MOA, more than meets the eye

Posted: August 12, 2008 in Socio-Political, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The past few days saw a barrage of opinions regarding the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was supposed to be signed by the GRP and the MILF, had it not been for the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

I have not read and studied the MOA text in full so I really can’t comment on whether or not it is “treasonous” as some folks portray it.

Unfortunately, there are some folks who keep issuing comments on air even without studying the facts regarding the negotiations between the GRP and the MILF.

Take for example two radio commentators from two respected news programs. Both radio commentators keep saying that the MILF has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and that it is a US policy that they don’t negotiate with terrorists. They then ask, why is the government negotiating with the MILF if it is a terrorist group?

Wow, it’s as if the “negotiating with terrorists” is the mother of all sins. Such comments, coming during primetime raido slots, betrays an utter ignorance of the historical circumstances of the peace process. Commentators and opinion makers need to get their facts straight.

First off, the MILF has not been designated by the US State Department as a terrorist group. And even if it was designated as such, it doesn’t necessarily hold true that the group is a terrorist organization. The US has arrogated upon itself the power designate as terrorist, entities and individuals who are fighting and resisting US policies. Remember, even Nelson Mandela was at one time designated as a terrorist and his name was just recently removed from the list. He’s 80 by the way.

If the commentators take time to do some research, they could be helpful in clarifying the issues instead of whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria and prejudice.

Interestingly enough, the non-listing of the MILF as a terror group gives us an idea of the attitude of the US government towards the peace process in Mindanao.

The US happens to be very interested in the developments in the peace process. So interested that it has engaged the services of a quasi-governmental organization known as the US Institute for Peace, which was created and funded by the US Congress. The USIP has previously embarked on the Philippine Facilitation Program which has “supported” the peace initiatives through different means, including financial of course, as well as trainings and workshops and public information campaigns. Millions of dollars were earmarked for the project which also delved into such issues as ancestral domain, one of the contentious issues we’ve been hearing of lately.

From what we know, the US looks at Southern Philippines and the surrounding waters of the South China sea as strategic areas for its economic and geo-political interests. Recently, the US transnational oil firm Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest oil and gas producer, announced that it was beginning oil exploration in Sulu which is a part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Interestingly, the area of Sulu has been used as training ground and “informal base” of US Special Forces allegedly engaged in “humanitarian and civic operations”. The US Joint Operations Special Task Force based in Mindanao has been a virtual forward military presence for the US.

The USIP unabashedly portrays itself as a vehicle in promoting and advancing US interests worldwide. Their “peace advocacy” is actually along the lines of securing US economic and geo-political interests in such places as Mindanao.

What they are advocating is not really peace based on justice. For example, it views the armed conflict in Mindanao as simply arising from political issues, not economic or religious. An acceptable political solution to the armed conflict would be a US-supported mechanism wherein the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro would be sort of recognized. The USIP apparently also did a study of different cases of struggles for self-determination and ancestral domain. My guess is that any “ancestral domain” that is still under the framework and processes of the neo-colonial Philippine state can be acceptable to the US, insofar as US economic interests would be advanced and US military forces can maintain their presence in the region. I think the correct term to describe what the US intends to do in Mindanao is “plunder”.  Whether its a federal state or a Bangsamore Juridical Entity, the US has its sights set on exploiting Mindanao’s resources.

The USIP says that the US government does not want “Islamic extremists” to get strong foothold in Mindanao and so paving the way for the peace process would be in the best interest of the “war on terror.” Of course, whenever the US invokes the war on terror, you can be assured that it is double-talk for something else. Like when the US invaded Iraq in the name of the war on terror, it was actually invading Iraq for its oil reserves.

Let me just point out that the Moro struggle for self-determination is legitimate and is grounded on historical circumstances. Given the circumstances of the Moro people and the prospects they currently face, the struggle for self-determination must necessisarily take on an anti-imperialist character.

What many find disturbing though is the involvement of the US government in the peace initiatives.

What is also disturbing are the maneuvers of the Arroyo government in relation to the MOA.

Was the Arroyo government negotiating in bad faith, putting together a peace deal that it knew was impossible to implement under the current political set up? Or was that part of the strategy too, to force the nation into accepting charter change as a means to peace?

Did the Arroyo government anticipate the Supreme Court TRO?

Did the Arroyo government take a calculated risk of escalating the armed conflict so that it could make a pitch for charter change and shift to a federal form of government?

Will the Arroyo government just stop at federalism? Will it not go further and say life term limits for the president?

The issues continue to unravel even as 130,000 people are now internal refugees in North Cotabato.

Just today, Malacanang announced that it’s all systems go for charter change.

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