PEACE PROCESS: IMPLEMENTATION WORKS, NOT SEMANTICS (Last of Two Parts)
In the effort to play up and heap praises on the P.Noy Administration, its negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP), some writers have been fault-finding about the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) concluded by the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on 02 September 1996.
For instance, the Philippine Star’seditorial, “One Step Closer To Peace” (11 September 2014) says: “…. MILF members must also undergo a delicate process of ‘normalization’ – a crucial component that was missing in the original peace agreement forged in 1996 with the MNLF….”
Full Compliance With The 1996 FPA
The truth of the matter is that the FPA did better than the proposed “Bangsamoro Basic Law” submitted by P.Noy to Congress last 10 September in that the concepts, principles and procedures in the 1996 FPA utilized the terms “integration” and “joining” with the AFP-PNP in recognition of the need to restore the armed rebels as members of national society and of the Filipino body politic.
These same principles were also applied in the 1995 peace agreement with the Alyansang Tapat sa Sambayanan(ALTAS) and the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan-Soldiers of the Filipino People-Young Officers Union (RAM-SFP-YOU) who were the military rebels that fought the Cory Administration.
FULL COMPLIANCE WITH THE FPA WAS HIGHLIGHTED BY THE INTEGRATION OF QUALIFIED MNLF WARRIORS WITH THE AFP AND PNP, AS PROVIDED BY ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 295 (IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PEACE AGREEMENT ON THE INTEGRATION OF THE MEMBERS OF THE MNLF INTO THE AFP, 07 OCTOBER 1996) AND ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 297 (IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PEACE AGREEMENT ON THE JOINING OF MNLF ELEMENTS WITH THE PNP, 15 OCTOBER 1996).
THESE PRESIDENTIAL ORDERS PRESCRIBED PROGRAMS FOR EX-MNLF – TO BE CONDUCTED ACCORDING TO EXISTING LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS.
Record Of The Ex-MNLF, 1996-2000
IN THE INTEGRATION OF 5,750 MNLF REBELS INTO THE AFP AND 1,750 INTO THE PNP, THE RECORD SHOWS THAT NONE, REPEAT NONE, OF THESE EX-MUJAHIDEENS – ONCE REARMED AND ABSORBED INTO OUR UNIFORMED SERVICES – EVER WENT AMOK OR BECAME ‘JURAMENTADOS’ AGAINST THEIR FELLOW SOLDIERS/POLICEMEN OR CIVILIANS (WHETHER MUSLIMS OR NOT) BUT, TO THEIR CREDIT, REMAINED LOYAL PUBLIC SERVANTS UNTIL RETIREMENT.
The two most outstanding among these MNLF ‘alumni’ is General Yusoph Jikiri, who was designated AFP Southcom Deputy Commander to supervise the integration program, and eventually became the elected Governor of Sulu Province after his Southcom stint; the other remarkable exemplar is Muslimin Sema, MNLF Chief of Staff, who was elected for three successive terms as Mayor of Cotabato City which counts a 55% majority-Christian population.
Said Admin Orders provided that applicants who voluntarily turn over their firearms shall be compensated in accordance with the ‘Balik-Baril Project.’ These firearms shall be accounted for as Government property. All firearms still in the possession of MNLF members not turned over to the Government shall be subject to existing firearms laws, rules and regulations – just like those possessed by other citizens.
Wrong, Poorly Researched Writings
The P.Noy-BBL terms used for the same purpose of facilitating the return of rebel warriors to lawful activities is “decommissioning” and “normalization.”
According to Philippine StarChief Editor, Ana Marie Pamintuan in her column “Sketches” (17 September), the Government peace negotiators and the separatist MILF “came up with ‘decomissioning’ – the word used in the Northern Ireland peace process – before settling on ‘normalization’…. Star editors were told that ‘normalization’ would make the deal different from the peace treaty signed in 1996 by the Ramos Administration with the MNLF….”
We don’t want to get into a discussion on semantics or technical terminologies, but this question has to be answered: “Who gave the Stareditors the wrong information about the FPA in comparison with the BBL??” We have always believed in the following principles about any peace process (including its essential components – integration, recovery of firearms and other lethal weapons, monitoring, desired outcomes, etc.):
(1)Towards the beneficiaries and common people, it is the Government’s faithful implementation of the peace agreement in the field that works – not the elegance of the language.
(2)The proof of its success (or lack of it) is the resulting condition of enduring peace in our communities from which all sides would benefit because of the “peace dividends” – like BIMP-EAGA.
(3)International approbation – in the case of both the 1996 FPA and proposed BBL – would come or be forthcoming from the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Pertinent Provisions Of The Final Peace Agreement
The 1996 FPA provides:
“19.THE JOINING OF THE MNLF ELEMENTS WITH THE PNP:
“a.)During the transitional phase, there shall be a program to allow the joining of MNLF elements into the PNP and to be part of the PNP Command in accordance with existing laws. The Government shall allocate 1,500 PNP vacancies to be filled up by MNLF elements and another 250 for special or auxiliary services.
“b.)The police training programs to be undergone by joining MNLF elements shall be as prescribed by existing laws, rules and regulations, and conducted by the PNP.
“c.)Concerned officials of the Southern Philippines Council shall be provided protective assistance by the National Government as the security situation warrants…. This security detail shall not be utilized for law enforcement, but solely for the security and protection of Southern Philippines Council officials, and shall conduct themselves in accordance with existing policies and regulations….”
“20.THE JOINING OF THE MNLF FORCES WITH THE AFP:
“a.)Five Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty (5,750) MNLF members shall be integrated into the AFP, 250 of whom shall be absorbed into the auxiliary services. The Government shall exert utmost efforts to establish the necessary conditions that would ensure the integration of the maximum number of the remaining MNLF forces into the Special Regional Security Forces and other agencies and instrumentalities of the Government….
“b.)Initially, the MNLF forces will join as units distinct from AFP units. They will be organized into separate units within a transitional period, until such time that mutual confidence is developed…. Subject to existing laws, rules and regulations, the appropriate authorities shall waive the requirements and qualifications for entry of MNLF forces into the AFP.
“c.)One from among the MNLF will assume the functions and responsibilities of a Deputy Commander of the Southern Command, AFP for separate units that will be organized out of the MNLF forces joining the AFP. He will assist the Commander of the Southern Command in the administration and control of such units….
“d.)The Government recognizes the skills, capabilities and achievements of the MNLF and its capacity to develop its members for the highest echelons of military and civilian leadership…. along the principles of universality, non-discrimination, equity and preferential treatment for the poor and underprivileged.
“e.)The Government shall take affirmative measures to continually improve the capabilities of those MNLF forces joining the AFP to enhance their opportunities for professional advancement…. in consonance with AFP education and training programs.
“f.)All other matters regarding the joining of MNLF forces not expressly covered by this agreement shall be prescribed by the President in his capacity as AFP Commander-in-Chief….”
Back-Chanelling With Nur Misuari
Let us now listen to former Executive Secretary Ruben Torres who, during the critical closing days of the 1996 FPA negotiations, was assigned by FVR to back-channel with his close buddy in the U.P. College of Law, Nur Misuari:
“The President instructed me to discuss with Misuari the matter of integration of the MNLF into the AFP-PNP. I was told by General Eduardo Ermita that the MNLF wanted 10,000 of its regular armed forces to be integrated. The Government Panel offered 5,000. After lunch, I brought up with Misuari the question of integration. Misuari said that 10,000 was non-negotiable. I told him that there is a constitutional and legal limit on how many Muslims and other minority groups can join the Armed Forces and the National Police. If the Government agrees to his demand, the President might be impeached for violating the Constitution and, in jest, I said, ‘Your friend, Ruben Torres, would lose his job.’ I advised him to lower his number, and that I would suggest to the Government Panel to increase its offer.
“Misuari asked for a break so he could consult his comrades. When we resumed, Misuari presented me his last bargaining number of 8,000 integrees. I told Misuari, the Government can agree to 7,000 integrees and no more. Misuari immediately dismissed it as an insulting number. He said he had 15,000 regulars and the Government’s offer was not even fifty percent of his forces. In the midst of our discussion, President Ramos phoned me. I informed FVR: I already told Misuari of the 7,000 limit but Misuari was insisting on 8,000.
“THE PRESIDENT TOLD ME TO CHALLENGE MISUARI TO ‘SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE,’ AND THAT’S HOW WE SETTLED THAT SENSITIVE ISSUE: 5,750 TO THE AFP AND 1,750 TO THE PNP, OR 7,500 IN ALL….
“The next morning, I reported to the President what transpired between Misuari and me. I told him of the additional 500 as auxiliary forces. The President asked if the MNLF had that many musicians and cooks because these are the people in the auxiliary component of the military. I said, I thought the Engineering Brigades of the military composed the auxiliary force. The President gave a loud laugh. He said they are regulars in the Army, not auxiliaries. I said: ‘I am sorry, Mr. President.’ He replied, it is alright, you got an agreement, and that is what’s important.” (Caring, Sharing, Daringby FVR Vol. 12 of the SGV series, 2009).
(1)IT PAYS TO BACK-CHANNEL.
(2)THE CRAB MENTALITY (READ “ARROGANCE”) AMONG SOME INCUMBENT OFFICIALS AND THEIR BAD-MOUTHING MAY CAUSE THE FAILURE OF THE 2014 BBL.
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