‘Still no peace for majority of BangsaMoro people in new Aquino-MILF deal’

“The Moro people will continue to endure the national oppression, economic subjugation and dire poverty and backwardness albeit under the signboard of a supposedly newer and better form of regional autonomy.” – Moro Christian Peoples’ Alliance

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Amid the euphoria and plaudits that greeted the newly-signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the ordinary Moro and those supporting their centuries-old struggle cannot clap yet nor rest their case.

“We recognize the determined effort of the MILF to mainstream the Bangsamoro problem and put forward solutions they deem as in the best interest of the Bangsamoro people,” the partylist of indigenous peoples, Katribu, said in a statement. But they view with concern and apprehension the peace deal and the actions of the Aquino administration.

“For the Bangsamoro people, peace is not only the absence of war and conflict. Peace is when the Bangsamoro people have truly benefited from the implementation of a comprehensive social and economic reform that addresses the root cause of the Bangsamoro problem,” the Katribu Partylist said.

Unfortunately, those things are not in the CAB peace deal.

A compromise where only the elite wins

In statements emailed to the media by various groups, the consensus is that the signing of the peace deal does not end the war in Mindanao between the dispossessed, exploited Moro and the domestic as well as foreign elite plundering their lands.

For several years now, in fact, a new Moro armed resistance group has militarily stood-up against the “suppression campaign” continuously being waged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. According to Jorge Madlos, spokesperson of National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Mindanao, this new Moro armed resistance has been “filling the gap of the undue long drawn ceasefire that the MILF have entered with the AFP.”

Madlos said it will only be a matter of time before this armed Moro resistance broadens and intensifies, because the fundamental problems that have long besieged the Moro people still remain unaddressed.

The GPH-MILF CAB and the “Bangsamoro” political entity it envisions fall short of providing a framework and program for comprehensive socio-economic and political reforms that can address the root causes of the Bangsamoro problem, said Antonio Liongson, spokesperson of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA).

At best, the CAB narrowly improves on what the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had gained with its peace deal and the ARMM – providing an illusion that the current peace deal has learned or avoided its predecessors’ mistakes.

“While the CAB concedes an expanded territory and increased share of revenues from taxes and income from the exploitation of natural resources to the “Bangsamoro” (compared to the current ARMM), this promises the Moro people a palliative economic arrangement wherein only the ruling elite in Moro society will get the lion’s share while excluding the poor, exploited and oppressed Moro masses,” Liongson of MCPA said.

For decades, the Bangsamoro have suffered from feudal and semi-fuedal exploitation, depriving majority among them from ever tilling lands of their own or owning, as a people, the natural resources that teem in Moro ancestral lands. But under the new pact, no provision even hints of the Moro people’s emancipation from feudal ownership nor does it speak of redistributing their ancestral lands back to the Moro masses, said Madlos of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Integrating “Bangsamoro” to neo-colonial PH

According to MCPA, the peace deal pushes the “Bangsamoro” under the same flawed socio-economic program of the central government, a foreign investments-dependent economy that dangles only the possibility of benefits “trickling down” to impoverished Moro people. While Moro peasants continue to suffer landlessness, poverty and backwardness, the peace deal is ushering in the unhampered entry of foreign multinational companies to plunder (“invest in”) the vast untapped natural resources of Muslim Mindanao, Liongson said.

The said peace deal, he warned, will cause massive and irreparable damage to the Bangsamoro environment and ecosystem as has been the experience of other regions of the country that were placed under the same system of plunder (or investment as the Aquino government calls it).

Even the tinkering with power sharing is not something to be gleeful about, if you’re not part of the Moro elite, according to the study of MCPA. Under the CAB, the ministerial form of the “Bangsamoro,” which is touted as better than that of the ARMM, hardly gives substantial power to the Moro people, said Liongson. He added that the so-called “asymmetrical relationship” between the central government and the “Bangsamoro” is “not a fair restoration of Moro rights to govern themselves.”

In fact, the Moro rights to govern themselves, under CAB, is headed to ruin with the peace deal’s provision for gradual and full disarmament of the armed forces of the MILF, Liongson of MCPA said.

The prospect of disarmament always holds allure for proponents of peace, but at what cost for the Moro people? While the MILF is concretely to be rendered unarmed under the peace deal, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with its long history of betrayal and reneging on past deals, is not under a similar concrete provision for disarmament in the land of the Bangsamoro.

Based on the study of MCPA, in the CAB the MILF concedes the gradual and full disarmament of its armed forces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). In exchange, the GPH will redeploy units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) supposedly outside the territory of the “Bangsamoro”. But at the same time, the peace agreement provides that the AFP shall retain installations inside the “Bangsamoro” territory “for national defense and security.”

According to the MCPA, allowing for such installations of state military forces puts the MILF and the Moro peoples at a disadvantage. The group said it is unclear whether the GPH will actually demilitarize the areas of the “Bangsamoro”, and on top of that, the CAB is also silent on the presence of US military troops and the establishment of US military facilities inside the “Bangsamoro” areas.

With the gradual dissolution of the MILF’s military power, the pact, in effect, aids in strengthening the feudal powers that exist in Moro land and their ties to foreign multinationals, opening the floodgates for the entry of big plantation and mining companies that will worsen the situation of the already-deprived Moro masses, Madlos said in another statement.

At present, thousands of hectares in Maguindanao and Cotabato have already been offered and sold to multinational agri-business companies.

No different from flawed peace deal with Misuari, MNLF

The MCPA recalled that the MILF was born out of the “abject failure of the GRP-MNLF peace agreement.”

But eighteen years after the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA) was forged, the Moro people’s aspirations for self-determination, enduring just peace and genuine socio-economic development, remain unfulfilled in the new peace deal, the MCPA sadly concluded.

Although the CAB is touted as for the benefit of the Moro people, the groups who have witnessed the growth and eventual frustration of Moro aspirations in such peace deals with the Philippine government said it is no different from the agreement entered into by Nur Misuari and the MNLF in the 80s and 90s.

Some affected local government executives have made noises against the GPH-MILF agreement and how it seems to dictate on Congress its approval of the peace agreement, but as an Akbayan representative has reassured them repeatedly at a press conference a few weeks before, the entire agreement is “suffused” with references putting it under the framework and processes of the Philippine national government. As such, skewed as the peace agreement is already in favor of the national government’s flawed socio-economic program, it will further be tinkered with in Congress to please specific elite interests in Mindanao.

The Moro people do not stand to get “any real power of self-governance because, politically, by virtue of CAB, the MILF has intrinsically tied (itself) to the laws of the state, and must work within its framework,” Madlos said in a statement. He explained that the two main annexes of MILF-GPH agreement, the “wealth-sharing” and “power-sharing,” only “make certain that the Aquino regime’s real bosses – US imperialism and the local ruling classes of landlord and big bourgeois comprador – gets the lion’s share, and only morsels, if any, is left for the Moro people.”

Combine that with the MILF leadership’s openness to dissolving its armed forces, whether it be one percent or more of its standing army, and the fascist forces of the reactionary government gets the upper hand to destroy further whatever gains the Moro armed struggle had in previous years, Madlos added.

Armed struggle, civil war in PH set to continue

The Aquino administration and the GPH gained the most from CAB, the Moro-Christian Peoples’ Alliance said, citing how the regime has moved “closer to its aim of pacifying and eventually disarming the MILF-BIAF,” and thus gaining more opportunity to “open up to the highest bidder the natural wealth of the Moro people’s ancestral domain.”

In the GPH’s internal Security Plan called OPLAN Bayanihan, it engages in peace negotiations with armed groups to pacify them, but that is not the kind of peace being fought for by the Bangsamoro and other indigenous groups in the Philippines, or of the Filipino people as articulated by the NDFP.

As the indigenous partylist group Katribu warned, the present administration’s aim of “pacification” means continuing war, as shown in how the GPH deals with other revolutionary entities like the NDFP, the MNLF and the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters.

“The Moro people will continue to endure the national oppression, economic subjugation and dire poverty and backwardness albeit under the signboard of a supposedly newer and better form of regional autonomy,” Liongson of MCPA said.

Other Moro revolutionary entities such as the MNLF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Revolutionary and Liberation Organization – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (MRLO-NDFP) continue to wage armed struggle for self-determination of the Bangsamoro people, according to various reports.

Madlos dismisses the Aquino government’s claims that the GPH-MILF comprehensive peace agreement poses “a major setback” to the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines. The rebel leader said that, on the contrary, “this only offers a great opportunity for the revolutionary movement to rally the Bangsamoro towards the path of the genuine struggle for the right to self-determination alongside the new democratic revolution.” ()

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