The USIP peace project in the Philippines ended in June, 2007.
Saying she won't sign the MOA-AD at gunpoint (not even if the Supreme Court rules favorably upon it) President Arroyo has suddenly disbanded the ill-fated GRP Peace Panel. This follows a remarkable claim made under oath by Solicitor General Agne Devanadera before the Supreme Court last Friday that President Arroyo had not read the controverted MOA-AD before the scheduled signing in Malaysia on August 5.
There is something else. Over a year ago, on August 14, 2007, PDI reported on "security directives" issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was the first I heard the President mention an Ancestral Domain Regime, a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity:
"If it would not adversely affect the Philippine negotiating position and provoke alarm among Christians, a pilot implementation of the envisioned Muslim ancestral domain regime shall be undertaken, to demonstrate our sincerity to achieve peace,” Ms Arroyo said.Clearly, the President was already aware as early as August, 2007, of the most controversial details of the MOA-AD, details that only came fully to light recently. Then just last month, the President even bragged about it during her State of the Nation Address on July 27.
She said the government had declared many ancestral domains among indigenous peoples.
“I really don’t see why anybody should be scared if there is an ancestral domain declared for the Muslim people,” she added.
The issue of ancestral domain or territory is about the areas to be recognized as part of a Muslim homeland and which will be placed under a so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), the probable name of the governing body of the new Moro homeland.
It is not clear how much autonomy the BJE will have. But the proposal is for the MILF to have full fiscal, political and religious authority in the BJE.
Today the headlines are that President Arroyo has disbanded the GRP Peace Panel.
The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.
The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.
The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney.
But where do we go from here? Is the Peace Process dead?
To answer this question we must ask WHERE that Peace Process came from, because there is a definite technology to its form, manner and method of execution.
From the United States Institute of Peace on their Philippine Facilitation Project:
After all has been said and done, the spectacular failure of this entire "peace facilitation project" of the USIP is being writ large in the blood and suffering of the dead and displaced Muslims, Christians and lumads in today's Mindanao, numbering now in the hundreds of thousands and not abating but worsening. Indeed, the fingerprints of the USIP's architects and facilitators of "peace" are to be seen all over the recent events, including especially the manner, method and content of that ill-fated Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the GRP and the MILF. The legal and judicial troubles encountered by a patently unconstitutional, unjust and unfair agreement and the subsequent revelation that delivering the deal was beyond the powers and wishful thinking of the Arroyo administration have logically obliged the MILF to unleash their dogs of war, whose arms and ammo are gladly if surreptitiously supplied by the USIP's Malaysian counterpart promoters of peace.
USIP's Philippine Facilitation Project, created to help end a decades-long conflict between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim insurgent group operating in the southern island of Mindanao, ended on June 30, 2007. Acting on a mid-2003 request from the U.S. State Department, USIP worked with Philippine officials, MILF leaders and civil society to further efforts to create an “equitable and durable peace agreement” to foster reconciliation and stability in the Philippines and surrounding areas of Southeast Asia. The Philippine Facilitation Project was a part of the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution and was directed by Eugene Martin.
Why did this happen? Why has an economically and socially debilitating conflict suddenly exploded like a malevolent djinn from what was billed as a successful peace process based on the templates and recommendations of the US Congress' surrogate here in the peace process?
In doing a post-mortem on the MOA-AD, one finds evidence that the key missteps and the most ineffective elements of the "peacemaking technology" may have come from the USIP. It appears now that the radical ambitiousness of the project--to achieve "restorative justice" on an ancient and complex history --made it inevitable that violent conflict would be the price of its almost certain failure.
For example, one of the most puzzling aspects of the approach taken by the Arroyo administration towards the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Ancestral Domain was the secrecy that cloaked its creation. There is in fact some reason to thank some yet unidentified leaker from within the administration for getting copies of it out to local government officials and the Press before that fateful August 5 signing date in Petrajaya, Malaysia would indeed have delivered a fait accompli. ("done deal" would be Eid Kabalu's translation), with even US Ambassador Kristie Kenney cluelessly looking on with bated breath and Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak grinning in satisfaction ("Oplan Mindanao accomplished" would be his translation).
Now look at this rather curious passage from Astrud Tuminez of the USIP, describing the situation in Sri Lanka and evidently finding something there to emulate:
Sinhalese Sri Lankans have been highly reluctant to accommodate Tamil demands. In their view, giving an inch to the Tamils in the form of autonomy would lead to the slippery slope of Tamil domination. When a cease-fire was signed in 2002, it was done in secret because the Sinhalese population would not have supported it. Instead, government leaders presented it as a fait accompli, hoping that the working of the cease-fire would dampen threat perceptions and cultivate public support for peace. Tamils and Sinhalese have inflicted grave violence on one another, and both sides need to modify deep-seated fears to allow reconciliation to occur.It would seem this approach was recommended (and accepted) by the Philippine Government peace panel if recent rationalizations of Jess Dureza (the President's peace adviser throughout this whole fiasco) during an interview by Pia Hontivers (ANC) are any indication.
A second and perhaps even more substantial point comes from the breathtaking nature of the conceptual leap from autonomy and ancestral domains to that of a "Bansamoro homeland" that would eventually encompass Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu -- to which the MOA-AD committed the government. A careful examination of the document would reveal a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy only one declaration away from full independence would be created at government expense in the Southern Philippines by what Joaquin Bernas, S.J. called "just a piece of paper." There would surely also be more contracts and projects for the peacemakers.