Archive for the ‘MOA-AD’ Category

Archbishop Quevedo: The MOA-AD Can Bring Lasting Peace

September 7, 2008

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI has several deep takes on the MOA-AD. He is a respected peace advocate and knowledgeable observer of the Mindanao problem. His place, Cotabato City, is a melting pot of Christians and Muslims.

I will try to project some of his blogs to balance the knee-jerk reaction of some armchair pundits. His writings is an appeal to understand the history behind the MOA-AD and not to view it from the usual perspective.  I share his views. Here are some of the things he wrote:

“….the MOA-AD…is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I think the MOA-AD will bring lasting peace.

“The document should be read in the light of Bangsamoro history. This history is not (the) one that our Spanish and Filipino Christian historians have developed. Our history is a history written by (just) one party to the complex human encounter that we call Philippines history, written perhaps by “victors.” Bangsamoro history has largely been one of oral tradition and only in the last 400 years do we see that history written, but not from their point of view.

“But it is from that largely unfamiliar side of Philippine history that is also true and undisputable that the concepts of  ancestral domain and a Bangsamoro homeland must be understood….

“….the document is also remarkable from the angle of what Mindanao is today. Through successive waves of migration and public laws, the face of the population as well as of territories has changed. In less than 50 years beginning with the 1930s Christians now outnumber Muslims in the land once under the sway and influence of Muslim Sultans. The document recognizes this fact. And it is to the credit of the MILF that its vision today carries on the vision of its late Chairman, Hashim Salamat. He had said that his vision for the Bangsamoro people is framed in consideration of present realities. For this reason, the document speaks about the ARMM territory as the core of the of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Altogether the territory is much less than the original Bangsamoro homeland. The MOA-AD makes use of present realities as a basis for lasting peace.

“The balancing act between the Moro aspirations for self-determination and national sovereignty may be seen in the concepts on governance, concreticized in such terms as “associative relationships,” “shared authority,” and the idea of “central government,” and its responsability for external defense, etc….

“Perhaps concepts need to be clearer. They can be made so in future steps of the peace process as both parties move toward a Comprehensive Pact. But the MOA-AD need not be the document that should contain all the details that would resolve all the questions and doubts. The peace process will continue even after it is signed. With good will, patience and wisdom–and consultation–such further steps will surely resolve substantive questions.

“….if seen from the perspective of history as we know it as we know it from our own Christian writers (Spanish, American, Filipino), with no consideration to the enduring aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination in their homeland, the MOA-AD will not lead to peace.

“But if the document is seen from two perspectives, that of the Bangsamoro historical past and of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan present(-)day realities, and these two perspectives are somehow respected, then the MOA-AD can lead to lasting peace.”

A brief history why there are two perspective (my own exposition, not Archbishop Quevedo’s) or the genesis of the Mindanao problem.

President Manuel Luis Quezon, in his own words, wrote: “….there existed an international aspect of the Mindanao question, of profound importance to the Filipino nation. Unless we fully opened up, protected and settled, and thus made use of this great, rich, only partially developed island, some other nation might some day try to move in and make it their own. For the past twenty years, continued and successful efforts to colonize Mindanao from the north have been undertaken….Settlers from the north have poured into the rich valley of Cotabato….” 

It seems there is truth to MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari’s view that Mindanao have been colonized by Christians.

This is Archbishop Quevedo’s further exposition:

“What Changes Took Place Through The Years In the Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain?

“….the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over the ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away….The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain.

“….Successive wave of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900’s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people.

“The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP) with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Mindanao people, with a minority of Muslims and IPs….the Bangsamoro people became a minority in their own ancestral domain….”

The IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or RA8371 of 1997) tries to address this historical wrong.

Archbishop Quevedo: “The MOA-AD also follows the principle that the IPRA law grants to the Indigenous Peoples, i.e., that their ancestral domain is not part of the public domain.”

And finally, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was adopted on September 13, 2007 and to which the Philippines is a signatory says:

“Article 26

1. IPs have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied and otherwise used or required….”

Though not a legally binding instrument under international law, the UN says it is “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples….”

Gloria And Her Generals And The US Are Not Averse To War In Mindanao

September 6, 2008

Last month, Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, a highly respected peace advocate and honest broker trusted by all sides in Mindanao and also president of Notre Dame University in Cotabato City charged after the MOA-AD signing was TRO’d that the Philippine government was negotiating in bad faith since it knows it cannot deliver on its promises. He said, “So why sign if you cannot deliver? There may be another motive, and that motive could be charter change.” Fr. Mercado was involved off and on in the peace talks in both personal and official capacity so he probably knows more than the ordinary layman.

It has been said that Malacanang under the watch of Gloria is simply a confluence of different contending factions, each with its own agenda and its own turf. Maybe for Gloria and politicians of her ilk clinging on to power beyond 2010 was the agenda for the MOA-AD charade. Maybe they were betting they can ride through an MOA-AD referendum enough Charter change that will assure their hold of Malacanang after 2010, thus ensuring they will be free from suits and jail.

And, of course, any diversion from the constant barrage of criticism against her regime is good for her. And also good for her husband and his group of businessmen who are always under suspicion and accusation of machinations in government contracts.

For the generals and powerful ex-generals maybe the agenda was to sucker the MILF into war, a war where they will have additional technical advantage compared to the 2000 “all-out” war of Erap, courtesy of the US. This will probably include the combination of satellite imagery, sigint and GPS reckoning. And it is obvious they have more confidence of “winning” this war than that of 2000. Their advance is comprehensive, attacking all the MILF camps in all the provinces it is present.

For the US, who always feel they are “stakeholders” in the Philippines, any agreement that will result in the recognition of autonomous Muslim territories which can be the refuge of “Muslim terrorists” is simply a no-no. I will not be surprised if they are the ones who primarily sabotaged the peace process thru the likes of Ermita and Esperon. In this they might be using the AFP as surrogates. No wonder the US troops never left Zamboanga since 2002 and instead it increased three-fold. And everybody thought they were simply “visiting.”

Come to think of it, isn’t the presence of Ambassador Kenney in Kuala Lumpur an anomaly? The US has never been part of the peace process in the South unlike the OIC, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Christian body politic cannot be charged with sabotage. After all they might have been left in the dark during the negotiations. Was this deliberate so that they will react with fury once they got wind of the terms of agreement? They can be manipulated by interested quarters especially if their perceived “rightful claims” are threatened. Are there people fanning the flames by pushing the resurgence of paramilitary groups?

To be fair to the Christians in Mindanao they do not want war either. It disrupts the economy, security becomes uncertain and they can become victims of bombings.

The peace process under the watch of Gloria is dead. It will be war from now but it does not mean that Gloria and her generals and the US are averse to it. They stand to gain from the war and weaken their “enemies” at the same time. In the end it will be the true stakeholders in Mindanao who are bound to lose.

The Failed MOA-AD Signing: A Perspective

September 3, 2008

As of the moment it seems that any settlement between the GRP as represented by the Arroyo administration with the Moros as represented by the MILF is dead is the water. As the latter declared they would rather wait for 2010, the supposed end of the Arroyo government.

I have always understood that when an agreement is initialled it can no longer be changed. But government declarations indicate now that it wants fresh talks. And their newly-minted chief adviser on the peace process, the former AFP chief of staff Esperon is putting forward a new framework, one that is based on the dismantling of the MILF fighting forces and the surrender of its arms (which no self-respecting revolutionary army will ever agree to except when it is accompanied by a wide-ranging change in the ruling state).

Charges of negotiating in bad faith is in the air. The government even pulled  the rug under the feet of their negotiators led by ex-general Rodolfo Garcia by saying they have no authority to sign the MOA-AD and that the President does not know that full details of the agreement.  Does this mean they are setting up Garcia and company for a charge of treason? Probably not. It just means when the going gets hot Malacanang will rather leave their negotiators hanging in the air and taking the flak.

The Christian body politic is not ready for a settlement of the Mindanao problem. This is obvious when accusations flew thick and fast right after the scheduled signing was announced. And I don’t think most studied the MOA-AD, how it was crafted and its implications. With this attitude I don’t think an educated and levelheaded debate on its merits (or demerits) is possible.

Was the talks all an exercise in futility? Maybe not entirely. At least the Mindanao problem was again in the national consciousness and the reactions are worth studying. And it also exposed our failings as a people.

But I just hope that in the end knowledge, intelligence, maturity and good sense prevails. Without these, all talks or even signed agreements are bound to fail.

In the end it will not be the government who will resolve the problem but the peoples in general. Without understanding of the problem and maturity the peoples cannot expect to be part of the solution. They will be part of the problem. It is easy for any government to make peace when the peoples themselves are already ready for a give and take. Does anybody now expect a war between the major Western European powers like Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy? Do anybody remember now that in the first half of the last century and for centuries before that these powers were always at each other’s throat? I heard that some agreements now between these countries are sealed with a handshake between leaders and they just let their ministers draft the wordings later, as in meeting of the minds on commons interest is already enough to make an agreement. 

Maybe peace in the South is not yet possible because the Christian body politic is not yet mature and knowledgeable enough for peace. I just jope that with the advent of the Net and the ease it provides for the search and dissemination of information it will raise the intelligence and maturity of our body politic.

What’s common in C-130 plane crash, Sulpicio Lines’ sinking & the “MOA-ancestral domain” controversy

August 31, 2008

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) symbolic coffins of people presumed dead in a C-130 cargo plane crash bring a message. Barely a week has passed that the 9 military personnel went missing. Many think it’s too soon to dismiss them as dead, much more mourn with a posthumous memorial when no exhaustive search for their bodies have been done.

The flag-draped tribute for the brave soldiers was emotionally-moving. (Photo Credit: Philstar) The same day as the Philippine Navy (PN) announced having found the site of crash, the glum spectacle of honoring those who “perished,” went on. Nobody reported having retrieved a body. No one knows from whom the pieces of human flesh found in the crash site belong to. Only a lonely badge of “Armadong Kusog ng Pilipinas,” ID cards, and an assortment of personal effects stand as evidence of death, convincing high-ranking military officers to “close” the grim case.

Declaring a quick closure on missing persons has become too common in the Philippines. When Abu Sabaya was allegedly swallowed by the sea during a bloody confrontation with the military, a pair of sun-glasses was all that was needed to tell the world, the notorious Abu Sayyaf hostage-killer of Christian missionary Martin Burnham with a hefty cash bounty on his head, was dead. Fabled money was exchanged swiftly as the news rolled in, confusing the public with embarrassing inconsistencies in government statements and media reporting.

Many passengers of the Princess of the Stars were presumed to have passed on almost immediately when the ferry ship was found grounded near Sibuyan Islands. Similarly, the Dona Paz collision with tanker Vector brought fast presumption of deaths, including those not included in the ship manifest.

It seems the military authorities rushed beyond their call of duty by presuming these people were all dead. Military bravery and “efficient” swiftness were perhaps what they wanted to project. But they ignored the medico-legal ramifications of declaring a missing person dead—-something reminiscent of the gaffe behind the bungled memorandum of agreement-ancestral domain (MOA-AD,) tossed to the Supreme Court when Philippine peace negotiators (military men involved) didn’t do enough to ascertain the applicability and legality of giving away territorial concessions to the MILF.

The distribution of cash awards to relatives of unverified dead victims of Sulpicio Lines (Princess of the Stars.) was another thing. Without waiting if the “dead” people involved were truly among the passengers in the boat which sank at the height of Typhoon Frank, there were offers to silence the victims’ relatives with cash. For sometime now, the uproar raised by the mishap had died down quickly as the lawsuits that followed.

Certainly, there are laws governing the declaration of death of a missing person. They have serious practical applications which cover diverse issues such as settling of a decedent’s estate, the awarding of inheritance, indemnity claims, insurance benefits, the exercise of a citizen’s rights to vote, accountability for a crime or contracting marriage.

Let us take contracting marriage as an example. To the best of my knowledge the Philippine Family Code stipulates in Article 41 a 4-year wait before a missing person to be declared dead for the purpose of re-marriage. The waiting time is shortened to two years for a spouse, if the missing person presumably passed on in a sea voyage—- like the sinking of the Sulpicio Lines ferry or in a the falling of an aircraft from the sky like the missing persons of the C-130 plane crash.

At a glance, one can see how often the law is brushed aside. With out following the judicial rules, empty coffins are paraded which seem to perturb the silent public. No one raises any objection— not even the grieving victims’ relatives who took P60,000 (less than $2,000) as “financial” aids for the “death” of their loved ones. =0=

UPDATE: September 2, 2008, a day after the military’s posthumous tribute was held, 7 bodies out of 9 were allegedly recovered. Though not all bodies were complete, waiting for some time was more appropriate so taht the remains of those who perished in C-130 plane crash could be included in the memorial. In keeping with the law, a premature declaraion of death could be avoided.

Land domains and the language of peace

August 31, 2008

As pretty as the sea shells that dangle in the wind along pristine shores of Gubat, Sorsogon, the sound of Bicol is as musical as Waray. It’s the language of neighbor-islands that is as wonderful as the photo of polished cowries adorning the shell décors crafted by Gubatnons in the Southern tip of Luzon.

To me, it’s not the differences in how we speak that counts, but the similarities that can help us move on as a nation. By the similar language we speak, we must be blessed in harmony the Warays.

In Apolonio Baylon’s insightful explanation why geography is important in the ultimate solution of the Mindanao strife, I find language as a plus factor for peace. Do Moslems and Christians speak the same language too? We all must seek such commonality more than our difference. We must transcend beyond ethnicity and religion to overcome the barriers of bias and hate.

Sharing a language and redefining territorial boundaries as proposed in MOA-AD may determine how much gold the earth’s bowels can give us, but in finality, the initiatives for peace between us is the way to go in coming to terms with each other— in banishing animosity in our soul. Greater than ourselves and undoubtedly more precious, we must all work for peace. =0=

A Primer On Lanao del Norte Geography (Why The Christians Doesn’t Want To Lose Territory)

August 31, 2008

Iligan City serves as the gateway to Lanao del Norte on its eastern end. Approaching it by sea (Lanao has no plane flights) one will have the immediate impression of hills and mountains rising just from the water’s edge. Entering Lanao del Norte via Tubod (the capital and secondary seaport) or Mukas, Kolambugan (the gateway from Ozamis City) which are both located near its western end the impression of a visitor will be the same. Lanao del Norte possesses just one small coastal plain centered around the town of Kapatagan (what a suggestive name!) on its western end.

Lanao del Norte’s main road hugs its northern shore and it is part of the Cagayan de Oro City-Pagadian City highway. It passes through Iligan City, Linamon, Kauswagan (scene of the recent fighting), Bacolod (namesake of the city in Negros Occidental), Maigo, Kolambugan (another scene of recent fighting and the biggest Moro town in the northern Lanao shores before but now Christian-dominated), Tubod (the new capital after Iligan City), Baroy (the site of the provincial high school), Lala and Kapatagan (where surrendered Huks were relocated in the ’50s). All of the mentioned town are now Christian-dominated.

Another main road branches south from Iligan City connecting it to Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur. It passes through Balo-i (a half-Christian, half-Muslim town which is the site of the moribund airport and most of the generating plants of the Maria Cristina hydroelectric power complex) and Pantar (which is Muslim-dominated).

Outside of the highways the towns of Tagoloan (which is accessible during the dry season only using mainly 4-wheel drives), Poona Piagapo, Pantao Ragat, Munai, Tangcal, Nunungan, Sapad and Sultan Naga Dimaporo (formerly known as Caromatan and lair of the legendary Ali Dimaporo, the grandfather of the current governor and father of the congressman) which are all Muslim-dominated and needs “visas” (special permits from powerful persons) before one can visit. Aside from these towns the off-the main-road, half-Christian, half-Muslim towns of Matungao, Magsaysay and Salvador exists.

The Muslim-dominated towns normally provide the electoral cushion for the Dimaporos to continuously rule the province though the Muslim are the minority in the province. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Iligan City, as a Highly Urbanized City and 90% Christian doesn’t vote in provincial elections though it constitutes 36% of the population of the province.

The Muslim-dominated towns and the Muslim portion of the half-Christian, half-Muslim towns are also the strongholds of the MILF. But I will hasten to add that the Dimaporos and the MILF do not see eye-to-eye since the Dimaporos fought on the side of Marcos since he came into power. The roads to these towns are generally very rough. It is not an unusual sight to see weapon carrier-type of jeeps in these localities.

Aside from the towns centers, in general the flat portion of the province is only one barangay deep. And once the elevation climbs it is already Muslim territory. Hence, aside from the town centers and the small coastal plain of Kapatagan-Lala the Christian territory only encompasses the barangays alongside the main road that hugs the northern coast. And in many places along the main road especially along the mouths of the rivers (a historical gateway to the interior Muslim towns) a cluster of Muslim barangays exists, localities that they controlled since the Spanish times. In these enclaves it is usually the crescent flag that flies and some of the checkpoints are not government checkpoints. In times of fighting this is the reason why evacuees prefer the sea route in going to Iligan City or Ozamis City which are government strongholds.

If the MOA-AD is followed and the Muslim-dominated areas are transferred to the BJE it is clear that Lanao del Norte will lose about 80% of its territory and more than a third of its population (like in Iligan City which stands to lose 84% of its territory if its 8 upland barangays is transferred to the BJE). This is not as simple as it sounds since the size of the IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) is calibrated using the population size and territory as factors. In short it would also mean penury to the remaining entity and Lanao del Norte will probably look like a collection of enclaves in a map.

I suspect this will also be the situation in the other provinces where there is a sizable Muslim minority. They might be a minority in number but they sit on the bigger tracts of land. And in that bigger tracts of land probably lies the exploitable natural resources. And it seems  part of the vociferous opposition to the MOA-AD by Messrs. Lobregat, Pinol and Cruz resides in these.

(Map credit: globalpinoy)