March 22, 2018, 8:14 am
Facebook iconTwitter iconYouTube iconGoogle+ icon

The long road to Mindanao peace (1)

THIS history of the peace negotiations between the Philippines and Bangsamoro is based on an article in Wikipedia.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) was created in 1976 for the purpose of “liberating” the Bangsamoro. Through force of arms, the MNLF took control of several Cotabato municipalities. The MNLF was so successful that the Philippine military deployed almost three-fourths of the army in Mindanao that formed part of what the Muslims claimed as their their Bangsamoro. 
In 1976, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered an agreement that led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement that introduced the concept of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao. On August 1, 1989, under the mandate of the new 1987 Constitution, Congress enacted Republic Act 6734 authorizing the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 
But of the 13 provinces and 9 cities that participated in a plebiscite, only the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi opted to become part of the ARMM, which was formally established on November 6, 1990.
Instead of bringing the Muslim leaders together, Tripoli further fragmented the MNLF with factions going for independence over autonomy. Thus, a group of officers led by Hashim Salamat broke away and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to continue their armed struggle for an independent Bangsamoro in Mindanao.
Over nearly five decades, five presidents have tried to find the solution to the Bangsamoro problem.
The Ramos presidency, tried to reach out to both the communist and Muslim rebels through peaceful means. The only president who actually saw combat against both communist forces (in Korea, Vietnam, and southern Luzon) and Muslim separatists, Ramos eagerly sat down with the rebel leaders in an attempt to solve both problems at their roots.
Ramos again sought the intercession of Gaddafi, Thus, with Gaddafi’s assistance, the Philippine government signed the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF in 1996. Misuari was elected governor of the ARMM and was tasked to supervise the implementation of the peace pact.
Unfortunately, factions within the MNLF were not satisfied with this peace pact and saw this as a deviation from the framework of the Tripoli Agreement. Their desire for complete secession from Philippine sovereignty led to the establishment of the MILF.
The exploratory and preparatory talks between the government and the MILF started in August 1996, An Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the two parties was signed in July 1997.
Ramos’ term as president ended in June 1998, but the low-level negotiations continued under the new Estrada administration. Before the formal pace talks could begin, Estrada’s sudden policy-shift declared an “all-out war” against the MILF.
Estrada’s all-out war policy led to the capture of Camp Abubakar, MILF’s main headquarters. The President himself led the military in raising the Philippine flag in the rebel stronghold, bringing trucks of lechon and beer for the triumphant soldiers in what was considered as an insult to the MILF–because pork and alcohol are both considered haram in Islam.
When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in January 2001, the peace process was revived with a unilateral declaration of cease-fire on the part of the government. With the assistance of the Malaysian government, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Eduardo Ermita and MILF Vice-Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim signed the Agreement for the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks between the government and the MILF.
On March 31, 2001, Republic Act 9054 amended the Organic Act of the ARMM to provide for the region’s expansion from the original four provinces under its jurisdiction. The Provinces of Basilan, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Palawan, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, and the cities of Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, Iligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, Digos, Koronadal, Tacurong, and Kidapawan participated in the plebiscite. However, only Marawi City and Basilan (excluding Isabela City) and the originals that were in ARMM voted for inclusion in the new ARMM.
Later that year, the peace process fell apart when the military attacked the MILF just a day after the ancestral domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement was signed in Libya. This attack was based on intelligence reports that the MILF had been aiding the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which at that time held some American and Filipino hostages in Basilan. A cease-fire would once again ensue after informal talks between the government and the MILF through the intercession of Malaysia.
On October 29, 2001, the MILF and the MNLF held unity talks, but this would fall apart barely a month later when Nur Misuari led a rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City in an effort to stall the scheduled ARMM elections. A hundred people died in the incident. The government quelled this rebellion and Misuari escaped to Sabah. On May 6, 2002, the fourth round of formal peace talks between the government and the MILF resulted in both parties agreeing to disband criminal syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom groups in Mindanao, and to implement the Humanitarian Rehabilitation and Development aspect of the Tripoli Agreement.
A final draft of the peace accord was presented to the leaders of Congress on February 10, 2003, but on the next day, a setback would ensue as the military launched an offensive in Buliok Complex against the MILF which would last for more than a week. Cease-fire was enforced three weeks later. By March, the parties began exploratory talks in Malaysia with a commitment from both sides for a “mutual secession of hostilities.” The aspect of a Muslim ancestral domain was laid down as the next agenda for the peace talks. Until the end of 2008, the peace process remained in a deadlock due to constitutional and legal issues surrounding the ancestral domain aspect.
On July 27, 2009, a Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was finalized in Malaysia. Under this agreement, some 700 villages in Mindanao would hold a referendum within a year to determine if they intend to join the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” an associated state which would be formed after the necessary constitutional amendments were completed by the government. This agreement was scheduled to be signed on August 5, with the final peace agreement set to be concluded by November.
Three days before the scheduled signing of the MOA-AD, local officials of North Cotabato filed a case asking the Supreme Court to block the signing of this agreement. On October 14, the Court voted 9-6 to strike down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional. According to the decision penned by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, “the Constitution does not recognize any state within this country other than the Philippine State, much less does it provide for the possibility of any transitory status to prepare any part of Philippine territory for independence.” Likewise, the Court held as unconstitutional the guarantees under the MOA-AD that the government will implement the necessary constitutional amendments to create a framework for its implementation. According to the Court, neither the peace panel nor even the president did not have the authority to make such guarantees because they do not have the power to propose amendments to the Constitution, such power being vested exclusively in Congress.
The junking of the MOA-AD marked another setback for the peace process, with the armed conflicts for the year 2008 reaching a record-high of 30 incidents in Mindanao. In an effort to salvage the negotiations, Arroyo declared the suspension of military operations against the MILF a year before the end of her term.
Readers who missed a column can access This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.
No votes yet

Column of the Day

Realities of aging

By PHILIP S. CHUA | March 22,2018
‘We no longer have any excuse not to maximize our health and longevity.’

Opinion of the Day

CenterLaw voids Duterte’s decision

By NESTOR MATA | March 22, 2018
‘The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) voids Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the UNCHR and ICC.’