At Large

‘Selling’ the agreement


Mary Ann Arnada, a lawyer and Mindanao-based peace advocate, had some choice words for the media at a recent “Multi Stakeholders Forum” on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Why, she wanted to know, was there so much negativity in the media regarding not just the Framework Agreement and the recently-concluded talks on the annex on wealth-sharing, but generally about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the peace process, and Muslims in general?

“Why is there so much coverage given to Abu Sayyaf attacks and kidnappings, but no story about a peace worker?” she asked.

Media people present at the forum, including this columnist, could have told her about the “nature of the beast,” and the seeming penchant for the violent and sensational. But I for one kept my counsel because, in fact, there are disturbing developments in the way the peace talks and their results have been presented in the media.

We all realized that there was still a long road to hoe before real and sustainable peace in Mindanao could be achieved, despite the milestones that have been achieved along the way.

There is for one the need to “sell” the peace agreement, which seems well on the way to completion, not just to Congress which will have to ratify the document, but more importantly to the Filipino public. True, the plebiscite to follow the ratification by Congress will be held in what are considered the Bangsamoro areas. But the peace pact will have but minimal impact, and doubtful longevity, if it doesn’t win the support of the majority of the population, who are not just Christian but even “anti-Muslim.”

I’m talking of course of a low boil, maybe even subconscious bias, against Filipino Muslims held by the Christian majority, the result of centuries of black propaganda and inculturation. Seldom does this negativity manifest itself, but it can make itself felt in the most unexpected ways.

* * *

Take a look at the banners of many newspapers in the past week, including the headlines of this paper. The impression I get reading the headlines is that the government negotiators gave “too much away,” the “jewel in the crown,” as the Inquirer’s headline said, quoting chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer, in the conduct of the talks.

Maybe it all depends from which viewpoint one is assessing the results of the annex on “wealth sharing” that was recently concluded. True, as news reports said, under the agreement, the Bangsamoro (the entity representing the MILF and replacing the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) will receive 75 percent of the revenue from natural resources.

By all appearances, it would seem the national government is on the losing end (75 percent is a larger allotment than any other local government receives). But when viewed against the historic grievances of the Moro people, the wealth-sharing arrangement “will realize meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro in the future,” said Ferrer.

“Behind the haggling for more shares is the intent [for the Bangsamoro] to be less and less dependent on the national government,” Ferrer added. The intention, she said, “is not to get the ‘lion’s share’ for its own sake but to be able to stand tall as a progressive and peaceful region, an equal partner of the central government in an equally peaceful and progressive country.”

The proposed wealth-sharing agreement, she said, does not entail a “one-way partnership.” The government, she noted, is not “giving everything to the Bangsamoro.” Rather, “the Bangsamoro is [also] sharing and contributing to the development of the whole country.”

“That indeed is the true meaning of partnership—partnership that is not based on dependency and patronage, but on the strength and capacities introduced by both for the benefit of the whole.”

* * *

It was left to MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal to sound out some concerns, from their point of view, at the start of the talks last July 8. “There are many spoilers who are waiting in ambush,” he warned. As a negotiator for over a decade, said Iqbal, “I have learned a lot of hard lessons. My experience tells me that there is no easy part of any real life negotiation…But this is no reason to cause the failure of these talks. Sincere and committed partners in a peace process will always find a creative formula to get through any differences. If they don’t find one, this means one of the parties or both of them [have] change[d] policy from solving the conflict to not solving it.”

What the talks are addressing, added Iqbal, “is the Moro Problem or Question, not the Philippine problem. Remember that a ‘historic injustice’ has been committed against the Bangsamoro, which must be corrected once and for all in order to put to rest future legitimate struggles against the Manila government. Therefore, any solution requires a major shakeup of the status quo.”

* * *

So, while presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles assures that the proposed comprehensive agreement is “a very good deal,” adding that it is “viable, fair and is something that shares the aspiration of all,” the MILF apparently believes some “shaking up” is not just inevitable but necessary.

“There is no negotiation where one side gets 100 percent,” Deles has said. But she noted that apparently, “the political leadership of the MILF … decided [it was] the overall goal of everyone.”

We will see how far and how much the “shaking up” foreseen by the MILF toward the fruition of the Bangsamoro will go. In the meantime, there is the task of “selling” the agreement to the public, so perhaps a suspension of the hostilities in our minds and hearts is called for.

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=56847

Tags: Bangsamoro , column , framework agreement , Mindanao peace process , Rina Jimenez-David , wealth-sharing

  • Eustaquio Joven

    I’m talking of course of a low boil, maybe even subconscious bias, against Filipino Muslims held by the Christian majority, the result of centuries of black propaganda and inculturation. Seldom does this negativity manifest itself, but it can make itself felt in the most unexpected ways. – Mary Ann Amada

    Does she feel that she can’t get buyers without casting aspersions on the good faith of detractors? Why?

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


  • Tens of thousands travel by sea this Holy Week
  • Police: Dad smothered toddler to play video game
  • 7 killed in shooting in China-Vietnam border
  • Chinese trade group to mediate shoe factory strike
  • Malaysia, Australia in deal on black box custody–report
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Marketplace