Without any explanation the Moro Islamic Liberation Fron is reporting on its web site, luwaran.com, that the controversial signing of what it says “is considered as the most significant and historic event that ever happened in the annals of the 11-year old GRP-MILF Peace Talks” is being held on August 25 and not tomorrow as earlier announced by Malacanang.
The MILF report goes on to say that “in term (sic) of significance, the MILF views this signing ceremony as at par with the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 in Tripoli, Libya.”
“Composing the MILF delegation are: 1) MILF Peace Panel; 2) Secretariat; 3) Technical Committee, whose membership were former members of the MILF Technical Working Group (TWG); 4) Back Staff of the MILF Peace Panel; and 5) representatives of MILF-nominated NGOs.
The group which originally broke away from Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front also says it has “sent some 50 persons including its peace panel, secretariat, technical committee, and representatives of its nominated non-government organizations (NGOs) to the formal signing ceremony of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) in Putrajaya, Selangor, Malaysia August 25.”
This unexplained postponement comes in the face of mounting opposition to the agreement which, although it is being downplayed by Malacanang, is also being challenged in thre Supreme Court and non-Muslim officials, among them Malacanang ally, North Cotabato vice governer Manny Pinol.
Last Thursday, my column, An undemocratic decorum , focused on the glitterati who inspired public revulsion during the President’s State of the Nation Address.
But the essential starting point is a remarkable entry in his blog by Jove Francisco, who provided background information on the preparation of the President’s speech, including some points that were dropped at the last minute: and how those preparations belied the Palace’s claims that it had merely shrugged off the devastating survey results released on the eve of the President’s address. The decision to focus on a catalog of achievements was a conscious effort to reclaim public opinion (he also has an intriguing portion on how the Palace may have commissioned its own survey in order to prop up Joseph Estrada as a straw man to help propel Charter Change: it reminds me of this diary entry by Ferdinand Marcos).
As previously announced by the officials of the Presidential Management Staff, there will be no mention of Charter Change.
But conversations with sources from the political scene confirmed that Chacha may not have been heard in the halls of congress during the SONA, but it sure is being talked about by those concerned, “yun nga lang ay pabulong pa”.
Secretary Dureza, when I asked him about the President’s Mindanao plan, was evasive but, old pro that he is, immediately countered by saying the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process would be reporting to the House, but he probably knew by then that the real news would that House panel approves ARMM poll suspension.
Public opinion, this early on, is divided -and even heated. It reminds me of this:
At first hailed as a conquering hero, by the outbreak of World War II, Neville Chamberlain was despised as an appeaser and Appeasement has been our political vocabulary as a negative thing since. In recent decades, though, historians have taken to proposing that what Chamberlain did was buy time, so that Britain could better rearm for the inevitable confrontation with Germany. In our case, the question is whether the public believes a peace deal with the MILF is in the national interest or not. Certain provinces tried to intervene in the Supreme Court, but the government told the Supreme Court the contents of the deal are covered by executive privilege. See SC starts deliberations on appeal vs MOA:
Shortly after the high court started its session, government, through Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, sent its comment to the petition filed by officials of North Cotabato province, asking the high court to dismiss their appeal for a disclosure of the contents of the MOA, Marquez said.
Marquez said the high court gave the government until 12 noon Monday to submit its document, which arrived shortly after the high court began its deliberations.
By invoking executive privilege, in its 26-page comment, the government said while negotiations with the MILF did not involve any foreign power, there were military and national concerns raised.
“This being so, the entire process, the negotiations involving the said MOA and the drafts, documents thereof resulting from said negotiations is covered by the doctrine of executive privilege, which prevents the disclosure of information that could subvert military or diplomatic objectives,” the solicitor general said.
Now what, exactly, does the game plan cover, in terms of territory? first, let’s begin with this Wikipedia map, which shows the present ARMM in Green:
Then let’s refer to this:
The image above is taken from ABS-CBN’s scan of the draft agreement, and shows the areas proposed for inclusion in the expanded ARMM which would then constitute the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. You will notice that the areas in black, the areas where the government commits to holding a plebiscite, correspond pretty much, to these 19th Century maps of the old Sultanate of Sulu (from the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection)..
There is this German map from 1859, note the demarcation line for Spanish-controlled areas of the Philippines:
Another map from the same year shows the demarcation line more clearly:
Another map this one, which is from an 1892 American encyclopedia map, also retains the basic delineation between areas under direct Spanish control and the territory of the old Sultanate of Sulu (in yellow):
These maps cover a period that, based on one timeline put forward by , circumscribed the authority of the Sultan of Sulu and established the area as a Spanish protectorate:
March.1877 – The Sulu Protocol was signed between Spain, England, and Germany that recognized Spain’s rights over Sulu and, in consideration for the said lease of North Borneo, ended European hostilities in the area
July 22, 1878 – Sultan Jamal ul-Alam signed a treaty with the Spanish Crown making whole of Sulu a protectorate of Spain yet retained her autonomy and the privilege to fly own flag thus saved Jolo from further destruction.
1883 – Manila Spanish government established a customs house in Ciudad de Zamboanga to clear goods coming into the Sultanate of Sulu but, on the insistence of the British, Jolo was declared a free port and trade continued.
After which, of course, took place American efforts, by treaty and conquest, to establish American sovereignty over the Sultanate. That in itself calls for a separate, future entry, as it’s the American conquest of the old Sultanate of Sulu that leads, in turn, to the question of the Republic’s sovereignty over Muslim areas in Mindanao.
As for myself, my contention today is that The agreement itself is the prize. It does not matter if the whole thing doesn’t take off, what matters to the MILF is getting the government representatives to formally sign the memorandum. The Warrior Lawyer also seems to think so, tooL but says the agreement is a recipe for bloodshed. See a view from Davao in Alleba Politics:
I, among many here Mindanao, have been seeking out for the restoration of peace in the island.
My Muslim friend is optimistic that the agreement can bring peace to Mindanao, but he also fears it might lead to war. For one, he questions the sole representation of the entire Muslim population by MILF.
This MoA, I fear, reeks of insincerity, a strong decisive political move with many repercussions. I do not want to wait and see how it plays out because too many lives have been lost. And in the process, it has all become military and political. What our Muslim brothers want and need, in my opinion, cannot be simply answered by such military and political solutions.