Formula for failure
There is nothing new in the so-called policy shift in dealing with Moro rebels of “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation” (DDR) recently announced by de facto President Gloria Arroyo. It is simply a rehash of the old, discredited and failed policy of “surrender before we talk” that has been the mark of this deceitful and arrogant regime. Ambiguity, tentativeness, flip-flopping, and self-contradictory equivocation betrays government attempts to repackage its worn-out policy in order to undercut criticism of bogged down peace processes -- first with the National Democratic Front (NDF), and now, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Moreover, the purported shift to “consultations with communities” is merely a ploy to mute outrage over the secrecy that attended the negotiations of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). It obscures the fact that peace negotiations had been preceded as early 1992 by nationwide consultations done by the National Unification Commission, authorized by then President Ramos, that have supposedly been continuing all this time, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), parallel to the peace negotiations .
The GMA regime is reneging on the MOA-AD and four earlier agreements (1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement, 1997 GRP-MILF Agreement on Cessation of General Hostilities and 2001 GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace) that have progressively acknowledged that the root cause of the Mindanao conflict is the continued denial of the historic and legitimate right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination through some form of self-rule over their ancestral domain.
It is also clearly tossing out the window its own avowed “Six Paths to Peace” policy framework that was set by President Ramos in 1993 and adopted by Mrs. Arroyo when she took power in 2001. In particular, the provisions on the “pursuit of reforms (including changes in the constitution if needed) that deal with the root causes of insurgency and social unrest” and “peace talks with rebel groups aimed at final negotiated settlement, with neither dishonor nor surrender for any of the parties”. The announced “new policy” of the GMA regime is a throwback to pre 1993. It will undo whatever gains there have been in the peace negotiations in the last 15 years aside from shutting the door to peace negotiations with the MILF, the same way it has with the NDF.
What happened to the peace negotiations with the NDF is indeed telling. Formal talks with the NDF have not taken place since June 2004. Meanwhile, government has not honored its own signature on joint agreements earlier forged. These include the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG (NDF panel members, consultants and staff have been killed, arrested or harassed with trumped-up charges) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL (with the rash of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, displacement of civilian communities, torture and illegal arrests consequent to government’s counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bantay Laya I and II).
Furthermore, in the two Oslo Joint Statements in February and April 2004, government was committed to eschew the “terrorist” tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) that is considered by the NDF to be prejudicial to the peace negotiations. Concretely, government agreed to take steps to correct the “terrorist” categorization of these revolutionary organizations by the US, EU and other governments, something which the GMA regime had campaigned for in the first place, but instead of doing so, it has been using the “terrorist” label to pressure the NDFP to capitulate in the negotiating table.
Let us recall that when newly installed Armed Forces Chief Yano proposed an “indefinite ceasefire” with the NPA in order to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP, both Mr. Teodoro and Mr. Dureza immediately and unequivocally corrected him stating that the standing government policy with regard to the NDF was “no peace negotiations”. Mr. Teodoro said, “The order of the President is very clear: Make the insurgency irrelevant by 2010 and there should be no interpolations or extrapolations of that directive.”
Such a militarist mindset is undoubtedly the dominant view holding sway in Malacañang with the cabal of Mrs. Arroyo, Executive Secretary Ermita, National Security Adviser Gonzales, Defense Secretary Teodoro, former OPAPP head and now Presidential Spokesperson Dureza and former AFP Chief and current peace adviser Esperon discarding almost all pretensions to seeking peaceful avenues to end the war in Mindanao and the rest of the country.
It should be no surprise therefore when the GMA regime, not satisfied with the indefinite ceasefire the MILF agreed to even as no agreement on the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations has actually been reached save for the unsigned MOA-AD, now demands –unreasonably -- that the MILF completely disarm and demobilize before peace talks can be resumed. This is nothing but a deliberately impossible proposition that no self-respecting armed revolutionary organization will even consider. It is designed to justify all-out war with the MILF, when the latter predictably, rebuffs the demand.
Much earlier, riding on public condemnation of the attacks on civilians by the units of two MILF commanders, Kato and Bravo, that were acknowledged by the MILF to be unauthorized military actions in retaliation for the non-signing of the MOA-AD, the GMA regime had demanded the surrender of the two rebel leaders by the MILF leadership. The Arroyo regime insists on dealing with the two as common criminals rather than through the bilateral agreement on security that defines the parameters of its ceasefire with the MILF.
The reason for this emerges: the GMA regime wishes to justify the withdrawal of its implied recognition of the MILF (wittingly or unwittingly conferred by government’s engaging in peace negotiations with the rebel group) as a legitimate political force representing a significant section of the Moro people. It is meant to lay the ground for scuttling the peace talks with the MILF.
Thus Mr. Teodoro can now declare the MILF “irrelevant” and categorically announce the end of the talks; same with Mr. Dureza. These pronouncements reflect the real hard-line position of Malacañang despite duplicitous avowals by Executive Secretary Ermita that “the peace process is still on” pointing to the 2003 ceasefire mechanism being in place, a mechanism that the government nonetheless refuses to avail of in the current outbreak of hostilities with the MILF.
Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal of warmongers are making a big mistake if they think they can get away with Mrs. Arroyo’s pretense at seeking peace in Mindanao first, through the MOA-AD and her opportunistic waving of the flag of federalism; and now, the call to arms riding on anti-Moro chauvinism and pseudo-nationalism. The resumption of all-out hostilities, no matter which side initiates it, is bound to exacerbate age-old prejudices, drain the economy, and eventually contribute to the Arroyo regime’s early downfall.#