Proposed Bangsamoro Homeland

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)

2 Responses to Proposed Bangsamoro Homeland

  1. alvin dizon says:

    I agree that consensus-building among all stakeholders is a key to attaining peace n Mindanao.
    Transparency in any peace process is an important element for it to succeed.
    Both parties, the GRP and MILF, should disclose the full contents of the Agreement to the general public. Statesmanship is called upon to be exercised by all leaders from the Bangsamoro and settlers and especially from the national leaders.
    It is a must to study the issues and look at Mindanao from their own perspective, not from Manila’s (or Luzon/Visayas).
    We should set aside long-held biases on Mindanao and its people and support them in their struggle to find lasting peace.

  2. Aug. 12,2008

    Dear Sir Bong Wensceslao:
    Sir, here are m y 2 opinion articles that I send to you for the cebuano wordpress comment section which your website has provided for the senders. Although these articles are not the replies of the abovementioned article ,I hope that my articles are worthy of consideration for your comment section. Thank you. Here they are below this letter.

    Respectfully yours,
    Quirico M. Gorpido,Jr.

    Let The SSS Members’ Funds Be On Safe hands
    By Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.

    Maasin City, Southern Leyte-I have read reports that the appointment of Romulo Neri of CHed as the new SSS Chief would allegedly endanger the P248 billion SSS funds because of his “closeness” to the Arroyo Administration being a presidential appointee. The Malacañang’s statement that SSS funds won’t be touched is something doubtful. I’m suspecting that whenever there’s a presidential pressure from the current administration, for instance, instructing Neri to get the SSS funds for a certain government pro-poor programs or projects, it would be hard for him (Neri) to refuse the President. This is a great possibility to an indebted public official who held several welfare offices in the Government to do a favour for the President’s request. Unless Neri would remain adamant and not compromise his position but set aside his personal interest, and give more importance to the welfare and well-being of the SSS members.
    However, we hope that the released Palace’s statement will remain true for the Arroyo’s cabinet members and the next administration that will replace the present one or the following administration after the latter. In other words, not any administration that will occupy Malacañang would dare touch the SSS funds.
    As a concerned SSS member I am against any government administration that will touch or use the SSS funds for whatever purpose-political or otherwise. Strictly speaking SSS funds are private funds coming from private employees. The money should instead be wisely and constructively invested by the incumbent SSS administrator in order to grow and gain profits. With good management and supervision in investing the SSS funds in various lucrative undertakings, it will in turn provide good and better services to its members like scholarship and educational loans, housing loans, busines loans, medicare, disability benefits for the disabled, pensions and other members’ benefits.
    Whoever will take the helm of SSS who is mostly a presidential appointee, the Palace assurance not to touch the SSS funds is not a surefire guarantee nor is it enough. We should avoid a repeat of what had
    allegedly happened to some SSS funds during the Estrada Administration. There were reports that former President Joseph Estrada had allegedly used some of the SSS funds during his regime. How true is this? There might be some truth to this allegation, when former Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. of Zambales had said he will pass a law in Congress that will prohibit any government administration or high public official from using and touching the SSS funds for a political or any kind of purpose whatsoever.
    The reason behind it is simply because its private funds contributed from private employees/individuals and should not be used in any government programs, but exclusively for the use of SSS members only. Even for the GSIS funds, the prohibition not to use it in any other government program/project is also applicable. Akin to the SSS funds, the GSIS funds has also its definite objective to serve its bonafide members’ benefits and welfare.
    Unfortunately, due to many new candidates vying the re-electionists Senators for the Senate seats during the last May 2004 elections, former Senator Magsaysay, Jr. has failed to occupy even the 12th position in the final
    countdown of the senatorial votes.
    Nevertheless, I and the rest of the SSS members are hoping that another concerned Congressman or Senator can think of what former Senator Magsaysay was planning to pass that will protect both the SSS funds and GSIS funds out of harm’s way. I also hope that a discerning freshman Representative or Senator will consider passing a bill that will become a law that will strictly protect the SSS funds and GSIS funds from any kind of government administration’s diversionary tactics to use it in any government programs. Again, private funds should remain as private funds.GSIS funds should also remain as GSIS funds and should not be diverted into supporting a government project/program including for example as “fund booster” during election campaign for any re-electionist President of the Republic.
    Understandably, it is the duty and responsibility of any government administration to provide for the social needs of its people.Nonetheless, it is not to the extend of using any private funds from the contributions of private employees who should avail of their hard-earned money upon maturity. This kind of diversionary utilization of private funds, for instance, will defeat its absolute objective to serve those who are supposed to benefit from their hard-earned contributions.
    Furthermore, prudence dictates that honest and transparent government spending of any kind of project/program should only vouched government funds, grants and foreign aids from financial and humanitarian institutions, but never on private SSS funds from private employees/individuals’ or GSIS funds from the members’ hard-earned contributions. (Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.)

    Arable Lands Should Not Be Converted into Residential Lots
    By Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.

    Maasin City, Southern Leyte-It’s good that Vice-President Noli de Castro himself has made a statement during his speech before the group of farmers in Bulacan that arable lands (public and private) should not be converted into real state or subdivision. In other way of saying it, he will not allow arable lands or agricultural lands for a real state conversion. But the strength of his speech regarding the conservation of arable lands in the country will only remain until his term and that of the Arroyo administration in 2010, unless he will run for the seat of the Presidency and win.
    The fate of our agricultural lands in the country will always be under the control of whoever is the President, unless a law on the strict prohibition of arable land conversion into subdivision or real state will be enacted.
    A bitter lesson has been served to all of us now-those in the government and private sector and the millions of ordinary Filipinos: that conversion of agricultural lands into residential or housing projects will surely reduced the areas needed for the planting of vast hectarages of rice,corn,fruits,vegetables rootcrops,legumes and other edible plants for human consumption. And this is of course the logical reason that with the growing number of population in the Philippines, the more our concerned govt. officials and owners of vast hectares of land should be more serious in enforcing the strict prohibition for this kind of land conversion.
    On the other hand, talking on basic needs, it covers food, shelter, clothing and education.However, when we talk on what will be our priorities, mostly we would say that it is food. WE can bear with little clothes and lack of education. But when it comes to food, all of us-rich and poor-are always in need of it everyday. If we fail to eat even one day, we feel weak, lack of concentration on mental activities, could hardly sleep (hunger will always prevail over sleepiness), sluggish and other bad feelings of an empty stomach.. If the condition in the alleged “shortage of rice” will continue and its price will also continue to rise, many poor people who are jobless and landless will be forced to steal in order to eat. When food shortage will become the main issue, it will always have a heavy brunt of blame to the President’s political policies and priorities.
    WE hope that Vice-President de Castro, one of the popular media personalities in the past, will put more meat to his recent speech in Bulacan in front of the farmers by advising PGMA to enjoin Congress to enact a law now that will strictly prohibit the conversion of arable lands (public and private) into a real state or housing projects whoever is the President of the Republic of the Philippines. This means that any duly- elected President who will be residing in Malacañang Palace can neither annul it, thwart it nor circumvent it by any subtle means.
    WE need more agricultural lands for our food requirements so that we will not be buying rice and other agricultural products anymore to our neighboring countries and become self-sufficient in foods. Producing rice and other food products ourselves would be more resourcefully productive than relying on importation by spending millions and millions of pesos, which can be turned as our savings for other important
    government projects and services. (Quirico M.Gorpido, Jr.)

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