Mindanao leaders welcome peace pact; breakaway Moro group adopts ‘wait-and-see’ attitude

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President Benigno S. Aquino III. MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Mindanao local leaders hailed on Sunday, the drafting of a preliminary agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the setting up of a new and more effective Bangsamoro autonomous entity.

President Benigno Aquino III announced the drafting of a framework agreement for a new autonomous region for Mindanao Muslims, which could signal the beginning of the end to over four decades of Moro rebellion on the conflict-ridden region.

This developed as the group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, said they were adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude on the preliminary agreement, emphasizing their army would not give up the struggle for independence.

On Sunday afternoon, Aquino announced in Manila that negotiators of government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who have been working overtime in Kuala Lumpur starting Oct. 2, have hammered a framework agreement that would set into motion a transition towards a mutually acceptable Moro self-governance setup.

“This Framework Agreement paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao. It brings all former secessionist groups into the fold; no longer does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aspire for a separate state,” Aquino said.

“This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations, and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens,” Aquino added.

When the MILF started negotiating with government under the facilitation of Malaysia in 2003, it grudgingly abandoned its quest for a separate state.

The framework agreement spells out the creation of a new autonomous political entity to be called Bangsamoro, which, Aquino said “symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation.”

The framework agreement will be the first in a series of pacts the two parties will craft in order to empower the Bangsamoro, which will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and have far greater political and economic governance powers.

Government and the MILF earlier set a three-year timeframe in transitioning from ARMM to Bangsamoro. Both parties also agreed to finish the entire negotiation process and implement major peace measures within the term of Aquino.

The new breakthrough in the Mindanao peace process comes after 13 exploratory meetings in 21 months under the Aquino administration. It is the 32nd round under the facilitation of Malaysia beginning in 2003. It also comes more than four years after the failed signing of the landmark but controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that sparked a year-long war in Central Mindanao.

“This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved,” the President explained.

The Bangsamoro will be the fifth time an autonomy setup is being formulated to address Moro political aspirations. But this will only be the third time such formulation was done in the context of peace negotiations.

The two others were the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government under the Ramos administration and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The ARMM and the two Regional Autonomous Governments created during the Marcos era were unilateral initiatives of the Philippine government.

The framework agreement defines a roadmap for building the competency of the Bangsamoro as a political entity.

“The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro, and this agreement will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal,” the President said.

He added that his administration “has pledged to supporting a law that will truly embody the values and aspirations of the people of Bangsamoro. “

“Any proposed law resulting from this framework will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite. Once approved, there will be elections,” Aquino further said.

The crafting of a basic law is expected to happen within the transition phase that is widely expected to start anytime in 2013.

With respect to the Bangsamoro, the national government “will continue to exercise exclusive powers of defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and coinage, citizenship, and naturalization,” Aquino said.

“The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony,” the President added.

The current ARMM has a 50 percent share in the proceeds of exploiting strategic minerals within the region. The MILF originally proposed a 70-30 scheme in favor of the Bangsamoro.

Mr. Aquino stressed that “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,” he added.

The President has urged the public to actively participate in discussions about the content of the framework agreement, which will be published before the parties sign the agreement.

The public uproar against the MOA-AD in 2008 was principally brought about by its secrecy, which bred negative perceptions.

Lawyer Zainudin Malang of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center said the agreement would be “an opportunity to end the conflict.”

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, a trustee of the ARMM Business Council, called the pact  “a starting point of a long political process towards genuine autonomy.”

“It is a very important signal to the world that the Philippine government has the political will to continue the peace process, no matter the ups and downs,” Mastura said.

In Kidapawan City, former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol, known to have opposed past agreements with the MILF, expressed support for the signing of the framework agreement.

“I don’t see any problem once the government and the MILF agree to sign a framework agreement. This is a welcome development to me,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

He said the negotiations were different from previous talks as these went through consultations with stakeholders.

“It’s a good start for peace and development in Mindanao,” Piñol said.

In Zamboanga City, Father Angel Calvo of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga said the framework agreement “can be a decisive step to the final agreement for the creation of the New Autonomy political Entity.”

Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also welcomed the framework agreement, saying it would pave the way to the region’s new political entity .

Hataman, who is running for ARMM governor the 2013 elections, said that should he win, he would be “willing to serve as a transitional government in case a peace pact is inked.”

“The reforms that are being undertaken in the region are also geared towards helping the government and the MILF eradicate, if not ease, the problem on corruption, poverty and unstable peace and order, prior to the agreement signing,” he said.

But the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Fighters, a breakaway group of the MILF, earlier said it would continue fighting for its original demand– the setting up of a separate state.

Abu Misri, BIFF spokesperson, in an earlier interview said his group would “continue the struggle for Bangsamoro freedom of the late MILF chair Hashim Salamat.”

“We are applying a wait-and-see stance,” said Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, a breakaway of the MILF.

“Anything that is good for the Bangsamoro, we will support, but it that fails, we will maintain our stance and that is independence for Mindanao,” Mama told the Inquirer by phone.

“If it succeeds, then we will support and recognize it, otherwise, our dream for independence of Mindanao remains,” he added.

Ricky Juliano, vice president for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said the business community in Mindanao, especially in Muslim Mindanao, welcomes the framework agreement, citing the dividends Mindanaoans would get as result of it.

“It will surely improve the business climate and then the quality of life of all Mindanaoans,” Juliano said.

“A genuine and acceptable peace pact between the government and the MILF will definitely usher peace and sustainable development in Maguindanao,” Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu said. With reports from Williamor A. Magbanua, Julie S. Alipala, Jeofrey Maitem, Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao

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  • rightist

    Total war against the rest of the breakaway groups. This agreement should be the last of our appeasement moves.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DFNVO7UFQHDOSF5XXD3UPX6CCY CRIS

    If this would happen then, Pnoy would be the best President in the Philippines i can count of….

    • sanjuan683

      hehehehe the best president na uto-uto. hehehehehe tignan mo may break away group na lilitaw. Katulad lang yan kay Misurari (panahon ni Corykon) after peace talk lumitaw itong MILF isang maliit ng grupo at nagsimula manggulo. hehehehehehe madali mauto ang mga Aquino. hehehehehehehe tulad mo rin nauto. hehehehehehehe

  • Guest

    Does this mean that all non-muslims are now allowed to possess firemarms because all muslims in mindanao have their own ammunitions and stacks of firearms.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joger.gonzaga Jog G Gonzaga

      “This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations, and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens,………..

      • Guest

        I will revisit your comment next year to check if the MILF forces and other muslim rebels are tilling the soil instead of bearing arms.

      • jga94

        PNoy did say that there are still details to be worked on….achieving peace and an end to a decades-old  war will obviously be hard…when PNoy announced this, he said so with hope and I think he is sincere with wanting peace in the reagion and giving what is due to our Muslim brothers….

      • sanjuan683

        hehehehehe siguro another break away group ang lilitaw katulad lang niya yun kay Misuari pagkatapos ng peace talk lumitaw itong MILF at nanggulo upang mapansin lang. hehehehehe nauto itong presidente mo. hehehehehe

      • http://www.facebook.com/rasol.abbas Rasol Abbas

        Being a peace advocate let me say here that this is not an easy decision by any administration but at least the present admin did it not only to put an end to the centuries problem that caused thousands of lives and billions of tax-payer Filipino’s income but also to pave the way for economic progress as we rely on Muslims oil and we deploy our people to their countries to earn money. We have to understand that all progressing countries in the world including Europe and America had to choice the peace in order to live in a prosperous, thriving, flourishing life. They have tested the nightmare and destructive fruits of war where in no body can claim winner in fact, they were all lost.

      • Guest

         It is surely a difficult decision for the administration. But it is an easy decision on the part of the extremists because they are in it for the money and power.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joger.gonzaga Jog G Gonzaga

    welcome Bangsamoro Philippines….peace forever….

    • sanjuan683

      hehehehe oo tapos niya mayroon na naman lilitaw ng break away groups ng hihingi na naman ng sariling demand. Katulad lang niya yun kay Misuari matapos ang peace talk (panahon ni Corykon)  lumitaw itong MILF at nagsimula manggulo. hehehehehehe Kaya antayin mo ang bagong break away group kaya wala na katapusan yan gulo sa Mindanao. hehehehe

      • opinyonlangpo

        There is already a breakaway group opting for a wait and see situation.

  • jga94

    Sana this one works….kawawa na ang maraming inosenteng Mindanaons…in war, eventually nobody wins…

  • Albert Einstien

    how many MILFs are there(..200K.). their numbers should COMMENSURATE .to the land area they controlled…….what about MNLF & BIFF…or other break-away groups….did they agree to sign also….or they just go LATER to other PROVINCES and DEMAND the SAME perks with that milf received….? there can be no ACTUAL PEACE if ALL parties have no COMMON INTEREST. Just make sure CONDITIONS should not be UNCONSTITUTIONAL otherwise …the govt is ONLY giving them FALSE HOPE & EMPTY PROMISES….which will be more HURTFUL than the way they are…CAN different ethnic groups ( 97% /95 MILLION of the population ) ALSO DEMAND same TREATMENT &AUTONOMY?……like BANGSAILOCANO, BANGSAVISAYA, BANGSATAGALOG, BANGSAPANGGASINAN, BANGSAIBANAG, BANGSAILONGGO,,BANGSAKATOLIKA………..CAREFUL………CAREFUL!

    • http://www.facebook.com/rasol.abbas Rasol Abbas

      huwag mong gamitin ang hindi mo salita parekoy

  • opinyonlangpo

    The breakaway BIFF will carry on what the MILF mainstream was doing while the MILF will exploit the benefits of the peace agreement. That is a win-win situation for the separatists. Peace is good for both sides so lets wait and see also till when the MILF can keep the peace, hopefully its more than a year.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VPSXDLCQEZGZDJSX32G7PYHNCI Noel

    Whether or not it’s going to succeed is the big question.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CFZ2Q7RFJ6PWRYMM3NJ7JB4KSE Dynamic

    Genuine peace can reverberate in many other countries and it’s ripple effect goes further and beyond to other planets.Planet Mercury is a planet as physical as planet Earth.Venus is another of different dimension and many others known and unknown.There are millions of souls who have  taken physical embodiment that came from Mercury and there are five thousand volunteer priests from Venus.There’re all here from all walks of life,in the name of peace and harmony  amongs people of many races combined.May the peace of God be with those who can accept peace in everyday of their lives,and those who have” wait and see” attitude will be left behind…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WEBQQWQDFI3HXAMQFTUHVVUHNU ame mojica

    I think the Moslems, communist etc they will only be interested in peace if they believe they cannot win. In as much as I detest Erap for corruption his plan in Maguindanao was right.  Wipe them out and they will seek peace.

  • virgoyap

    Hope that this is the Impossible Dream comes true. Salamat P-Noy for opting the peaceful path and not the path of violence and war. This will surely brings us not only to a new Mindanao but also to the New Philippines.

  • malek_abdul

    Now I see progress in the Land of Promise. Allahu Akbar!!!

  • RomyLitz

     This agreement is beneficial since it does not require the creation of a “separate state”, therefore, it is time to resume full gear attack on the break away groups  and ask for for more drones, stealth and predators from USA Pentagon to finish the job that former presdent Erap had started. TO bury them dead, or annihilate or mass barbecue their dead bodies,it doesn’t matter, war against the extremist must be finished ASAP !!

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