Close  

MILF asks Aquino: Popularity or peace?

Substate deal seen as key to talks in Kuala Lumpur
By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 12:16 AM August 15, 2011

In a virtual challenge to President Benigno Aquino III, Moro rebels have asked whether he is willing to sacrifice his popularity for the sake of ending the armed conflict in Mindanao.

Michael Mastura, a senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), spelled out the choices for Mr. Aquino—popularity or peace —in an interview with the Inquirer a week before the two sides resume formal peace talks.

ADVERTISEMENT

The MILF has dropped its demand for independence and instead called for the creation of a Muslim “substate” within the republic.

The government panel is expected to present its counterproposal when the negotiators return to the bargaining table next Monday in Kuala Lumpur. The two sides last held exploratory talks in April.

“Is he (President Aquino) willing to cast (away) his political capital for this problem, for this process?” Mastura said.

In other words, is the President willing to compromise on the issue of substate in exchange for ending the fighting that has dragged on for four decades and claimed tens of thousands of lives?

“The issues are clear. If they will accede to using our draft as a working draft, that will fast-track everything,” Mastura said.

Expanding ARMM

The proposed Muslim substate would exercise all government functions, except those of national defense, foreign affairs, currency and postal services, which would remain in the hands of the national government.

The scope of such a substate has yet to be defined but it could lead to the expansion of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Mr. Aquino has indicated that Christians and Lumad to be affected by the proposal would be given a choice of whether they would want to be part of the substate.

Under the MILF proposal, the proposed substate would be governed by a chief minister elected by an assembly. It will have “asymmetrical relations” with the national government, similar to Hong Kong’s relations with China, according to MILF consultants.

ADVERTISEMENT

The law that created the ARMM gives the regional government the right to explore and develop the region’s natural resources.

Historical injustice

The need for a peace deal gained urgency following a secret meeting in Tokyo more than a week ago between Mr. Aquino and the MILF chair, Murad Ebrahim.

Raissa Jajurie, a member of the MILF’s board of consultants, said the rebel group was hoping the government would meet it halfway and agree to grant the Moros substate status.

“Bangsamoro wants to have its own responsibility in governing Bangsamoro lands. It’s a compromise. Just for the sake of having peace, they’re agreeable to a substate at this point,” Jajurie said.

“They’re hoping that the Philippine government will be ready to compromise their position and grant this to the Moro, given the historical injustice through the years,” she added.

The MILF has contended that a provision on the substate could be appended to the 1987 Constitution by legislation, without the country having to go through a laborious constitutional amendment process.

Harry Roque, a University of the Philippines law professor, and former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. have said that the creation of a substate would likely require an amendment to the Charter.

Significant day

The Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), a grassroots network of Christians, Muslims and Lumad seeking peace in Mindanao, said it was eager to see how the government panel would respond to the MILF proposal.

“We are hoping that this coming Aug. 22, the government will finally submit their counterproposal so we’ll have an idea where this is headed,” the MPC secretary general, Mary Ann Arnado, said in an interview on Sunday.

“After the euphoria, they will go back to the real hard work of negotiation. Aug. 22 is a significant day,” she added.

Arnado said the MILF had “laid down its cards” and peace advocates were anticipating “how close or how far” the government’s counterproposal would be.

Sobriety needed

“The peace advocates in Mindanao are eagerly looking forward to a political settlement of the armed conflict… We don’t want to go back to war,” Arnado said.

Nash Pangadapun, the secretary general of Maradeka, cautioned against making premature comments and called for sobriety. Maradeka is an alliance of prodemocracy Bangsamoro civil society groups that sat in as an official observer in the 2006-2008 talks.

“Hyper-reactions can hurt confidence-building measures on both sides, while spoilers are feasting on the recent development,” Pangadapun said in a text message. “Let us make the peace process work.”

Pangadapun said the more immediate concern was to bring into the mainstream the group of a rogue MILF commander, Umbra Kato, who reportedly favors independence. With a report from Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Armed conflict, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Benigno Aquino III, Christians, formal peace talks, lumad, Michael Mastura, MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro rebels, Muslim “substate”, Nash Pangadapun, peace negotiations, the secretary general of Maradeka
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.