Peace on the Balance

AFTER quite a suspenseful wait, the highest court of the land has rendered its verdict: the all-but cooked GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is unconstitutional. The justices blightly described the document as among others “whimsical” and “capricious”.

Such descriptions are understandable when they come from government officials and politicians who are sworn to defend the status quo, comprised of the various so-called democratic institutions of the Republic. These, unfortunately, are the same institutions that have abetted the state of war in Mindanao in the last 40 years – and throughout many more past generations that had witnessed the resistance of local Muslims against intrusions into their ancestral homelands. Basically speaking, the Manila government to exploit Mindanao’s economic resources for its own feudalistic interests has used its military and political agencies to stoke the Bangsamoro and other internecine conflicts.

But the effort to arrive at a peaceful settlement of the Mindanao conflict is increasingly taking the character of a Shakespearean drama. Extraordinary forces have been set in motion by certain events, and characters great and small are hard-pressed to take control of the tide of affairs. To BJE or not to BJE, that is the still tantalizing question.

The rising clamor and consensus, a kind of historic momentum, especially in the international community is “to BJE”. In a recent published article, some former American ambassadors to the Philippines opined that the protracted Moro rebellion can only be peacefully (how else?) settled through a framework that more or less resembles the bloodied but unbowed MOA-AD. Academics in the United States and Europe have also written articles endorsing the plan, urging negotiators particularly the Philippine government to think out of the box when seeking a final solution of sort. Diplomats from the European Union assigned to the Philippines now shamelessly say that an extraordinary plan is needed to end the conflict.

It is sentiments like these that perhaps embolden the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MI\LF) to declare that it will take the MOA-AD case before the International Court of Justice and the Organization of Islamic Conference. Such a move, however, is fraught with dangers. It can further polarize the traditional tribal and cultural divides in Mindanao and ignite again a genocidal fighting.

In at least one respect, the Supreme Court in shooting down the MOA-AD is correct to say that any political settlement should be arrived at through a process of public or democratic consultation, something which the erstwhile government negotiators failed to do. The US ambassadors say that in any negotiations as delicate as that between the Philippine government and the MILF, the imperatives for confidentiality should be balanced by the indispensability of consultation with stakeholders. It is an important lesson that Mindanao’s peace-makers, the MILF and hopefully any remaining sincere negotiators from the nation’s so-called establishment have learned from the fall of the MOA-AD. Thankfully, balance is intrinsic to creation, hence regaining the balance of peace from here on should be no big deal.

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