Allah is the Greatest. After about 16 years of tedious negotiations with the Philippine Government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) through its peace panel headed by Mohaghir Iqbal and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel Chair Atty. Marvic Leonen had finally settled on the remaining contentious issues in the proposed framework agreement during its 32nd Exploratory talks held in Malaysia last week.
The framework agreement, an initial accord between the GPH and the MILF is scheduled to be signed probably at Malacaňang Palace, Manila on October 15, 2012 between Iqbal and Atty Leonen in the presence of President Benigno Simon “Noynoy’ Aquino III and other government officials. The Prime Minister of Malaysia and foreign diplomats are expected to grace the historic occasion. Without hesitations at all, the Bangsamoro people gives due credit and owe its utmost gratitude to the government of Malaysia and its sovereign people for facilitating the peace process.
The accord is a roadmap for the two parties to come up with a final peace agreement as a springboard towards the establishment of a new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro. After the signing in Manila it is expected that both the GPH and the Front will recommend their respective members to the 15-man transition commission. Eight (8) members will come from the MILF including the commission chairman and 7 from the government who will all be Bangsamoro.
According to media reports, those coming from the rebel organization are not necessarily MILF members. The transition commission members will be appointed by the president and is task to draft a Basic Law that will govern the Bangsamoro. The final draft of the basic law will be forwarded to the Congress of the Philippines. It is expected that it will undergo strict scrutiny by members of the congress but thereafter it will be enacted into law. Should there will be no hassles the president will signed the Bangsamoro Basic Law into law.
The tasks of the commission should be completed and a new organic act be enacted by congress before President Aquino’s term end. The inclusion of new cities, municipalities and villages to the present coverage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be through the conduct of a plebiscite. In his column in The Mindanao Cross, a local newspaper in Cotabato City entitled Balintataw, Father Eliseo R. Mercado,Jr. OMI a peace advocate himself said, “The so-called transitional period and transitional mechanism that would come out of any agreement between the GPH and the MILF should all happen within the ‘time’ of the present Aquino presidency, that is, until end of June 2016. Beyond 2016, the president cannot commit anything”.
Although the framework agreement has received flak from rejectionist local leaders, nevertheless many political, business, civic leaders and the governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the United States and others had expressed their commendations and support to the parties in reaching a viable agreement. ARMM OIC Regional Governor Muzib Hataman also welcomed the new development.
Just few days ago, former Cotabato governor Manuel Pinol and Zamboangsa City Mayor Celso Lobregat had expressed their disagreement on the framework agreement. Like his mother, former Congresswoman Maria Clara Lobregat, the mayor is a Mindanaoan anti-peace politician. We call on them and other hawkish officials in the government to support and love peace; and hate war. Nevertheless, the voice of the people that is supreme above any person in this country; and President Aquino being the powerful man in the country would prevail over these obstructionist elements.
Unexpectedly, no other than MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari threatened the prevalence of chaos and disunity in Mindanao as a result of the agreement reached in Kuala Lumpur. He went to the extent of criticizing Malaysia for its part on the successful outcome of the peace talks without recalling that several decades back, the country was once his foreign headquarters. Misuari, the erstwhile charismatic rebel leader had already lost credibility and therefore no longer in a position to influence or derail the establishment of a new autonomous political entity Bangsamoro.
Earlier, the president himself and the GPH peace panel chair Leonen had declared that,” the pursuit of peace talks and the resolution of long-standing issues such as the Moro self-determination or autonomy and ancestral domain through a political settlement remain the government’s thrusts”. With the initial agreement slated to be signed, we can finally state clear and loud that President Aquino is sincere and true to his words.
On the other hand, the MILF and its leaders Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Chairman; Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs and the rest of them did not failed on their optimism that a breakthrough would be finally reached in earliest time possible. Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jafaar once said over the local radio that an agreement would be signed before the year ends.
There is still a long way to go and a lot more works to do. We will leave the final touches to the transition commission that will painstakingly formulate the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The best for the Bangsamoro is yet to come and Insha Allah (God willing) significant progress in Moroland will take place in the years to come. As of this writing, the biggest Malaysian Palm Crude Oil producer in Southeast Asia is already contemplating to invest worth billions of pesos for an initial 10 thousand hectares of palm oil plantation in the proposed Bangsamoro.
With the significant achievements the MILF and its peace panel, its secretariat and technical group who indefatigably endeavored for the peace talks to achieve its goal, we salute and highly commend them for the job best done. Alhamdulillah! (October 11, 2012)