A breakthrough

We do not know how many people were able to view President Benigno Aquino III’s dramatic Sunday afternoon announcement of the peace breakthrough, but there was one set of viewers in particular who watched the broadcast with the keenest attention: The peace negotiators of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, gathered in one room in Kuala Lumpur.

We understand, from the accounts of witnesses present, that everyone in the room felt deeply moved by the President’s unveiling of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro—the representatives of the MILF included. In truth, there was something evocative, a plain-speaking simplicity approaching timelessness, at the heart of President Aquino’s straightforward declaration: “This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro.”

An entire history is contained in the hard-earned clarity of that second sentence. How we reached that turning point, four years after the debacle of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, a dozen years after President Joseph Estrada declared all-out war on the MILF, 16 years after the national government forged a Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front, a generation after the sacking of Jolo, over 40 years since the Jabidah Massacre, is a compelling story that must someday be told. We realize that the narrative “that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao” in fact goes back hundreds of years, but let us, at this juncture, dwell on two relatively recent milestones.

The comprehensive peace deal the Ramos administration reached with Nur Misuari’s MNLF in 1996 was hailed as a genuine breakthrough at the time, but the overwhelming consensus today is that the Misuari leadership was a crashing disappointment, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao he once led and whose dominant culture he both symbolized and entrenched is—in President Aquino’s own words, “a failed experiment.”

The radical MOA-AD of 2008 sought to advance the peace agenda in a dramatic matter, but the Supreme Court rightly ruled it unconstitutional, for committing the government’s peace negotiators to guaranteed constitutional amendments and for failing to consult the most affected stakeholders of the peace process.

A close reading of the 13-page Framework Agreement shows that the political document is a careful and deliberate reaction to both the disappointment of the MNLF peace deal and the failure of the MOA-AD. Indeed, that may be the best way to understand the preliminary agreement that will be signed in Malacañang on Oct. 15. It is designed to reach a negotiated political settlement with the MILF that will be informed by the lessons in governance and administration learned from the ARMM experiment, through a process marked by the constitutional, legal and political lessons learned from the MOA-AD debacle.

The proposed new entity, Bangsamoro, will be governed by the principle of transitional justice in a way that Misuari’s MNLF failed to heed.

The process that will lead to the proposed new entity, as outlined clearly in the agreement, is resolutely constitutional and appropriately political. As chief government negotiator Dean Marvic Leonen has explained more than once, the peace compact with the MILF and the creation of the Bangsamoro do not need a change in the Constitution; both depend on possibilities offered by the Constitution itself. And every single player in the Philippine political process has a chance to be involved: in the drafting of the proposed Basic Law, in the deliberations in Congress, in the continuing effort to win support in the affected areas in the eventual plebiscite, in the government’s I Am For Peace campaign, even in the outreach to the members of Misuari’s MNLF.

Much remains to be done, much can still go wrong, but this much is clear: the Framework Agreement gives the country, and especially the valiant citizens of Mindanao, the best chance of peace.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=38472

Tags: Framework Peace Agreement , MILF , nation , news , Peace talks

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  • Palace prepared to charge its allies
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • PNP chief on plunder raps: ‘Amateurish’
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces, force do-or-die tiff
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Banks allowed to use ‘cloud’
  • SMIC to issue P15-B bonds
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks
  • PH, HK end bitter row; sanctions lifted
  • Marketplace