Point 1: I bet majority of those vociferous in their criticism of the proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Moro ancestral domain have still to read the document. Didn’t the Arroyo administration cite executive privilege in opposing the petition of North Cotabato and Zamboanga officials to get a copy of the agreement?
The logic is simple. What you haven’t seen you surely could not assess. Consider those who rallied in Zamboanga City last Monday. Even as city officials went to the Supreme Court to secure the final draft of the MOA, they are already ranting against it. Consider, too, other politicians and even media people. A little knowledge is dangerous.
Point 2: Is the whole brouhaha about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or about the Bangsamoro (Muslim Filipinos)? Are the concessions given by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (a.k.a. Arroyo administration) to the MILF or to the Moro people? If we say MILF, we are unnecessarily stoking people’s ire.
Having mentioned those two points, let us discuss perspective. If I remember it correctly the peace talks that representatives of government and the MILF entered into were meant to settle the decades-old Moro rebellion in the hope of bringing peace to Mindanao. Peace talks are about two sides meeting in the middle: give some, lose some.
One should not be surprised if government granted concessions, like expanding the scope of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and giving the Muslim officials administering it (not necessarily the MILF) more power. What I want to know is what concession the MILF is giving in return. Nothing in the news about that.
That’s where the problem with this MOA lies: lack of transparency. Had the Arroyo administration and the MILF just been open about the contents of the agreement, the spread of rumors, wrong information and misinterpretation—which have given rise to the resentment felt by some sectors especially in Mindanao—would have been avoided.
Another point: Is the MILF really representing the interest of the entire Bangsa Moro people? This question should be asked considering history. The ARMM was a product of a peace pact between the government of then president Fidel Ramos and Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). MILF did not respect that agreement.
What will prevent other Muslim groups from launching their own war even after the MOA has been approved in a plebiscite? I reckon that the MNLF, traditional rival of the MILF, or at least a faction of it, is again restive. What about the Abu Sayyaf? Will government again go into another round of talks with the next rebel group that sprouts?
Resolving the Moro question is never easy. While history has been unfair to the Moro people, the situation has changed. One cannot just ride a time machine and start correcting the errors of the past. The Sulu and Maguindanao sultanates are gone and Mindanao is now peopled not mainly by Muslims but also by Christians and lumads.
Both sides of the divide understanding the changed setup in Mindanao is a key to resolving the conflict. Consensus building is also a must. Unfortunately, these were stymied by the lack of transparency in the preparation of the recent MOA.
(I wrote this for my July 6, 2008 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)