Written by John Unson | Philippine Star Hits: 264
COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Year 2012 will be remembered as the time when the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new self-governing entity, being a “failed experiment,” as far as President Benigno Aquino III is concerned.
The ARMM’s creation was a brainchild of Aquino's matriarch, former President Corazon Aquino, as part of her administration’s initial peace overture with the MILF, which resulted in the crafting of the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement, during the time of then President Fidel Ramos.
It was Mrs. Aquino, in fact, who created the Regional Consultative Commission or RCC that drafted the ARMM’s first ever charter, Republic Act 6743, which was ratified through a plebiscite in 1990, resulting into the fusion of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi together as territory of the autonomous region.
The ARMM's area was expanded, which eventually included the island province of Basilan and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi, with the ratification of its amended charter, R.A. 9054, through another plebiscite in August 2001.
The replacement of the ARMM with a new autonomous political entity, through a political and legislative transitional process that would last until 2016, is the main objective of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), signed October 15 this year by the government and MILF panels in Malacañang.
Peace talks between the government and the MILF started Jan. 7, 1997, a process that saw “ups and downs” causing its collapse over a dozen times, sparked by security problems in many flashpoint areas the rebel group wants to group together as Bangsamoro homeland.
For a while, local sectors were euphoric over the signing of the FAB, something residents of the autonomous region never thought would happen so soon, much sooner than they expected.
President Aquino has created the Transition Commission (TransCom) through Executive Order 120, to oversee the drafting of the Basic Bangsamoro Law that is to become the “body and soul” of the Bangsamoro region.
“We in the ARMM government are ready to make that vision come true. We are ready to help in the transition process,” said the region’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman.
Hataman, whom President Aquino appointed as ARMM's caretaker in December 2011, has been addressing the administrative and fiscal woes besetting the ARMM’s dysfunctional bureaucracy, tainted with massive graft and corruption.
The region’s perennial, long-time mismanagement and the misuse of funds in the coffers of its line agencies and support offices have been blamed for the grinding poverty and widespread underdevelopment in its component provinces and municipalities.
ARMM residents have lately been seeing outpouring of support for the FAB and the TransCom, through public consultations participated by cross-section communities, political and religious leaders and representatives of various civil society organizations, or CSOs, in the autonomous region.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose province is a known bastion of the MILF, and Hataman are to jointly preside over a grand regional FAB forum in Buluan town on January 12 to 13.
Mangudadatu said he is expecting representatives of the MILF and the government’s peace panel, officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and leaders of Mindanao’s Christian religious communities to participate in the dialogue in Buluan in the second district of Maguindanao.
Hataman and Mangudadatu were expected to renew the support of their respective administrations to the on-going government-MILF talks during the January 12-13 grand regional FAB forum.
There is so much reason for local sectors in the autonomous region to help push the FAB forward and show support for the newly-created TransCom.
Local folks witnessed bloodshed and saw the dislocation of about a million residents in flashpoint areas in the south when President Joseph Estrada embarked on an all out war policy against the MILF in 2000.
Mr. Estrada’s military adventurism led to the government’s takeover of close to 50 “main and minor” MILF camps, including Camps Busrah and Abubakar Assidik, in Butig, Lanao del Sur and in Maguindanao’s Barira town, respectively, amidst the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.
Thousands were again displaced in February 2003 when government forces drove away from the Buliok Complex, a 3,000-hectare guerilla enclave in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, the chieftain of the MILF, Imam Salamat Hashim, forcing him to relocate to Butig town in Lanao del Sur, where he eventually died of a cardiovascular disease several months later.
The last of the hostilities to wrack the South, which lasted for about one year, was sparked by the aborted August 5, 2008 crafting by the GPH and MILF panels in Malaysia of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was eventually junked as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The MOA-AD was the supposed basis for the setting up of a Southern Moro homeland the MILF was to govern through its proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
“We’ve had enough of bloodshed. It’s time to settle the Mindanao problem on the negotiating table amicably, in the spirit of amity, fraternalism and mutuality,” said Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and a convener of more than 50 peace advocacy outfits involved in projects complementing the GPH-MILF talks.
There has been a fragile peace for over a year now in many supposedly hostile areas in Mindanao. There has even been a “zero encounter” between government and MILF forces in Central Mindanao in the past 15 months, enabling non-government organizations, line agencies, local government units, the ARMM leadership to freely implement socio-economic projects in far-flung areas without any disruption.
Peace advocacy outfits in ARMM are now busy encouraging voters to choose candidates for local elective positions that are supportive of the Mindanao peace process and are engaged in activities meant to prevent any outbreak of military-MILF hostilities in their respective municipalities and provinces.
The ARMM is to hold its eight regional elections in May 2013, simultaneous with the local and senatorial elections.