ARMM execs back peace deal to abolish region
MANILA, Philippines - Sulu Gov Abdusakur Tan had apprehensions over the peace deal that the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forged over the weekend.
But Tan and 3 other Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governors met with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen on Tuesday, October 9, where the two addressed their concerns.
"Hindi lamang nakita namin, nabasa namin, kundi kausap namin si Dean Leonen at saka si Sec Deles, at sinabi: 'Hindi ito ipipilit kundi idadaan ito sa mga proseso na nararapat.' So, malaking respeto ito sa ating mga kababayan," the governor said, speaking on behalf of his ARMM counterparts.
(We did not only see or read it but actually spoke with Dean Leonen and Sec Deles, and they said: 'We will not force it but it will undergo through appropriate processes.' So, this is very respectful of our people.)
This was the first time that the governors have been briefed about the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro since it was forged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday, October 7.
The framework seeks to establish a new autonomous political entity (NPE) called "Bangsamoro" that will replace the ARMM.
Other than Tan, the other ARMM governors who attended the briefing were Maguindanao Gov Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, Basilan Gov Jum Akbar, Lanao del Sur Gov Mamintal Adiong Jr, and Tawi-Tawi Gov Sadikul Sahali.
The governors have participated in the peace process in one way or another, according to Tan, who said he observed the recently concluded negotiations at least twice.
Having been exposed to previous peace processes in Muslim Mindanao, Tan stressed that he initially had doubts about the peace deal.
"May reservation sana ako. Sabi ko, akala ko, ito na naman. Another experimentation. Pero nakita ko, kaganda-ganda pala," Tan said. (I had reservations. I thought this was just another experimentation. But then I saw that it's good.)
"Maski yung MNLF, unang-una na iyan ay pinag-usapan sa panahon ni President [Corazon] Aquino, at hindi natapos dun. Ito'y another usapan, sa MILF naman under another President Aquino," he added. (There were peace talks with the MNLF during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, and it did not end there. This is another round of peace talks, but with the MILF during the term of another President Aquino.)
"Nakita na natin kung ano nangyari noon, pero ngayon, brini-brief nang brini-brief tayo ni Dean Leonen at ni Sec Deles. Nag-usap kami ni President Aquino bago pa nagkaroon ng kasunduan at nagkaroon ng ganitong framework," Tan explained.
(We have seen what happened before, but now, we are being briefed by Dean Leonen at ni Sec Deles. We spoke with President Aquino before a deal was brokered and a framework came about.)
Tan, who served as Congressman of the 1st District of Sulu from 1987 to 1992, was one of the authors of Republic Act No. 6734, the Organic Act that created ARMM.
But in a letter he sent to the President, Tan admitted that the ARMM has failed to address problems in the region since its creation.
President Aquino echoed the same assessment when he announced the peace deal on Sunday.
"The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun," Aquino said.
There are nearly 4 million Muslims in Mindanao, which they consider as their homeland dating back to the pre-colonial Islamic sultanates.
Since the 1970s, Muslim rebel groups including the MILF have waged a war in Mindanao to establish a separate Muslim state, claiming at least 150,000 lives and leaving a huge part of Mindanao in abject poverty.
Agreeing to the framework, the MILF has abandoned its aspiration for a separate state.
The ARMM governors, all new members of President Benigno Aquino III's Liberal Party (LP), agreed to support the deal but not without conditions.
"Basta constitutional ang gagawin nating lahat, idaan sa Kongreso, dadaan sa taong-bayan…Hindi pwede yung isusubo o ipipilit sa atin," Tan said. (Everything that we will do should be constitutional, should pass through Congress, the people must be consulted. It should not be forced-fed.)
"Wala kayong dapat ikabahala at hindi namin kayo pababayaan dito. Kami ang bantay," Tan assured their constituents in the ARMM. (You have nothing to worry about. We will not abandon you. We will serve as your watchdogs.)
According to Tan, Leonen assured them that the Framework Agreement is "like a guide" and not a "legal paper."
The governors particularly supported the formation of a transition commission.
"Ito'y napakaganda dahil puro taga…within the ARMM, yung area ng ARMM ang bubuo unlike before…na hindi naman taga-doon sa amin, o di naman taga ARMM o taga-Mindanao," Tan said. (This is great because those who will constitute the commission are all Bangsamoro unlike [previous bodies] which had members who were not from ARMM or Mindanao.)
The Transition Commission, which will consist of 15 members who are all Bangsamoro, is envisioned to be independent from the ARMM and other government agencies. The MILF will select 8 members including the chairman, while the Philippine government will select 7.
Under the framework, a basic law will be drafted by the Transition Commission and will go through the full legislative process. The law that will be passed will be subjected to a plebiscite.
"This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro," Aquino said when he announced the historic peace deal.
"Titingnan namin, kung maganda susuportahan namin, 'pag hindi maganda hindi kami susuporta," Tan said.
(That remains to be seen. If it's good, we will support it. Otherwise, we will not.)
Respect status quo
The ARMM governors also emphasized that the status quo should be respected.
"In the meantime, wala munang galawan siguro until such time na maupuan ito ng magkabilang panig, at pag-usap-usapan ang nararapat gawin para huwag naman, baka naman bulabugin ng mga hindi nasisiyahan sa ginagawa ngayon," Tan said.
(Maybe the status quo should prevail until such time that both sides have sat down together and discussed the proper course of action to take to preempt those who would like to sabotage this.)
Under the framework, only when the law is ratified in a plebiscite will elections for "Bangsamoro" officials be held. By then, the ARMM shall have been abolished and replaced with a new political authority, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. - Rappler.com
Read the full text of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
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