My other problem is this: I have seen the quality of the political leadership in ARMM and I am not optimistic that greater autonomy for the warlords who rule there will improve the lives of ordinary Muslims. The ordinary people there could be merely exchanging the neglect and indifference of Imperial Manila with the unimpeded oppression from their own kind. Neither am I opitmistic that with those leaders in charge, they can bring stability or security to the region.
Much of the success of the BJE depends on the kind of leadership that will arise in the region. So far, its not looking good.
I’m not so convinced of “neglect and indifference” as Carandang expresses it; what seems more accurate is that attention and resources have been lavished on the Moro leadership but the national government has refused to extract any accountability from those leaders just as those leaders have followed the lead of their Christian political peers by squandering the resources at their disposal.
But returning to Carandang’s opinion, is the former not, in its purest form, a colonial question? Being asked to prove the capacity for self-government is what a subordinated people are asked to do; it is not what two peoples looking to find a way for an amicable co-habitation or a just parting of ways, asks of each other.
This brings me to the danger from all the emotions unleashed because of the way the public was caught by surprise by the RP-MILF deal, is that it may actually set back the prospects of a just peace settlement: not least because all the aggressive talk masks the galling reality that the Republic is already hard-pressed to maintain its writ, much more actively quell a rebellion. This news then: MILF given 24 hours to leave areas ‘forcibly’ taken in ARMM . Can it be taken at face value? Posturing? A sudden recovery of military balls?
But this harsh military reality must be separated in turn from public perception and criticism of the deal.
Among the wrinkles in the current situation is the perception that Malaysia is not an honest broker (while our governments have been weak, see Tatay Pepes blogging from General Santos City) and a lingering lack of confidence in Islamic democracy : and while I believe there can be democracy with Islamic characteristics, personally, I am not convinced that a large Muslim minority can be successfully integrated into a state dominated by another religion (I ventured this opinion back in 2004): unless secularism becomes entrenched. But since we seem to be leaving secularism more and more behind, then all the more the political incompatibility of the two sides, Christian and Muslim, becomes clearer and clearer.
But there is something slightly underhanded in some Christian politicians suddenly wrapping the national flag around themselves, when the only thing wrong with separatism, it would seem, is that the MILF beat them to it, and they are excluded from it. These Christian politicians have themselves openly proposed and discussed secession, and of course virtual Commonwealth status, after all.
The opinions of Christian Filipinos in Mindanao, however, is an altogether different thing. While I think the panic is being fanned, irresponsibly, by Christian politicians, it has at its heart a justifiable terror at the thought of having been handed over like pawns to a future Muslim state, and worse, being denied any assurance of protection by the authorities. The bare minimum any citizen, and what’s more, entire communities who suddenly wake up on day to discover their future has been radically altered (potentially) by government fiat, should be able to expect and not even have to demand, is that their property and security will be guaranteed by the Republic.
As tensions and violence began to spill into the streets in Kenya in late 2007, the government decided to ban local live broadcast. Whilst this is obviously controversial, there were fears that radio, in particular, could be used, as it had done in Rwanda, to incite violence. The ban of live reporting meant that SMS began to be utilised as an update method and thus ‘mobile reporters’ were born.
The Government realised that they couldn’t control the internet or the text messages which were being sent to incite hostility, so they countered them with their own blanket text messages stating that the violence was illegal and that Kenyans should be concentrating on peace.
As well as to this, to set the tone for this entry:
Today’s Inquirer editorial appeals for the authorities to step back from the brink and reconcile themselves to the parameters ordained by the Constitution. Yet I found it quite interesting in a gathering of Inquirer columnists last night, that opinion was quite divided on what to expect from the Supreme Court.
A sober voice among the columnists said to me, “There are, indeed, times when the national interest may require a tremendous sacrifice which includes parting ways. Think of Malaysia and its parting ways with Singapore, a win-win for both sides as it turned out. But the problem is while we may want to seriously consider this option, you cannot do it this way, in this manner, in defiance of the Constitution.” Similarly judicious views were expressed by John Nery in a recent column.
One opinion seemed widely shared: the Supreme Court won’t dribble this one, it will resolve the status of the government’s deal with dispatch, if only to calm the situation. But while I heard that the Supreme Court would rule against the President, basically saying she had exceeded her authority, another and shall I say more authoritative sort put it to me in a more nuanced manner: “The court will rule as the President wants it to rule.” Which means it will support the President’s deal, I asked? The person said, no, the court will rule as the President decides, at the time, it should rule. And left it at that.
There are those, of course, unhappy with the Supreme Court’s intervention, and its TRO has, in turn, inspired frustration on the part of those, like Bong Montesa, who, we must assume, sincerely participated in the process out of the belief it offers a way forward. Abe Margallo also agrees the Supreme Court may have been out of bounds in issuing the TRO vs. the deal.
The most surprising opinion I heard, though, came from our Cebu columnist Juan Mercado. When I told him that perhaps some tacticians had determined the appeal of Federalism would swing support in the Visayas behind the deal, he vigorously disagreed. “This will find very hard going in Cebu,” he said.
I am not so sure, though, that at this point we can say, as At Midfield thinks, that the whole thing has begun to unravel.
Yesterday’s Inquirer editorial points to the views of Fr. Juan Mercado, OFM, a veteran of the peace process, who points out the genius of the RP-MILF deal, but also its fatal flaw. The genius of the document lies in that
The MOA is not just about “ancestral domain” in the ordinary sense of the word. The MOA creates the very prism, the framework and the mechanism to realize their dream and aspiration.
The MOA will be difficult to understand, simply because it introduces a new and unfamiliar paradigm in looking at the issues involved in the peace process. In the past, the peace negotiations were done and approached by insisting on the Constitution as if it were written in stone. It is no accident that the peace negotiators of the past had to negotiate within the “box”, that is, the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence.
Atty. Camilo Montesa of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, a Cotabato-based Think Tank, narrated to the Kusog Mindanaw Group the genesis of the new paradigm as used in the negotiation with the MILF beginning December 2006. The new paradigm is based on the concept of “earned sovereignty” as a way out of the intractable positioning of the parties.
This concept involves accepting the principle of shared sovereignty; in institution building; and a shared commitment to resolving the final political status of a Muslim homeland.
But, Mercado points out,
The main flaws of the otherwise a very good paradigm are basic which could have been addressed easily by government while negotiating with the MILF. The paramount flaw is the absence or utter lack of consultation of stakeholders, including Christian leaders, indigenous peoples in Mindanao, and peace advocates themselves. This flaw contravenes the very essence of any peace process which is participative of the stakeholders. The participative aspect of any process can NOT be overemphasized since this should lead to a regional and national consensus on the peace formula.
The second flaw is the lack of transparency and thus the lack of accountability in the whole process. It is rather very tragic that a good paradigm is now being “torpedoed” on the basis of fundamentals (consultation and transparency) that could have been easily addressed. The same fundamentals are required in the upcoming negotiations on the Comprehensive Compact (or Final Peace Agreement).
The third flaw is the fact that the government negotiating peace with the MILF is at its lowest ebb. The social capital and the credibility of Government are busted. For a peace process to bring to a successful conclusion will require a very high social capital and credibility that this Government sorely lacks. Government has to do a lot of “selling”, “cajoling” and “convincing”, especially so when the waters the Parties have navigated in coming up with the MOA are deep and little known. For this very reason, Government should have walked the extra mile in making sure that the stakeholders are on board.
It is the lack of a pre-existing constituency mobilized, ahead of time, to support the agreement; the absence and in fact, refusal on the part of the government to be open about the negotiations; and the general mistrust that haunts the government, that has led to such a ferocious response from Christians in the vicinity of the ARMM and even skepticism and opposition among some non-MILF Muslims. The government, as Amando Doronila pointed out, should have been aware of the importance of a principle enunciated by Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I:
Wilson said the first point in a program of peace for a postwar world was: ““Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
But surprise people and don’t be surprised in turn if they panic. And if you have any doubt that feelings are increasingly heading in a ferocious direction, then see this entry in Over a Cup of Brewed Coffee, concerning popular sentiment in Iligan City.
And examine, too, this entry in The Forsaken and consider if this opinion is reflective of a lunatic fringe or of broader and deeply-entrenched sentiments. Not to mention fire-breathing denunciations in the House of Representatives (Moro lawmakers are, to put it mildly, not amused).
more moderate, cautious, but still skeptical views are expressed in Super Sawsaw, and (surprisingly, to me) Philippine-American Commentary thinks the whole mess has been caused by misplaced American guilt and delusional laws passed by Filipinos and entrenched by local jurists. The Pelican Spectator finds the whole thing quite reckless and I have heard similar opinions even from those supportive of some sort of settlement.
Such a national campaign to empower Muslims faces an uphill battle in a country whose population is 93% Christian. Which is just as well, since it would be a major mistake for at least four reasons:
First, by carving up provinces into separate Muslim and Christian enclaves, the deal would surrender any hope that Filipinos can find a way to live together and instead falls back on the myth that countrymen can live healthy “separate but equal” lives in an apartheid-like arrangement. This would undo the decade of progress toward greater political integration since former House Speaker Jose de Venecia started welcoming Muslim representatives into his ruling congressional coalition.
Second, it would increase rather than decrease the likelihood of territorial disputes because the agreement concedes to claims that the region constitutes a traditional Islamic homeland. This would likely inflame Christians, who would be kicked off of land where they have lived for decades when Muslims make claim to their legally mandated “ancestral domain.”
Third, further removing Muslims from the rest of Philippine society and enabling them to shape an entirely separate culture would encourage the separatist mentality that dreams of carving out a pan-Islamic state from other existing countries in the region, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. This has been a MILF goal since its founders broke off from the Moro National Liberation Front in the 1980s after that group made peace with Manila.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for the outside world, greater Islamic independence and less Philippine control over the Islamic regions would invite even more terrorist activity in an area that already has strong ties to al Qaeda. With the deployment of U.S. Special Forces to the southern Philippines now in its seventh year, joint U.S.-Philippine operations have pacified the most lawless Muslim areas. Expanding the Islamist sphere of influence now threatens to undo this success.
Although there are, to be sure, voices being raised in defense of the RP-MILF agreement. See Rebel Pen who sees conflict as the inevitable and necessary price for development, and Stoned Immaculate who feels there is little justification for continued integration. Some of it may be wishful thinking, for example Pinoy Youth Rage‘s skepticism over the critics of the deal basecon the belief, among other things, that the agreement will not result in constitutional amendments.
That the territorial aspect of the deal has alarmed and even enraged Christians in Mindanao (and even some Muslims who live in non-ARMM areas), apparently surprises Bong Montesa (who has a blog, Peace is Possible in Mindanao) of the timeline of the RP-MILF agreement fame, and long a proponent of, and involved in, the peace negotiations. In his entry Peace is an emotional issue, he recounts presenting the peace deal to the faculty and staff of the Notre Dame University in Cotobato City, and being taken by surprise at the ferocity of the responses -and questions- of the faculty and students:
These were questions that, if you were listening enough to my presentation, the answers would be obvious. Then I realized that this matter of the peace talks in Mindanao is, by and large, an emotional issue. No amount of logical reasoning can change how people view the subject matter. People’s reaction on this are really irrational, depending on which side of the fence they stand.
As I was getting out of the theater, a young man approached me and with a serious, almost pleading, look in his eyes, he asked me: “Atty. Bong, is it true that if Cotabato City become part of the Bangsamoro Homeland, the muslims can take away properties of christians and claim them as their own?” “Where did you get that idea?” I asked him. He replied: “I heard that muslims are already scouting and marking the big houses of christians in Cotabato and staking a claim over these houses in anticipation for the signing of the peace agreement and Cotabato City’s eventual incorporation in the Bangsamoro Homeland.”
I sighed and felt a heavy weight on my shoulders.
Let me say that it disturbs me, personally, that someone so intimately involved in the process expresses surprise at the reaction; this is either mind-boggling naivite, or plain and simple incompetence on his part and if it refects the mentality of those who negotiated the agreement, then accounts for why it has provoked such an (unecessary, to my mind) firestorm of protest. Which,
And the proposed expansion of it to comprise the proposed BJE:
And placed it in the context of the old territorial scope of the old Moro sultanates, including the Sultanate of Sulu, which survived the longest (the wavy dotted line demarcates the sultanate from Spanish territory as of 1892):
Well, These colored versions are easier to understand. From the Inquirer print edition:
Though it’s interesting that in Montesa’s version the “affirmative action” areas highlighted in the Inquirer map are not highlighted.
Let me venture an opinion on the territories proposed for plebiscite and the affirmative active territories: let us consider the possibility the MILF is aware that these territories will not accede to the proposed BJE. But what the MILF wants is, basically, royalties to be derived from these territories, in the form of subsidies or a portion of the economic production of these territories. I am also not convinced foreign nations outside Malaysia are devoting serious resources to pushing the direction of the negotiations one way or another: but they are sniffing around to see which side gains the momentum and you can be sure that if they think the MILF will have its way, there will be a stampede by foreign governments to take credit for helping give birth to a new nation, to secure favorable treatment for their investments.
Where we are, then, is perhaps further from a negotiated peace than at any time in recent memory. Let us hope Tony Abaya’s dire scenarios do not play out.
How intractable the problem has become, is demonstrated by the reality that the Moros have basically undergone the same process other Filipinos underwent in the 19th Century -the subordination of their own ethnic identity into that of a national one- so that while “Filipino” is a 19th Century construct, that of Bangsamoro is a product of the 1960s- and that this ideological construct has retroactively invalidated what traditional Moro leaders tried to do: integrate themselves into the Filipino nation. And while old ethnic tensions still exist among the Moros, it is something that has been around long enough to be increasingly non-debatable: see Moslemen Macarambon Jr. Personal Blog.
The tag line of Wyzemoro Blogs says it all, and his entry reproduces the expression of a reality non-Moros must confront:
Prof. Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, pointed out that it is important for the Bangsamoro to assert their right to self-determination “to determine their political status since their incorporation to the Philippine state was without their plebiscitary consent”. He suggested that Congress pass a law that will authorize the conduct of a referendum for the Bangsamoro to determine their political status. The referendum, he said, shall give Muslims in the Philippines several choices including independence, autonomy, free association, consociational arrangement, federal arrangement, and other power sharing arrangement.
The genesis of this non-recognition of the past participation of the traditional Moro leadership in the formation of the present Philippine nation-state, next time. For now, another entry in Wyzemoro’s blog, distills the issues. See What is really at stake in the Mindanao peace process? by Ishak Mastura.