All is set for the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, or the CAB, on March 27. The signatory for the GPH (Government of the Philippines) will be Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the Aquino administration’s chief negotiator. Her counterpart, Mr. Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF panel chair will sign for his rebel organization. Signing as witness will be the Malaysian Third Party Facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.
Prof. Coronel-Ferrer, we are unhappy to note, calls the CAB signing an act that “seals the partnership for peace and prosperity between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.” She adds, “This partnership is based on our shared aspiration to heal the wounds of conflict, enable meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro, and nurture peace and development in Muslim Mindanao.” She confers a certain equality between our Republic’s government and the MILF. In the days of the late presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos, negotiators used words with more care. Words could be used by a separatist rebel organization to persuade the international community to treat it as an equal of our Republic because the government itself has been treating it as such.
Anyway, it’s too late to be legalistic now. Whatever precautions we think the Aquino administration should have taken are all floating like dust in the denuded forests of many parts of Mindanao that have been logged bald by crony-capitalists of this and past administrations. The patrimony of our Republic is being surrendered to the strange political entity that President Aquino, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles and Prof. Coronel-Ferrer have agreed to create to please the MILF and its foreign backers.
In the website of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process or OPAPP the CAB is described as something that “brings together all the major agreements signed by the parties in the course of the 17-year negotiations. Its most important parts are the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the four Annexes. These documents provide for the road map and the terms pertaining to the creation of the Bangsamoro entity and the transformation of the MILF from an armed group to an active participant in governance and societal reform.”
The Palace, OPAPP, Prof. Coronel-Ferrer and the members of the GPH panel stoutly claim that “the people of Mindanao have been consulted” on the contents and in the drafting of the various component agreements. That claim is contested not only by respected and politically substantial Christians and non-Christians (both Lumad and Muslims) of Mindanao. Among the Muslims discomfited by the CAB are the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo and the statesmen and politicians who are the Sultan’s aides.
In a forum on the CAB held on March 18 in the University of the Philippines, former Tawi-Tawi governor Almarin Centi Tillah, publicly questioned the claim that there have been consultations. He most emphatically wanted to push environmental protection of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan and benefits for the Muslims of these provinces, who are ethnically different from the leadership and armies of the mainly Maguindanao MILF.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bagsamoro will be signed on Thursday, with so many questions in the minds not just of Mindanaoans but also of Filipinos in the Visayas and Luzon.
More than a thousand, including foreign dignitaries, will be in Malacañang Palace for the signing ceremonies.
President Aquino, Sec. Deles, Prof. Coronel-Ferrer, Mohagher Iqbal and MILF Chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim will not hear the wails of the dying in the refugee centers in Zamboanga.
In these centers refugees who fled their homes on September 9 last year (when fighting erupted between government troops and Muslim rebels) live–or are in fact dying. The conditions are unsanitary. More than 100 persons have died of illnesses and malnourishment so far.