Bitter oppositions to the MILF’s proposed substate --- and by extension to the Aquino-Murad meeting in Japan – are mounting. As usual, the hardened and incorrigible spoilers of the peace process are back to their old business of tongue lashing. Former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol still leads the pack, followed by Ramon Tulfo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and then Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat. The new recruit is Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who is a very promising leader of national stature, but lately had shown his true self when he insulted and belittled the Moros’ capacity even to make pan de sal. The good thing, however, is that most of those who criticized the MILF and the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) bitterly in 2008 are silent. They may have learnt a good lesson – or they are merely lurking underneath the surface of the water like a crocodile ready to mount another attack. Whichever way, the MILF will stand its ground and confront these critics come what may.
However, while criticism or spoiling, for the most part is bad especially if it is only done merely to criticize, the MILF is fully aware that the flip side is positive. It invites and widens the discussion of issues and on the process people are getting better educated and better approach or judgment by the parties might ensue, because the levels of interaction are brought to a higher degree. Truth is that in some ways, spoiling is part of the peace process. It should not be taken as a sign that the peace process is under threat and in some cases, may even indicate progression.
In this regard, some facts are to be examined closely and with objectivity, namely: (a) Peace processes themselves may not be equitable or just. Parties labeled as spoilers may not be seeking to destroy the peace process, but rather to improve it and make it more fair; (b) The nature of the peace process is critical to its chance of success. It should be consensual, locally owned and supported by international and regional organizations. The peace process should not be imposed upon an unwilling or disengaged public; (c) It should not be assumed that all armed conflict can be resolved by accommodating conflicting interests and finding consensus amongst parties willing to compromise. Some groups have clear incentives for the continuation of conflict or contesting the nature of peace; and (d) Third parties bring incentives for spoiling in terms of resources, recognition and favoritism. A lack of co-ordination amongst international actors can complicate the picture and provide opportunities for manipulation. Spoilers can be productive though -- those aiming to mold rather than destroy peace processes can engage third parties for longer periods of time. Thorough negotiations and longer-term external engagement may ultimately avoid a return to large-scale violence.
The other necessary outcome of spoiling, especially in the case of those hardened ones like Piñol, is they suffer the consequence of their misdeed. Piñol would have hard time getting back to power in North Cotabato. The Moros, whom he despised and belittled lavishly, have long memory – and they will not forget. The MILF does not involve itself in Philippine politics, but people listen to it. MILF’s policies and views of its leaders influence people even in election.