Iqbal assures Misuari new agreement is betterBy Ryan Rosauro
The chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday assured Nur Misuari that the framework agreement he signed with the government on Monday was better than the deal the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader signed in 1996.
Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF’s agreement with the government carried more political concessions for the Moro people than the final peace agreement that Misuari signed with the Ramos administration.
Under the new agreement, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be replaced by a new autonomous region called Bangsamoro.
The Bangsamoro autonomous government will have exclusive powers as well as shared powers with the central government the details of which will be ironed out by the government and the MILF negotiating panels beginning next month.
As defined in the framework agreement, the Bangsamoro will have some powers on election administration and “authority to regulate on its own responsibility the affairs of the constituent units” of the region.
The Bangsamoro also has competence over the Sharia system of justice and can institute alternative dispute resolution systems.
Although it is silent about control of strategic minerals, the framework pact refers to Bangsamoro territory as “the land mass as well as maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it” the governance of which is subject to further negotiations.
In the 1996 agreement, strategic minerals are under the sole control of the national government, although the region enjoys 50 percent of the revenue derived from the exploitation of the region’s natural resources, and many functions remain in the hands of the central government.
In the handling of fiscal resources, the Bangsamoro is granted the powers of generating and budgeting its “own sources of revenue, its share of the internal revenue taxes and block grants and subsidies” remitted by the national government or donors.
In defining the competence of Bangsamoro, the framework pact carried over the powers of the ARMM to enter into economic agreements, as provided by Republic Act No. 9054, the region’s revised organic act.
Iqbal said the framework agreement “does not diminish any bit the gains” of the peace deal that Misuari concluded with the Ramos administration.
Under that deal, an inhabitant of the autonomous region will be appointed to the Cabinet with the rank of secretary and each national government office will have at least one official from the region.
The government and the MNLF also agreed on the appointment of a competent resident of the region to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Judicial and Bar Council.
Read it first
Iqbal urged critics of the framework agreement to read it in its entirety before criticizing it.
“We can task a neutral group to make a comparative study of [the two] agreements. If they are true leaders, they should read first the documents,” he said.
Misuari, who has filed his candidacy for governor of ARMM, has criticized the framework agreement as a recipe for more violence in Mindanao.
Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen has sided with Iqbal, saying the “government’s commitment with the MILF includes complying with its commitment to the MNLF.”
“There are various ways that the MNLF can cooperate with the current peace process with the MILF,” Leonen said.
Offer to MNLF
The government and the MILF have offered the MNLF seats on the 15-member Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro basic law.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the drafting of the Bangsamoro basic law would be an opportunity for the MNLF to help design the government structure and processes for the new autonomous region.