PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III said it succinctly in his nationwide address today (October 7) to announce the forging of a framework for a future peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

For while the President was all praises for the two sides, and full of hope for an end to the bitter conflict, he was also quick to say this:

“The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge.”

The President said details of the framework will be made public in the coming days. But as is often said, the devil will always be in the details. Negotiators often find out that agreeing on a framework is infinitely easier than agreeing on the flesh and blood that give body to a peace deal.

Possibly the biggest challenge would be on what form of political entity the Bangsamoro government will now take. If it is a regional autonomous government, how different or similar would it be, structurally, from the present ARMM? More to the point, is it going to be a federated state in a sea of unitary provinces?

That question is based on the fact that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has always insisted on a federal or ministerial form of government for the new political entity called the Bangsamoro. In previous peace talks, the MILF has consistently insisted that it would never agree to adopt the present political structure of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, one that is patterned generally after the unitary form of government that the Philippines has used for a century.

The MILF argument is simple: the unitary form of government has failed Mindanao in the past, and it will continue to fail so long as power is overly centralized in Manila. In its own proposal, the MILF wants representatives elected in the local level, who will then elect a cabinet and a chief minister who will govern the new political entity. It is the classic parliamentary model; unfortunately, it is not a model most Filipinos are familiar with, and neither is it a model that the Constitution recognizes.

This was the heart of the problem with the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008, when the government of then President Gloria Arroyo committed to amend the Constitution to allow this new system. Prominent political personalities however quickly whipped up the lingering fear of a breakup of the Philippine Republic, leading to widespread fear and suspicion against the deal.

With government and the MILF hammering out a new framework, it bears watching how both sides addressed this issue. So far, there is no hint of how the political nature of the Bangsamoro entity was resolved in the President’s national address on Sunday. Understandably, much would now hinge on how both sides would define the relationship between the national government and the Bangsamoro entity.

For an idea of the major points raised by the MILF panel, here are some clips from the MILF meeting with the Manila press in July this year, where the MILF panel members patiently explain their position.

 

 

For a quick read of the history of the efforts to find peace in Mindanao, the PCIJ produced several stories in the previous months.

 

Mindanao, the long road to peace looks at the extended peace narrative of Mindanao, across the terms of six Philippine presidents. Some may find this story instructive in that it gives a detailed summary of the challenges to the peace talks that have run through several Moro rebel groups.

 

The hidden costs of war reviews the costs, casualties, and impact of the conflict in Mindanao, and why it is a story that all Filipinos must care about, even as it often seems too distant or difficult to understand.

 

 

 

Those who may have missed President Aquino’s address to the nation may read the full text of his message here.

Those who want to read the full text of the 2012 GRP-MILF Framework Agreement may download the document here.

1 Response to GRP-MILF deal is ‘first base;’
Longer, harder road begins

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antonio ferrolino

October 8th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

would like to have copy or listing of north cotabato barangays included in the expanded bangsamoro

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