Background of the Bangsamoro Struggle

I found this Discussion Board from the website of the University of the East. I find it necessary to repost this, in order that we may have a working knowledge, and more critical understanding of the raison d'etre of the continuing Bangsamoro secessionist movement. Click the title for the permalink!

Re: GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain

by nassefadiong on Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:58 am

Bases of Bangsamoro Struggle for Self-determination

• Their historical right as free and independent nation before the formation of the Philippine state 
• Their unpleasant experiences under the Philippine republic

Historical Experiences
• Before the arrival of the Spanish colonialists the Bangsamoro were already in the process of state formation, while Luzon and the Visayas were still in the barangay stage of political development.
• They had developed well-organized administrative and political systems; and
• Organized strong maritime and infantry forces that defended the Bangsamoro territories from Western colonial intrusion, thus preserving the continuity of their independence
• Resistance continued even during the American occupation. Although the sultanate-sponsored resistance were not as fierce as during the Spanish-Moro wars, but group-organized and individual resistance (prang sabil – martyrdom seeking operations) continued. 
• These compelled the U.S. to govern the Moro territories separate from the Philippine Islands. 

When the U.S. planned to grant independence to the Philippines, Bangsamoro leaders petitioned the U.S. government that the Bangsamoro territories should not be included in the would-be Philippine Republic.
– June 9, 1921 - petition of the people of Sulu 
– February 1, 1924 - Declaration of Rights and Purposes (Zamboanga declaration)
– March 18, 1935 - Dansalan Declaration

When their territories were made part of the Philippine Republic in 1946, the Bangsamoro people continue to assert their right to independence
– Amilbangsa Bill (H.B. 5682)
– Mindanao Independence Movement Manifesto
– Organization of the MNLF and MILF 

Why negotiate with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) when there is already the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement?

1. From the start of that negotiation, the MILF had adopted a supportive stance, but halfway in the progress of the talks, things had not turned perfectly well in addressing the centuries-old conflicts in Mindanao. So the MILF had to downgrade its policy to “wait and see”. When finally the GRP-MNLF finally wrapped up their talks and signed the September 2, 1996 Final Agreement, having examined fully its content, we concluded that it would not address this problem:

 We put into question the preambular premise that has abandoned the right of the Bangsamoro people to determine freely their political status and to pursue freely their religious, social, economic and cultural development.

 Instead of giving genuine self-rule or autonomy to the Bangsamoro people, the Final Agreement has worked for the MNLF elements into total integration including its armed component into the Philippine body politic in the guise of giving autonomy yet paving the way towards their eventual political defeat.

 The agreement also failed to give to our people the control over natural resources, which are all practically classified as “strategic minerals”. The MNLF agreed to define these later.

 Therefore, we reject the “totality clause” providing that any conflict in the interpretation of this Agreement is to be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws. This, in effect, gives one Party (the GRP) almost blanket authority to interpret this Agreement to the exclusion of the other Party (the MNLF) and the participation of the OIC. 

“Any conflict in the interpretation of this Agreement shall be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws.”

2. The MILF believes that the present “constitutional process” is a narrow framework for the negotiated political settlement of the Mindanao conflict as well as to resolve the “permanent status” of the Bangsamoro people.

3. Current trends in the resolution of sovereignty-based conflicts in many parts of the world such as those in South Sudan, Aceh, Bougainville, and Kosovo have proffered a new modality that has advanced the conduct of permanent status referendum for nation-states as the viable options to armed conflicts between divided societies in Ireland, Montenegro, Catalan, and the Basque. It is in this context that the GRP-MILF framework documents have formulated the sequence, time periods and transitory process the defined function, ending with the referendum results.

Start of GRP-MILF Peace Process 
(January 7, 1997 - Domestic Stage, Without a Third Party Facilitator)
 MILF Deputy Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar and Executive Secretary Ruben Torres met twice, one in Davao City and second in Cagayan de Oro City on August 3 and September 10, respectively. They agreed to form the peace panels and technical committees of both GRP and the MILF.

Creation of Peace Panels and Technical Committees (October 25, 1996)
• GRP and MILF Peace Panels headed by former CEMCOM commander and former Lt. Gen. and then Ambassador Fortunato Abat and Ghazali Jaafar, respectively.
• Committee on Agenda Setting headed for the GRP by ASEC. Jovenal Lazaga and for the MILF by Moner Bajunaid
• Committee on Cessation of Hostilities headed for the GRP by AFP Chief of Staff Jocelyn Nazareno, and for the MILF by Atty. Lanang Ali.

Technical Committee on Cessation of Hostilities
• After the GRP and MILF Peace Panels formed their Technical Committees, they directed their Technical Committee on Cessation of Hostilities to meet, which agreed, among other things, for the declaration of an Interim Cessation of Hostilities in Buldon on January 27, 1997.

– To return the municipal mayor of Buldon who was forced to go to safer places as a result of the fighting in his town.
– GRP and MILF forces to maintain “as is where is”.
– All AFP troops deployed in Buldon, Maguindanao from January 1, 1997 up to 27 will be withdrawn.
– AFP and MILF will refrain from provocative action against the other.
– The MILF to remove and shall not establish checkpoints, roadblocks along the road networks from Parang to Buldon.

To prevent further escalation of the fighting in many parts of Mindanao, the Parties forged the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities on July 18, 1997 wherein both committed their respective “Armed Forces” to the Cessation of Hostilities in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan.

• To direct their respective sub-committee on cessation of hostilities to meet on June 30, 1997 to draw and finalize the Guidelines and Ground Rules for the Implementation of this Agreement.

• To resume and proceed with the formal talks in a venue to be mutually agreed upon by the GRP and MILF Peace Panels.

• In a secret document, the GRP agreed to sign to withdraw from Rajamuda on condition that MILF sign this Agreement.

Supplementary agreements to strengthen the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities:
• Implementing Administrative Guidelines on the GRP-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities of September 12, 1997
• Implementing Operational Guidelines on the GRP-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities of November 14, 1997
• Internal Procedure in the Conduct of the GRP-MILF Meetings (February 17, 1999)
• Rules and Procedures in the Administration of the Joint Secretariat of the GRP-MILF CCCHs (May 18, 1999)
• Agreement on Safety and Security Guarantees for MILF Members Directly and Personally Involved in the Peace Process (March 9, 2000)
• The Parties also created the Quick Response Team (QRT), Interim Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (ICMC), and the Independent Fact-Finding Committee (IFFC).

The Committee on Agenda Setting
The MILF proposed a single talking point agenda– and the GRP agreed:
“How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem”

The MILF explained that “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem” involves a variety of social, cultural, economic and political issues and concerns that include, but not limited to the following: 
1. Ancestral Domain
2. Displaced and landless Bangsamoro
3. Destruction of properties and war victims
4. Human rights issues
5. Social and cultural discrimination
6. Corruption of the mind and the moral fiber
7. Economic inequities and widespread poverty
8. Exploitation of natural resources
9. Agrarian related issues

• The above issues and concerns are what we perceived to be the Bangsamoro problem, which will be addressed through a negotiated political settlement in the form of a comprehensive compact.
• The late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim said: “The most civilized and practical way of solving the BM problem is through a negotiated political settlement.”

The nine (9) talking points are later reduced to six (6) points:
1. Ancestral Domain/ Agrarian Related Issues.
2. Destruction of Properties and Victims of War/ Displaced and Landless Bangsamoro.
3. Human Rights Issues.
4. Social and Cultural Discrimination/ Corruption of the Mind and Moral Fiber.
5. Economic Inequities and Widespread Poverty.
6. Exploitation of Natural Resources 

Signing of the general framework of agreement of intent between GRP and MILF on August 27, 1998 under the Estrada Administration.
• GRP and MILF Panels have renewed their commitment to pursue peace negotiations on the substantive issues until a political settlement is reached.
• They committed for the protection and respect of human rights in accordance with the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
• The Parties pledge to refrain from the use or threat of force to attain undue advantage while the peace negotiations on the substantive issues are ongoing.
• The Parties recognize that there will be lasting peace in Mindanao when there is mutual trust, justice, freedom, and tolerance for the identity, culture, way of life and aspirations of all peoples of Mindanao.

Note: The use of the word “freedom,” the most contentious issue.

Acknowledgement of seven (7) MILF Camps out of the 46 camps covered by the cessation of hostilities
• The acknowledgment of MILF camps is a confidence-building measure in furtherance of the peace process.
• To effectively implement the general cessation of hostilities and thus to avoid armed encounters or confrontations between MILF and GRP forces.
 Camp Abubak’r As-Siddique in Maguindanao
 Camp Bushra in Lanao Del Sur
 Camp Rajamuda in Maguindanao and North Cotabato
 Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao
 Camp Omar in Maguindanao
 Camp Bad’r in Maguindanao
 Camp Bilal in Lanao Del Norte

First acknowledgment on February 10, 1999; Second acknowledgment was on October 6, 1999.

October 25, 1999 Formal Opening of the Peace Talks in 
Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao

• Three years in preparation
• Ambassador Manuel Yan, GRP chief peace negotiator with MNLF
• Embassy officials from Manila
• WAMY assistant Secretary General

Agreement on the Rules and Procedures on the Conduct of the Formal Peace Talks between the GRP and MILF Panels (December 17, 1999)
The Parties agreed on the ff:
• Agenda for Peace Talks, to be prepared by GRP and MILF Technical Committees
• Venue and Schedule of the Peace Talks, GRP and MILF Peace Panels shall hold their talks in a venue to be previously by the Parties.
• Attendance/Quorum, Official members of each panel shall attend regularly.
• In case of permanent disability or for any reason, a substitute is allowed provided there is prior notice to the other Party.
• A majority of each panel shall be present to have a quorum.
• Presiding Officer, the two panel chairmen shall act as co-presiding officer.
• Permanent Secretariat
• To document proceedings.
• To prepare and submit agenda of meeting.
• To prepare highlights of consensus points/agreements
• To handle administrative requirements.

– Meeting Flow
• Invocation
• Opening Remarks
• Approval of Agenda for Meeting
• Adoption of Reports of Previous Meeting
• Discussion of Unfinished Agenda
• Discussion of Agenda Items
• Adoption of Consensus Points/Agreements
• Adoption of Proposed Agenda, Schedule and Venue of Next Meeting
• Adoption of Joint Statement/Press Release 
– Media Coverage
• Mutually agreed upon by the Parties
– Confidentiality
– Amendments
– Safety and Security Matters
– Effectively
• Usually after signing

First Round of Formal Peace Talks (February 15, 2000)
• Acknowledged all agreements entered into by the parties
• Tasked the Technical Committees to cluster the approved nine (9) talking points (Already stated earlier)

Second Round of Formal Peace Talks (March 2, 2000)
• Adopted the nine (9) Agenda items submitted by the MILF which was later clustered to six (6) aggregations.

Third Round of Formal Peace Talks (March 9, 2000)
• Adoption of the highlights of the Technical Committee Meeting.
• Signing of the Agreement on Safety and Security Guarantees.

Aide Memoiré (April 27, 2000) 
• Both Panels agreed that the GRP shall prepare a paper on the proposed political package to be presented to the MILF within 72 hours from date of the meeting. The MILF, on the other hand, shall be given enough time for consultation and thereafter respond to the package.
• The Parties agreed to normalize the situation in Mindanao for the sake of the people and the peace process.
• They also agreed that there is a need to pursue the ongoing peace process between the GRP and MILF in order to achieve stability and development in Mindanao.
• To normalize the situation along the Narciso Ramos Highway, both Chairmen agreed to study the following proposals:
– PNP to takeover in ensuring security and law and order at the highway. (If possible show a map of the highway and Camp Abubakar).
– For GRP and MILF units to remain in their current positions.

Note: Barely six hours after signing, AFP attacked Camp Abubakar from almost all sides, a very clear example of GRP double talk and the use of outright lies in deceiving the MILF.

ALL-OUT WAR OF ESTRADA (April 27, 2000) 
• All-out war was first declared by President in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte on March 16, 2000 after his grandson, 1st Lt. Don Alfonso Javier, was slain in battle against MILF forces on March 15, 2000 in Inudaran, Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte. 
• About one million people were displaced.
• Hundreds of houses were burned by AFP troops and paramilitary forces.
• Billions worth of government and private properties were destroyed including power lines, bridges, etc.
• At the height of the war, the government was spending P100 million a day in its offensive in Mindanao.
• Two-third of the entire firepower of the AFP were deployed in Mindanao.
• Peace Talks collapsed completely on June 15, 2000 after the MILF disbanded its peace panel and declared an all-out jihad against the government.
• On July 19, when AFP captured the lower portion of Camp Abubakar (the upper or forested portion still effectively under MILF control), President Estrada personally and together with his Cabinet came to Camp Abubakar to celebrate the “victory”.
– They raised the Philippine flag in a Muslim school.
– Roasted pigs and drank liquor, totally unmindful of the religious sensibilities of the Muslims.

GRP-MILF Peace Talks: Diplomatic Stage with a Foreign 3rd Party Facilitation
(March 24, 2001 – Present)
• In February 2001, Estrada was ousted from powers by People Power EDSA II and Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn in as the new president of the Philippines.
– Immediately reversed the all-out war policy of Estrada and started to establish contact with the MILF for the possible resumption of the peace talks.
– At first, the MILF was very reluctant and seriously doubted the sincerity of the government. But after sometime and serious considerations, the MILF replied affirmatively but with the following conditions:
• All past agreements must be respected and to be implemented.
• Talks must be held outside of the Philippines.
• To be facilitated by OIC or any member state. 
• President Arroyo also contacted the former Malaysian Prime Minster Dr. Mahathir Mohammad for Malaysia’s possible facilitation of the talks. To do this, she paid an official visit to Kuala Lumpur, which so far was her first foreign visit since she became president.
• The Malaysian Government, after consulting the MILF, facilitated the talks. 

Agreement on the general framework for the resumption of the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF (March 24, 2001)
• The parties agreed to resume the stalled peace talks immediately after signing of this agreement and shall continue until they shall have reached a negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro Problem.
• Organize the Peace Panels
• MILF shall reciprocate to GRP’s SOMO
• Respect and implement past agreements
• Relief and rehabilitation of evacuees
• Commitment to negotiate with sincerity and mutual trust, justice and freedom, and respect for the identity, culture and aspirations of all peoples of Mindanao
• Both Parties expressed gratitude for the gracious hospitality of the Malaysian Government.

Tripoli Agreement on Peace (June 22, 2001)
• Security Aspect
• Rehabilitation Aspect
• Ancestral Domain Aspect

After the Agreement on Intent, this is the most important agreement signed by the Parties; it is considered a mother agreement which all succeeding agenda or agreements are based.

Finding New Formula

The negotiation and peaceful resolution of the conflict must involve consultations with the Bangsamoro people free of any imposition in order to provide chances of success and open new formulas that permanently respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for freedom.

What does “new formula” mean?
• It means, the framework of talks is no longer the shallow constitutional processes as in the GRP-MNLF peace process but refers to International Humanitarian Laws and Human Rights Laws, and also the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
• New formula may also mean the exclusion of autonomy as envisaged in the ARMM but for some higher form of self-governance.
• It can also mean an invitation for the Parties to examine current trends in conflict resolutions in the world today, as in South Sudan, Kosovo, Bougainville, Ireland, and even Aceh.
• It is a process by which the Parties, after they diagnosed the Moro Problem thoroughly, will assemble all the negotiated parts to form a new political entity of its kind.

Security Aspect
• International Monitoring Team (IMT)
Note: Japan joined the IMT socio-economic monitors on July 23, 2006. Sweden has already joined; Canada has also applied. 
• Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH)
• Local Monitoring Team (LMT)
• Ad-hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)

The Security Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 is basically about human security and ceasefire.

THE Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities:
• Monitors and supervises the ceasefire.
• Conducts inquiry on alleged violation by either side.
• Visitations and inspections of conflict-affected areas (CAAs).

THE International Monitoring Team:
• 60-man: 42 Malaysian, 10 Bruneians, and 7 Libyans, Japan, 1; has five team sites: TS-1 in Cotabato City, TS-2 in Iligan City, TS-3 in Zamboanga City, TS-4 in Davao City, and TS-5 in General Santos City. IMT GHQ is also situated in Cotabato City.
• On July 23, 2006, Japan joined the IMT in its socio-economic monitoring functions.
• IMT has practically reduced the fighting into zero-level since it arrived on October 10, 2004.

THE Local Monitoring Team:
• Serves as the principal ceasefire monitors at the local level.
• Composed of Representatives from LGUs, MILF, NGO-GRP, NGO-MILF, and Religious Sectors.

THE Ad-hoc Joint Action Group:
• To interdict and isolate criminal syndicates and other similar criminals in or near MILF communities or areas.
• MILF signed to show that it is not a terrorist organization but a truly revolutionary organization with a clear and legitimate political agenda.

Rehabilitation Aspect
• Affirms the Parties’ observance of International Humanitarian Law and respect for internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedom for all persons in Mindanao.
• Cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of serious violations of international humanitarian laws and human rights as well as violations of this Agreement.

Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)
Development agency of the MILF tasked “to determine, lead and manage rehabilitation and development projects in conflict affected areas.”

Ancestral Domain Aspect
• What is ancestral domain or ancestral land? 
“They are those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through their ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbances, force majeure, or other forms of possible usurpations or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, as a consequence of the government project or any other voluntary dealing entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities o institutions.”

• Divided into four (4) Strands:
– Strand on Concept
– Strand on Territory
– Strand on Resources
– Strand on Governance

• All in all the Parties have signed 29 consensus points

Remaining agenda for the GRP-MILF Peace Talks

MOA on Ancestral Domain
• Finding a political settlement of the Bangsamoro problem, this will be in the form of comprehensive compact. 

Summary of the Peace Process
• Ten (10) years in the making: January 7, 1997 to Present (2008).
• GRP, MILF Signed 72 Documents:
– 45 documents in Mindanao w/o a 3rd Party Facilitator (January 7, 2000 to June 15, 2000) 4 Formal Talks; 10 Informal Talks; 31Technical Committee Meetings
– 27 documents signed outside of the Philippines w/ 3rd Party Facilitator, mainly by Malaysia and only once by Libya (March 24, 2001 to July 2006) 4 Formal Talks; 13 Exploratory Talks; 1 Backchannel talks; 1 Indirect Talks (Signing of IMT TOR on September 28, 2004).
Thousands of armed confrontations, two major, scores of medium, and countless minor.
• GRP chief peace negotiators: Lt. General Fortunato Abat, Major General Orlando Soriano, Major Gen. Edgardo Batenga, Col. and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Atty. Jesus Dureza, and Secretary Silvestre Afable, Jr.; MILF chief peace negotiators: Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman Abdulazis Mimbantas, Vice Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief information officer.

Present Status of the Peace Talks
 The 13th GRP-MILF Exploratory Talks, September 6-7, 2006
 Talks bogged down on the issue of territory and constitutional processes
 GRP peace panel has no mandate
 GRP asked for more time to present new proposal
 September 30; October 31; November 15.
 On Nov. 9 the GRP has submitted a new proposal with right to self-determination as the main sweetener.
 War almost ensued
 Peace talks in December 2007 (14th Exploratory Talks) has been stalled when MILF aborted the panel in Kuala Lumpur due to inconsistencies part of the GRP by presenting different drafts of proposals incongruent to what was agreed in the previous meetings.
 On July 16, 2008, peace talks were revived when both parties agreed on the contention about Ancestral Domain and will continue formally by July 24.
 MILF will now adhere to the Philippine Constitution by expanding ARMM by instituting 735 barangays through plebiscite.
 Signing of a MOA on Ancestral Domain is in grasp now after their meeting last July 16.
 MILF requested to postpone the ARMM’s August elections to pave the way for the peace process in creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, an expanded ARMM territory with much greater power of self-rule.
 The signing was stopped by a TRO issued by the Supreme Court due to petitions filed by the people of N. Cotabato, Zamboanga, and Iligan led by Gov. Piňol et al.
 Oral arguments are going-on in the Supreme Court for examining the constitutionality of the MOA-AD.
 Armed conflicts erupted in N. Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur between AFP and some MILF renegades due to the dismayed and disappointments resulted by the aborted signing of MOA-AD.


1 comment:

Nassef Manabilang Adiong said...

Interesting, you posted my study on the MILF-GRP negotiations and I commend you for that. Anyhow, the problem is not on the basis of its legality (constitutional or not) but it's a political question (or beyong to that). My hunch is that they will still go back resolving the ancestral domain as part and parcel of their previous agreed negotiation - the 2001 peace agreement (in to-to, initial and guidelines).


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