2nd of three (3) series
THE REIGNED OF HALF HEARTED PRESIDENCY
At the end of the Ramos administration, a toughie in movies and college drop-out Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected overwhelmingly to the presidency. Like his predecessors, he engaged in peace overtures and hankered to settle the war-striped Mindanao issue as peace negotiations ensued upon his assumption to office with the MILF. The sagacious leader later on declared an all-out war against the MILF thus violated the ceasefire accord pointing at the Camp Abubakkar As Siddique as a haven of extortionists.
A provocative and war-like leader, he ordered his military to attack MILF Camp Abubakkar on January 16, 1997 in the guise of running after extortionists along the Don Narciso Ramos highway. Another “cheap pretext” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was to escort Buldon Mayor Macarampat Manalao” (Jubair 1999) to his hometown. The opening salvo of the assault was so tremendous due to heavy shelling. The assaulting soldiers could hardly push in towards Camp Abubakkar as they encountered stiff resistance from the rebels who were positioned on foxholes and bunkers. The skirmishes were bloody but to avoid heavy casualties due to relentless bombardments, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Chairman with a heavy heart reluctantly ordered his men to make a tactical withdrawal after days of fighting that resulted to heavy casualties to both sides.
The administration of Estrada was short-lived because he was ousted in a people power and withdrawal of support by his military chief the late General Angelo Reyes and Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP) now Senator Panifilo Lacson. Later on the disgraced president was charged of plunder and incarcerated.
CAME THE SMALL LADY
As Vice President-elect, Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo took the helm of the presidency after Estrada’s exit. But the fate of the peace process was similarly idem under Gloria Arroyo. Despite the ceasefire accord she also ordered the shelling of Boliok Peace Complex at Pikit, Cotabato on February 7, 2003 upon the prodding of her generals while Muslims all over the world were celebrating the Eidil Adha or “feast of Sacrifice”. This time it was aimed at arresting alleged kidnappers being coddled by the MILF. The truth of the matter is that the aggression was to arrest MILF Chairman Sheik Salamat Hashim whose leadership was a major irritant to the government. Both the peace ventures entered into by Estrada and Arroyo with the MILF were tainted with enormous betrayal and treachery. At the end of her administration, the wrath of Almighty Allah befell her. She now faces numerous criminal cases in court including plunder which under existing law she cannot post bail and under hospital arrest. Obviously, as Jubair put it (1999), “The Mindanao conflict is an endless human drama with all its ugly sides and events”.
THE PEACE PROCESS UNDER PNOY
The MILF’s struggle for freedom and lasting peace is a continuing endeavor whoever sits at the presidential palace. And despite the odds and painful trials they continue to search vigorously for the elusive peace in the Moro Homeland in their aspiration to settle the Mindanao crisis in a diplomatic and peaceful way where no one gets hurt and being displace. And so the peace process continued when President Benigno Simon Aquino III or PNoy was elected into the presidency in 2010.
THE BREAKTHROUGH AT KUALA LUMPUR
Their sacrifices and efforts bore fruit on the first week of October 2012 during its 32nd Exploratory Talks at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when the Government of the Philippines Peace Panel (GPH) headed by Atty. Marvic Leonen described as a “negotiator who listens” and MILF Peace Panel headed by idealist and highly-spirited Mohagher Iqbal arrived at a significant breakthrough. In said meeting they agreed on the final draft of the framework agreement for the establishment of a ministerial form of new autonomous political entity to be called Bangsamoro that will replace ARMM. MILF Chief Negotiator Iqbal chaired the Front’s peace panel since 2004. The so-called “annexes” will be tackled in succeeding talks.
Except for Misuari’s MNLF faction and few local political Christian leaders, the breakthrough elated many and all of them expressed optimism that the agreement would finally bring peace and progress to the Moro Region. Even foreign governments, donor countries and organizations, bishops, local leaders, business and civil society groups expressed their support to the peace pact.
Prominent national leaders like Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Gregorio Honassan, the former renegade army colonel who staged numerous coup against Former President Corazon Aquino’s administration, Senator Chiz Escudero, former Senator, now Congressman Rodolfo Biazon, erstwhile AFP Chief of Staff; and surprisingly former President Estrada the aggressor of Camp Abubakkar also lauded the significant achievement at Kuala Lumpur.
Misuari’s reactions could be attributed to his failed obsession to bring unity, development and prosperity to the people and land he fought for. He felt that he was betrayed and his Front was tricked not only by Marcos but also Ramos. The SPCPD did not succeed despite the provision of “seed money” from the national government. Misuari having lost his influence cannot stop the MILF and the government in entering into a final peace agreement and establishing the Bangsamoro Region. He should better heed the call of the MILF particularly Ghadzali Jafaar,Vice Chairman for Political Affairs to join them and accept the olive branch of peace.
The Maradeka, an alliance of 68 Bangsamoro civil society and multi-sector organizations espousing “homegrown Bangsamoro democracy” called on Muslim leaders to set aside differences and support the agreement”. Nash Pangadapun, Maradeka Secretary General, said Muslim leaders should heed the voice of the Muslim Youth, remember those who died in the Mindanao conflict, and think of the thousands displaced by the fighting in the region”. The Moros, according to him “deserve every ounce of a better life ahead”. (October 20, 2012)