‘CAB puts peace in jeopardy’

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In this file photo, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses armed followers at their camp in Indanan, Sulu.

In this file photo, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses armed followers at their camp in Indanan, Sulu.

General Santos City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd has derailed the peace process in the southern Philippines by sacrificing another Muslim group when he signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the leader of the International Police Commission (IPC) said on Sunday.

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Malacanang apparently was unperturbed by the accusation, with Herminio Coloma, chief of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saying: “All stakeholders are called upon to participate in the peace and rebuilding process.”

Gen. Rafael Clarete, president of the IPC, which is recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said the President, as a result of inking the CAB last week, now risks “serious uprising and secession” from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Clarete, speaking from General Santos City in Mindanao after arriving from California also last week, added that Malacanang should have honored the peace agreement that the government signed with the MNLF on September 2, 1996 before “expediting” the CAB.

The President would have no one to blame but himself “if war erupted between the MNLF and the government,” he warned.

Clarete said Aquino, in signing the peace agreement with the MILF, leaves his successor the “burden of a war” that would fester for years.

The IPC president, who met with senior MNLF leaders in Mindanao last Monday, learned that the President had put aside ironing out 42 supposedly defective provisions of Republic Act 9054 and other clauses under Phase I and Phase II of the 1996 peace agreement in favor of signing the CAB.

“How can you have peace in the region [Mindanao] when a large force [MNLF] is [girding]for war… that would erupt soon because the Aquino government cannot totally implement the provisions of the 1996 peace accord?” Clarete said.

The IPC leader, who flew to the Philippines to observe the signing of the CAB, said he will make a critical report to the US government that would mention the supposed discontent of the MNLF under the Aquino administration.

The President trusted the MILF too much when the group’s leaders are “not capable of handling” the Bangsamoro homeland, according to Johnny Siao, chief of the MNLF’s National Border Command forces based in Mindanao.

Henry Dazo, a retired police superintendent, agreed, saying the MILF leadership lacks “experience and leadership.”

A newly created group called Southern Philippines Tri-People Indigenous Association, which is said to be composed of 10,000 members, also on Sunday said it was supporting the MNLF’s demand that the government fulfill first the terms of the 1996 peace agreement before implementing the peace deal with the MILF.

Hotbed of insurgency
Still, Mindanao will remain a hotbed of insurgency even if CAB is implemented immediately, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This is attributed by the military to the presence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and other threat groups.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya also on Sunday disclosed that one-half of the total strength of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is concentrated in Mindanao.

The NPA, he said, is “strongest” in areas under the 4th Infantry Division and the 10th ID.

The 4th ID spokesman, Capt. Christian Uy, said their division has jurisdiction over the Northern Mindanao area, which includes the Caraga region, composed of the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao City and Butuan City.

Also under the 4th ID are Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Camiguin in Region 10 with the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog, Malaybalay and Valencia.

First Lt. Ernesto Carolina, 10th ID spokesman, said under their area of responsibility are the southernmost parts of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and the easternmost part of North Cotabato.

Madlos is one of the most senior communist leaders and one of the top contenders to replace Benito Tiamzon, allegedly the CPP chairman, who was recently arrested with his wife Wilma.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the NPA is almost a spent force and would be “irrelevant” by 2016.

The military has claimed that 25 out of 81 provinces in the country are insurgency-free and that the NPA’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 from a peak of 24,430 fighters during the 1980s.

A lawmaker also warned that the establishment of the Bangsamoro homeland by 2015 would not immediately silence the guns in southern Philippines.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas also on Sunday said the CAB is just one step toward winning peace, noting that other security threats still exist in Mindanao.

But the people of the region, Trenas added, should not be discouraged if the law would not end the cycle of violence in a snap.

Meanwhile, he said, “Congress has more than enough time to pass the law before year-end.”

Trenas conceded that “influential groups and individuals who are against any power-sharing and wealth-sharing deal with a new Bangsamoro authority” would try to resist the implementation of the CAB.

The MILF has about 10,000 armed followers, according to the military, which makes it easily the biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines.

Having long fought for an independent homeland for the nation’s Muslim minority to be carved out of Mindanao, it split in the 1970s from the-then main rebel group, the MNLF.

The MNLF had agreed to autonomy but founding MILF leader Hashim Salamat was intent on fighting for independence.

The Bangsamoro refers to people who at the time of Spanish conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of southern Philippines. Their descendants and spouses are recognized as Bangsamoro people.

Bangsa is a local word for nation. Moro derives from the term “Moors” used by Spanish colonialists to refer to Muslims.

Under the CAB, the MILF drops its claims for a separate state in Mindanao and settles for parliamentary self-rule in the Bangsamoro autonomous region. This region will be established by 2016.

The Bangsamoro will replace another Muslim autonomous region that was brokered in the 1990s with the MNLF, which the government says has failed.

Also under the CAB, the MILF will “gradually” decommission its forces and put the weapons “beyond use.” A local police force will assume law enforcement functions from the Philippine police and military but the Philippine government will retain exclusive powers on defense, foreign policy, currency and citizenship matters.

The autonomous government will receive 75 percent of all local taxes, fees and charges, 75 percent of revenues from metallic minerals and control of fishing areas up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline.

The region will not be an Islamic state, rather a secular government. Sharia law will apply only to Muslims and only for civil cases, not for criminal offenses. All residents are guaranteed basic rights to life, movement, privacy and freedom of religion and speech.

It will cover five provinces, plus two cities, six towns and 39 villages in the South, comprising about 10 percent of the Philippines’ total land area.

Aquino is to ask Congress to pass a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” for the autonomous region by the end of this year.

People living in areas to be included in the autonomous region will need to ratify the law in a plebiscite to be held in 2015.

After the basic law is approved and ratified by the plebiscite, a 15-member “Bangsamoro Transition Authority” will govern the region until a regional parliament is elected. The President will appoint members of the transitional authority, but the MILF will have a majority and the chairman.

A regional parliament, expected to have 50 seats, is to be elected in conjunction with the national elections in May 2016.

WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL, REINA TOLENTINO AND AFP

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7 Comments

  1. All participants on this exercise should strive for a successful implementation of this agreement otherwise a more violent war may erupt (incidentally i am hearing the beating of the War Drums) and again it is the civilian that will suffer ….. so i say GIVE PEACE A CHANCE no if’s & no but’s …..

  2. Rosauro Feliciano on

    For now we have two distinct problems facing our nation. One is the local communist insurgency and the other one is the MNLF run-autonomous ARRM that turned into a secessionist organization.

    To solve these two problems we can apply the third principle of the Quality Management, which states that “people of all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the benefit of the organization”. Based on this principle of involving ordinary people, I am contributing unsolicited solution in the best interest of all of us Filipinos particularly for the people in Mindanao. Hereunder is my unsolicited solution:

    On the problem involving the Communist Insurgency, since the communist leadership is insisting that their imprisoned leaders should be first released from prison in order to start peace negotiation, whereupon we are adamant or unyielding to their insistence for reason of crimes they had committed that they should be tried in court. So under this situation, it appears that we need to innovate or to introduce something new idea in order to start negotiating peace. Such innovation of idea is to conduct the peace negotiation in our country instead in the Netherlands because those prisoners can participate in the negotiation while they will be sent back to jail after each session.

    On the problem of the MNLF we should convince first Misuari to come out from hidings and set aside the Warrant of Arrest while engaging in the meeting of minds. The whole idea here is to avoid current problem to become so complicated that might cause tens of thousands lives and from that meeting of minds, some kind of solutions can be found.

  3. Roldan Guerrero on

    Ferdinand Marcos and Benigno Simeon Aquino are two opposite leaders. While Marcos maybe considered as the most intelligent most accomplished president, Aquino is nothing but called as an AMPAW president. While Marcos was doing everything to make peace in Mindanao, the late Benigno Aquino, the father of the incumbent, was busy creating troubles and continued demonizing Marcos because of his box to the moon ambition and futile ambition to succeed Marcos. The older Aquino was killed and they accused Marcos as the assassin, an accusation they have not proven until now. Corazon Aquino however was installed and initiated the use of Pork Barrel, which is fully abused by his son now the incumbent. All Filipinos are aware how government funds are misused through this fund allocations…and until now the Phil. has never gone out of poverty as a result. Now, without extensive study and consultations, BSA signed the CAB ( He wants to be recognized as a hero despite his incompetence) setting aside the ARRM, putting the country into a more serious and dangerous situation. It is yet too early to forecast what will happen but a spoiled broth may kill the hungRy. GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES.

    • Marcos started the war in Mindanao. We, the people in the newly named Bangsa Moro, see hope in having lasting peace in our region through this agreement. So many lives have been lost, properties burned to ashes, and homes abandoned because of the violence between the rebels and the military. We are willing to take all the risks just to attain peace. Those who are not from our region have no right to dictate to us what is proper and what is right. This is our land, our hope, and our future.

  4. I think that the CAB is a more stringent and truthful measure than the one signed by with the MILF during the Ramos administration. I think that the signing back then was just a ploy to milk the government by both Ramos and the MILF who didn’t really intend to have peace. They are just plain bandits. Missuari is a gun for hire as was mentioned in the news during the invasion of Zamboanga where it was reported that Enrile paid him PHP40m. He must be hunted down and sent back to the Phils to stand trial.

    On the other hand, the MNLF is a more serious group. I trust in the judgement of President Pnoy. I pray to God that HE blesses the signing of CAB for a true lasting peace in Mindanao. Longlive the Christians and Muslims in the Philippines!!! May they be an example for a good Muslim relationship with the entire world!

  5. Phylliss Quinn on

    How can President Aquino just decide that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is a failure and therefore must be abolished and replaced by the new Bangsamoro state? Isn’t the ARMM in the Philippine Constitution? Isn’t it the subject of a law? Was the joy over the ARMM in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga during the term of President Ramos false and unreal? Did the MILF not help in making the ARMM a failed experiment, so why is that secessionist group now being rewarded?

  6. mauricio palao on

    There is no way we could appease/placate (whatever) our Muslim population. Our leaders, from President Marcos to, now, President BC Aquino should have been aware of this. They should not have negotiated with any one group at all. That way, the Muslims would have remained one fragmented body…as it had been after President Magsaysay dealt with Hadji Kamlon in the 1950s. How do you now put the ‘tooth paste back in the tube’? When will we ever learn?