Ramos warns vs rushing set-up of new Bangsamoro autonomy
MANILA, Philippines — While the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro might be the country’s “last chance” for peace, former President Fidel V. Ramos, whose term saw an earlier peace deal, is at odds with approving its draft law on a deadline.
“It lacks time. Just because expert panels from Malaysia and the Philippines put it together does not mean that everybody will accept it automatically within the time frame established by the government,” Ramos told reporters during an Islam and Democracy Forum held on Tuesday at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is the peace agreement signed earlier this year by the Philippine government under President Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a breakaway group from the Moro National Liberation Front that signed a peace agreement with the Ramos administration in 1996.
“I don’t fully agree with what’s there (draft Bangsamoro Basic Law) at this time but it doesn’t mean that I do not approve. There just hasn’t been enough public discussions on salient points,” Ramos said.
In his keynote speech, Ramos criticized how his successors handled the peace process, especially the all-out war policy of “President No. 13” referring to former President Joseph Estrada.
After signing the peace agreement with the MNLF, Ramos said his administration began negotiating with the MILF and concluded a ceasefire that lasted until the next administration.
“When the ceasefire was broken because of a new government policy of all-out war in Mindanao—I will not mention to you anymore the President at that time. But I’m President No. 12 and it was President No. 13—I was personally heartbroken … because we have put in many important projects in Camp Abubakar,” Ramos said.
“Unfortunately, the environment of peace we nurtured so delicately was tragically shattered at that time and still remains shattered up to now,” he said.
The succeeding administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo returned to the negotiating table with the MILF and reached an agreement that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“In Mindanao, we have no easy choices. Because war is not an option and neither is a peace agreement that does violence to the Constitution,” Ramos said.
“I hope that there will still be confidence-building measures, especially of the people-to-people kind, it is much more important than any infrastructure undertaking,” he said.
“We know that this framework agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF last October may be the last chance for all of us, whether we are Muslims, Christians … because we are all Filipinos, we are all stakeholders,” Ramos said.
“Let us try every effort within our means to make this formula work for the better future of our younger generation,” he said.
Ramos said his administration’s peace deal was awarded the Unesco Peace Prize in 1997, with him and MNLF chairman Nur Misuari as co-winners.
“Just the same, no matter how beautiful the plan, it is the people on the ground who will make it work,” Ramos said.
He said there should be continuous training for those who would be elected in the Bangsamoro for “proper patriotism and for caring, sharing and daring for others and for the Republic of the Philippines.”
He stressed that the Bangsamoro should not turn out to be an independent entity but a part of the Republic of the Philippines.
The forum “Break not the Peace,” organized by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy and the UP National College for Public Administration and Good Governance, is part of a lecture series to understand and resolve issues related to participation and development in Muslim communities.
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