Thursday, September 11, 2008

How a US Congress Funding Earmark Led to War in Mindanao

Former Philippine Ambassador to Washington, Alberto del Rosario, reveals how the Philippine Government secured a US Congress funding earmark --tacked on to the 2003 Iraq War funding bill--to fund the GRP-MILF Peace Process to the tune of 60 million dollars. Working with Texas Rep. Tiahrt, and Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye, and the US State Department, he recalls,

Rather than be stymied, we recited many Hail Mary’s, and proceeded to revisit Rice’s office to seek endorsement of our initiative that was consistent with our strategy in Mindanao as previously presented.

A few days later, the supplemental bill to fund the invasion in Iraq was passed. With the backing of the National Security Council, the bill carried a singular earmark for $30 million in foreign assistance for the GRP-MILF peace process. (The following year, this was followed with an additional funding for the same purpose.)

As a result of this foreign assistance, USAID and the US Institute for Peace were tasked to support the programs. Over time, because the GRP-MILF peace process remained elusive, a considerable amount of the approved funds were channeled to complete the development assistance programs for the Moro National Liberation Front.

What I think the Filipinos did not count on was that the US Congress would insist on using the UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE as its surrogate in the GRP MILF Peace talks. By early in 2005, the USIP apparently had its own, already fully formed idea about how to fix the Mindanao Problem. Here is Senior Consultant Astrid Tuminez:

Amazingly USIP's ideas find their fullest expression in the hare-brained illegalities and dangerous unconstitutionalism of that ill-fated MOA on Ancestral Domain that is presently subject of a major Supreme Court case that the Chief Justice has deemed the most significant under his watch.

With 20/20 hindsight we can say USIP's Philippine Facilitation Project was a complete disaster! Instead of peace, it has led to a still escalating war.

From the United States Institute of Peace on their Philippine Facilitation Project:

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.

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.

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 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.

The GAO really ought find out how US$60 million was spent by USIP. Where, for example, did the MILF get all those shiny new uniforms and deadly looking firearms, machine guns and grenade launchers. Why does Eid Kabalu and Gazali Jafar seem to have unlimited access to Mass Media that normally charges such a high price of admission?


Anonymous said...

When the only ideas offered are coming from Malaysians, then the only ideas that are entertained are those ideas that are offered.

john marzan said...

but weren't you for it before you were against it, dean? the "it" meaning "US assistance" in mindanao?

a fil-am's buyer's remorse?

DJB Rizalist said...

hahaha! but the USIP earmark comes from nancy pelosi!