Peace be with us
Today is the first day that peace has been given a chance.
Yesterday’s momentous signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) finally happened after 4 presidents, 17 years of spasmodic negotiations and a valley of tears.
At long last, the possibility of a better tomorrow is well within our grasp.
A steep price was paid for this leap forward: 40 years of conflict; 150,000 lost lives; crushing destitution; the rise of bandit groups, criminal elements and extremists; hard-bitten skepticism fueled by the epic failure of the past.
More than a peace accord between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the historic 5-page CAB document acknowledges “the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through a democratic process; the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro question with honor, justice, and dignity; the aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILF and promote peace and stability; the recognition of the responsibilities of the parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power,” as articulated by the GPH chief negotiator, UP Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
On the side of MILF, Chair Mohagher Iqbal declared, “The level of trust and confidence is at its highest.”
This is the closest that our nation has come to forging permanent peace. Perhaps this is because there is sincerity and a genuine desire for harmony from both sides. As Jimi Hendrix once said, “ When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
With cautious optimism, the GPH and MILF panels admitted that the more difficult work of development lies ahead.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) provides a clear roadmap for the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity in 2016.
Four annexes and an addendum detail the creation of a transition commission, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and a Bangsamoro Transition Authority. It signifies the sources of wealth creation and financial assistance. Relationships with the national government and the local government units are also discussed with the appeal that this should be “reflective of the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity and their aspiration for self-governance.”
This environment will lead to the laying down of arms of MILF members and their shift to civilian life, while Mindanao communities affected by the conflict can return to normalcy and pursue sustainable livelihood.
Not an Islamic state, a ministerial government with an assembly and an elected chief minister will lead the “envisioned core territory.” This includes the current ARMM provinces and Marawi City; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte and villages that voted to be part of ARMM in 2001.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law must pass through Congress, then ratified in a plebiscite where territorial scope will also be finalized. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will govern until the 2016 election.
Amid the jubilation, a handful of usual spoilers tried to rain on this parade. They came in the form of grim armchair critics who tsk-tsked that the government is giving away too much; Embittered cynics who predict, if not wish, that one or the other side will renege on the agreement; dispossessed power hogs who could not believe that an accord was reached without them.
These shape shifters now vow to sabotage the implementation through constitutional barriers or violent means.
But as Iqbal pointed out, the prime spoiler will be “if agreements arrived at the negotiating table are not implemented.” The terse statement is an admonition to our lawmakers, particularly the Lower House.
Constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas has anticipated the arguments that will be raised by the naysayers. In his column, he cited Article 10 of the Constitution that says, “The Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region with the assistance and participation of the regional consultative commission composed of representatives appointed by the President from a list of nominees from multi-sectorial bodies.”
Similarly, he directed all questions pertaining to the constitutionality of the proposed judicial system, ownership of natural resources etc. to the pertinent articles.
No doubt there will be attempts to reprise the desperate assault in Zamboanga of the Nur Misuari-led MNLF faction. The 3-week rampage cost 32 lives, 10,000 houses burned down and about 116,000 dislocated people. After the dastardly deed, Misuari went into hiding.
This is the former ARMM leader who wasted his political capital, and with it, the billions of financial aid that was allegedly plundered under his reign. The extremist group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which vows to sabotage the gains, should heed this cautionary tale.
This glorious achievement is the defining landmark of the Aquino government. The son finally culminated the negotiations that started during his mother’s time.
But the success of peace depends on each one of us. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” – Rappler.com