I want to share with you an excellent article by Conrado de Quiros on the MOA on Ancestral Domain and the Peace Process. I like the article so much that I intend to borrow his phrase “embark(ing) on a peace process remembering only the peace and not the process.” It so perfectly encapsulates why the MOA has self-destructed and why many are opposed to what may seem as a workable peace agreement. What the MOA proponents forget is that a peace settlement is by nature political and thus needs broad political and social support to work. Also, the article shows how erroneous it is for the MOA proponents to argue that those opposed to the memorandum are – ipso facto by their opposition – against the peace process. We must remember that both peace and process are inextricably linked and failure to give due importance to one will, ultimately, undermine the other.
Theres The Rub
Way to peace
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:57:00 09/15/2008
Last Friday, a group of Muslim, Christian and indigenous-folk leaders gathered in Quezon City to pay tribute to the “Magic 5,” the members of the peace panel who made the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) possible. The five are retired Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, assistant prosecutor Leah Armamento, Prof. Rudy Rodil, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, and Sylvia Paraguya.
“We’d like to affirm that you did a great job,” said Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao’s People Caucus. “We’re very proud that you’ve brought the negotiation to this point. There’s a fruit in the negotiation, and it’s just unfortunate that some people and some sectors are not yet ready for this fruit.”
The tribute-givers agreed that the panel’s biggest accomplishment was getting the MILF to agree to jaw-jaw rather than war-war. “It’s almost impossible to convince a liberation movement to put their struggles through a democratic process,” said Sitti Hadja Hataman, secretary general of the Moro Human Rights Center. “In a way, you restored people’s trust in the role government plays in talking peace with groups,” said Karen Tañada of the Mindanao Solidarity Network.
These lavish words do sound sublimely ironic and discordant in light of the swath of death and destruction government’s MOA with the MILF has cut. Outside looking in, the group seems to be living in another planet, completely oblivious to what has been happening in the country over the last several weeks. “Heroes” is the last thing most Filipinos today would call them. Restoring trust in anything is the last thing most Filipinos would credit them with, appearing as they do to have done the exact opposite, almost overnight single-handedly resurrecting the active distrust and hostility with which Filipino Christians and Muslims have traditionally held against each other.
Yet, strangely enough, despite the flames leaping high in Mindanao, I personally do not mind giving the panel some slack, though I would stop short at sending words of commendation their way. I know some of the people who have been involved in the peace process. I know they have been hard at work trying to forge an agreement they believed would finally put the hostilities in Mindanao to rest. They’re decent and high-minded. Their hearts do burn for the cause of peace—the kind of peace that goes with justice and not the one that goes with the dead.
There’s nothing wrong with the initiative they took. What is wrong—deeply and awesomely so—is the way they went about it. They embarked on a peace process remembering only the peace and not the process.
How you seek peace determines what peace you get. The disastrous consequences of the (aborted) MOA underline very clearly the two non-negotiable requisites of any peace process: transparency and consensus. This one had neither, and so produced those consequences.
This one in fact was bathed in secrecy. Most Filipinos knew nothing of a Bangsamoro homeland to be given to the MILF until the eve of the MOA signing. Which they had every right to know. The MOA did not just have to do with Muslim Mindanao, it had to do with the entire country. It needed to apprise not just every Moro of its existence and intent, it needed to apprise every Filipino of it.
What especially made transparency vital in this case was this: The MILF could always be expected to negotiate outside the ambit of the Philippine Constitution. Why shouldn’t it, since it had never recognized that Constitution? But the Philippine panel was bound by the most sacred of oaths to negotiate only within the framework of that Constitution. Certainly it could not offer an arrangement that could be possible only under a new Constitution. To do that was to commit treason. This one did.
Had the negotiations been done openly, publicly, transparently, in the spirit of trust and goodwill, none of that would have happened. From the start the objections would have flown thick and fast. At most, what could have happened was for this proposal to have been offered the MILF: Maybe a Bangsamoro is politically viable, but that depends on the Filipino people ratifying it in a plebiscite. That cannot happen until a new Constitution is made, which itself can happen only two years from now to make sure it does not serve selfish interests. The Moros have waited for a long time for an ultimate solution, they can wait a little longer. Meanwhile there is this openness and dialogue to keep the peace.