On July 16, 2008, representatives of the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) announced that they had reached an agreement to expand the autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.
Under the proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), the planned homeland also referred to as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) was to include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City); six municipalities in Lanao del Norte; hundreds of villages in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, which voted in 2001 to become part of the ARMM; and parts of Palawan.
It was to have its own “basic law,” police and internal security force, and system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative and electoral institutions, as well as full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and other natural resources.
The agreement was scheduled to be signed on Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur (the Malaysian government brokered the talks that led to the agreement).
But the agreement met with strong public opposition, with groups claiming that the proposed Bangsamoro homeland could lead to the formation of an independent state. Some officials, lawmakers and interest groups took the issue to the Supreme Court.
On Aug. 4, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping the signing of the agreement.
On Aug. 7, armed clashes broke out in Mindanao, with MILF forces occupying parts of North Cotabato and raiding towns in Lanao del Norte and Sarangani. MILF leaders blamed the attacks on field commanders impatient about the delay in the implementation of the agreement.
On Sept. 3, after issuing conflicting statements on the government’s stand on the MILF and the agreement, Malacañang announced that it was dissolving the government peace panel and that the administration would not sign the document “in light of recent violent incidents committed by lawless violent groups.”
On Oct. 14, the Supreme Court, voting 8-7, declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional and illegal, describing the process that led to its crafting as “whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic.”
The Supreme Court affirmed its decision to reject the deal on Nov. 11.
The court’s decision triggered attacks by MILF rebels on Christian communities in Mindanao. The violence displaced 750,000 people and left nearly 400 people dead, according to official figures.
On Aug. 4, 2011, President Aquino met with MILF chair Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo secretly and they agreed to speed up the peace negotiations. It was the first time that a Philippine president met with a leader of the rebel group since the on-and-off peace talks, marred by violence and distrust, started in 1997.
On Aug. 9, the MILF posted an editorial on its website, insisting its proposal that a Moro substate be formed in Mindanao. It said: “Let the Moros run their affairs. Let them decide their own destiny. Let them succeed or self-destruct. Gone [are] the days when the government in Manila designed everything for them.”
On Aug. 22, the peace panels of the government and the MILF held exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur. The government presented its proposal for “enhanced” autonomy through massive reforms to be undertaken with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The government also demanded that the MILF disarm and allow its fighters to be reassimilated into society.
On Aug. 23, the MILF rejected the government offer of expanded autonomy, and insisted on forming a Moro substate. Murad stressed that the MILF would not sign an agreement that would not solve the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-rule and right to self-determination.
On Oct. 6, the Inquirer reported that the MILF had submitted a new proposal to the government, hoping that the peace negotiations would take off anew. In its proposal, the MILF maintained its original position for the creation of a Moro substate.
On Oct. 18, despite an existing ceasefire, MILF forces clashed with military troops in Al-Barka, Basilan, killing 19 soldiers and six rebels. Both groups blamed each other for the attack. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said a Malaysian-led international monitoring team will investigate the incident, and the findings would be discussed upon the resumption of peace talks.
On Oct. 21, seven people were killed in another clash between MILF forces and the military in Zamboanga Sibugay. Despite calls for him to launch an all-out war against the MILF, the President did not order offensive operations in Al-Barka. But he gave the go-signal for the military to pursue lawless elements in Zamboanga Sibugay.
On Oct. 23, suspected MILF guerrillas attacked in Basilan and Lanao del Norte, killing five civilians and two soldiers.
On Oct. 24, the President declared an “all-out justice instead of an all-out war for the slain soldiers. The Philippine Air Force started an air and ground operation against MILF “rogue elements” in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay. MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq denounced the military operations as a violation of the ceasefire agreement.
On Nov. 3, the government and the MILF panels held informal talks in Kuala Lumpur and agreed to continue the investigations into the clash in Al-Barka.
On Dec. 5, the peace talks resumed in Kuala Lumpur. At the end of the three-day talks, both parties agreed on 11 basic points that largely centered on defining “genuine autonomy” for the Moro people. They also agreed to extend the mandate of international ceasefire monitors until 2013 despite recent clashes.
On Jan. 9, 2012, the panels met in Kuala Lumpur and tackled details of the autonomy proposal.
On Feb. 13, in another round of the talks, Iqbal said the Aquino administration had agreed to a parliamentary form of government for the Moro people. He said the negotiations were moving forward, although there were still disagreements on several issues like wealth-sharing, territory and power-sharing.
On March 19, both panels met again in Kuala Lumpur, but Marvic Leonen, chief government negotiator, said both parties were approaching a stalemate.
In April, speaking before a gathering of political scientists in Cagayan de Oro City, Iqbal said a “forthcoming breakthrough” in the negotiations could only be achieved if the “government sees the light of our proposal for a state-substate asymmetrical arrangement and adopt it.” He added that the signing of an agreement with the government “can only happen if the MILF agrees to its formula or it agrees to ours.” Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives