, saying, “I’d rather not discuss operational details for the protection of our operating troops.”

“I made clear [to the troops] the mandate of our Armed Forces to defend the civilian communities against any atrocities,” Yano said in a phone interview from the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Awang town, Shariff Kabunsuan province.

At the same time, Yano clarified, “This operation is not merely against the MILF as an organization, but those individuals or groups that violated our laws.”

The events in North Cotabato unfolded after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain between the government and the MILF that would expand the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“Yun nga nakapagtataka, wala pa nga yung BJE, eto na umaarte na itong militant na MILF [I wonder why, even before the BJE is set up, here comes the militant MILF acting up],” North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan said in a phone interview, also from Awang, where he met with Yano.

Sacdalan said three women were killed and two other civilians were wounded, while 82 houses were burned over the last two weeks in the nine remote villages in five towns of his province.

He said contingencies have been put in place in view of the 24-hour deadline.

Yano will be in Mindanao until Friday, when he will visit the 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

SC unfazed by MILF threat to withdraw from peace talks

August 7, 2008

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:06:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court is unfazed by the threat of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to withdraw from peace negotiations from government if the high court does not lift its temporary restraining order (TRO) against the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain by Friday.

High court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the Supreme Court will not reverse itself because of pressure exerted by the rebels.

“We are a government of laws and not of men…The court has to look at the argument of the petitioners and the government before the court issues its ruling on the case,” Marquez said.

He explained there is a need to maintain the “status quo because, if the signing [of the MoA] pushes through, [the] rights [of the parties involved in the dispute] might be violated. To prevent [the] violation of certain rights of the people, the court decided to issue a TRO. Again this is not a decision on the merits [of the case], this is just a TRO to maintain status quo,” he said.

Marquez added that the high court will thoroughly study the arguments raised by both parties before coming up with a decision.

He urged the MILF to respect the position of the Supreme Court, which issued the TRO on Monday, a day before the scheduled signing of the MoA, which would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, envisioned to expand on the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The high court has scheduled an oral argument on Aug. 15.

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My Take:

The SC is right.

Sadly the independence of the Court was used by the government to have an easy exit to the MOA-Drama they’ve created.  And they’re creating another door to exit.  Mindanao war.  And Piñol is one of its actors.  Piñol et al is now making noises down south to create an athmosphere of fear and make a big fuss out of some isolated cases, giving the government its needed alibi to issue the 24-hr deadline to the baffled MILF.

The MILF should see this.  Or start accepting the fact that this government is not sincere on attaining peace in Mindanao. Unfortunately, the feudal-lords in the MILF is too blinded by their “paper victory”.  And too dumb enough to believe what the GRP want them to see.

This is originally a SONA-drama designed to gain more applause to PGMA’s boring speech.  But the opportunists in the military and Malacañan, plus the die-hard US ass-lickers pushed the drama further, hoping to win more: defeat the MILF thru paper or by force, both thru deception.

And to whose expense?  To our innocent kababayans currently residing inside the so-called “Bangsmoro Juridical Entity”.

Editorial Cartoon: MILF-Deal is a Trick

August 7, 2008

Pity the MILF.

Satur, other strange bedfellows in KL

August 7, 2008

By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:11:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—No, it has nothing to do with past reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had forged a “tactical alliance” with leftist groups.

“We were invited by both panels,” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said, explaining his presence at the scuttled signing on Tuesday in Malaysia of what could allegedly have been a landmark agreement between the MILF and the government.

“I was there basically as a peace advocate and as a friend of the Bangsamoro,” Ocampo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said it was also his way of expressing “appreciation to their efforts to advance their principle of self-determination.”

Ocampo was with Mujiv Hataman of Anak Mindanao and other personalities whose presence in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia just outside Kuala Lumpur, was deemed a statement by itself.

Ocampo blamed the government for its “lack of sincerity” in seriously pursuing a peace process with the MILF.

He noted, for instance, that as early as 2005, the MILF and government panels already discussed the inclusion of certain areas in Zamboanga City and North Cotabato.

“Even before, the government should have consulted with the LGUs (local government units), the stakeholders. It’s very apparent now that the government failed to do this,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo was a former spokesperson of the National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization for communist groups and the New People’s Army. The NDF has had a problematic peace process with the government.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order preserving the status quo requested by local officials in Zamboanga City and North Cotabato who questioned the proposed expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Also in Malaysia upon the invitation of the Philippine peace panel were Sulu Rep. Yusop Jikiri, a former high-ranking official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, chair of the House committee on Muslim affairs; and Anak Mindanao party-list Representative Hataman.

Jikiri said that instead of witnessing a signing ceremony, lawmakers and members of civil society met with Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to be apprised of what may be expected following the Supreme Court’s action.

A great embarrassment

“There is a great embarrassment,” Jikiri said, pointing to the presence in Malaysia of officials of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the US and Japanese ambassadors.

“The Supreme Court TRO was premature because while it is an agreement it is still subject to a plebiscite,” Jikiri said. “It is a disappointment.”

Balindong said that while he met with some officials in Kuala Lumpur after the cancellation of the signing ceremonies, he also went to see the sights in Kuala Lumpur, including the Petronas towers.

50-man delegation

In all, some 50 people were in the Philippine delegation, including invited diplomats, politicians and representatives of civil society groups and nongovernmental organizations.

There was Ruben Torres, former labor secretary and executive secretary under the administration of President Fidel Ramos. He helped broker talks with the MILF in 1996.

The ambassadors were led by Kristie Kenney of the United States, Makoto Katsura of Japan, Rod Smith of Australia and Sayed Al Masry of the Islamic Conference. World Bank country director Bert Hoffman also joined the group.

A way of saying thanks

A Filipino diplomat said that representatives of donor countries to development programs in Mindanao were invited as a way of “thanking them for their commitment and perseverance” to the peace process.

Among the accredited observers were Irene Santiago, chair and CEO of Mothers for Peace; Amina Rasul of Philippine Democracy for Islam and Democracy; and Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of Mindanao’s People’s Caucus. With reports from Norman Bordadora and Christine O. Avendaño

MILF given 24 hours to leave areas ‘forcibly’ taken in ARMM

August 7, 2008

By Thea Alberto, Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 10:40:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has “24 hours” to leave towns it has “forcibly” occupied in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) or face police and military action, authorities warned.

“We are giving individuals 24 hours to vacate otherwise they will forcibly be separated from the area,” said Puno in a press conference in at the national police headquarters in Camp Crame Thursday.

Puno added that the military and police would be “authorized to undertake action” if the deadline would not be met.

Puno said some 800 members of the MILF had reportedly “forcibly” occupied several ARMM towns, including Aliosan in North Cotabato.

“It behooves on the MILF to do something to act on the situation because this is a litmus test on its good faith,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said, adding, “We cannot wait longer than a reasonable 24-hour period.

Teodoro said Military Chief General Alexander Yano was in Cotabato province to brief commanders on the government’s action.

“We are announcing these operations to stabilize the situation and put back the rightful owners of those lands,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Esperon said the government action was “not a declaration of war,” and would unlikely affect the peace process.

“This is not a declaration of war, this is a normal enforcement of the rule of law,” Esperon said.

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My Take:

I watched the PressConference of DILG, DND, and the PNP, AFP nd Esperon.

The government is clearly toying with the MILF.  Now I understand why they are so confident that nothing bad will happen to the politicians interests in Mindanao despite of the MOA ek-ek with the MILF’s feudal lords.  The government’s real intention is to not sign the MOA, but to create confusion as they put their armed forces into position for the impending war in Mindanao.

The war will be their fair exit to the much criticized MOA with the MILF.

But if cooler heads persuade the hotheads, the MILF is not assured of getting a favorable plebiscite results because of the government’s mastery of polls fraud (dagdag-bawas etc).