On the GPH-MILF peace process

Photo from http://www.scmp.comInterview with Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines

By ROSELLE VALERIO
Liberation International

1. From a previous position of exercising the right to national self-determination, to the extent of fighting to secede from the Philippine state, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has surrendered itself to the sovereignty, constitution and constitutional processes of said state and has opted for regional autonomy under the Philippine state. Is that true?

Jose Maria Sison (JMS): The leaders of the MILF themselves have confirmed the fact by their own words and deeds. The Bangsamoro Basic Law and all the agreements and annexes covered by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) are subject to the 1987 Constitution and constitutional processes of the Philippine state. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) has publicly assured the MILF that the Philippine constitution can accommodate the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Bangsamoro political entity without resorting to constitutional amendment.

The MILF has allowed said assurance of GPH to pass, or has not objected to it, from the signing of the FAB in 2012 to the further signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014. The MILF has also agreed that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission ceases to offer constitutional amendments when it ceases to exist upon the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The GPH-MILF negotiations have also ended upon the signing of the CAB.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), has already submitted the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Aquino administration for processing and approval before submission to Congress for the process of legislation. Subsequently, it would still be possible for constitutional issues to be raised before the Supreme Court.

2. Is the Aquino administration determined to push the enactment of the BBL? Why? What makes the Aquino administration and its agents in Congress and the Supreme Court so confident that they can keep the BBL within the four corners of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines state and override constitutional issues that have been raised by certain political leaders, legal experts and media pundits?

JMS: The Aquino administration is determined to push the enactment of the BBL and the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity because behind him are the US, the European Community, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, and other countries which are interested in the exploitation of the natural resources of the Bangsamoro areas. The administration has enough time and numbers in both houses of Congress to ram through the BBL, not to mention the pork barrel for persuading possible oppositionists. It is a bit of balderdash that Aquino wants to have a legacy of making peace in the Bangsamoro areas.

The GPH executive and legislative branches are obviously using the provision in the 1987 constitution that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in order to give a constitutional grounding to the Bangsamoro political entity, and present this new entity as a replacement of the existing ARMM political organ which shall be abolished upon the promulgation and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. In this connection, all other constitutional issues can be fixed by further “language engineering” by the GPH, with the MILF predisposed to consent.

It is reasonable to estimate that the Aquino regime is taking the MILF for a ride, if only to cause the dissolution of the MILF as a revolutionary organization. But most likely, the ride is not shorter than going all the way to the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity. The US and GPH strategists are known to calculate that the MILF will go the way of the MNLF.

3. Is not the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or its Sema and Misuari factions still in a position to complain and raise a constitutional issue about the continuing validity of the ARMM Organic Law and the 1996 peace agreement? And would not the Misuari faction go back to armed struggle for the purpose seceding from the Philippine state or demanding respect for the 1996 peace agreement?

JMS: If the Bangsamoro Basic Law as envisioned would repeal and not merely amend Republic Act 9054 (which amended RA 6734, the original ARMM Organic Law, and which incorporated the provisions of the 1996 MNLF-GRP Final Peace Agreement), there is a high probability for the MNLF or any other interested party to raise a constitutional issue before the Supreme Court on the ground that the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, which is supposed to be the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, has continuing validity and cannot be terminated or abrogated unilaterally by the GPH.

The Aquino administration is confident that it has enough numbers in the Sereno Supreme Court, including Marvic Leonen. Together with the MILF, the administration is also trying to appease the opposition of the MNLF and other groups with accommodation in the Bangsamoro political entity and threaten those who resist with fatwa under shariah law and condemnation as peace spoilers. But the resisting Moro organizations, like the Misuari faction of the MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), can also issue a counter-fatwa and appeal for support from the Moro people and the Organization of Islamic Countries which gave its blessings to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

4. Aside from the contradictions in the application of the constitutional provision on the ARMM, what are the other constitutional issues that need to be fixed by the Aquino administration and Congress?

JMS: Senator Miriam Defensor, the chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, has publicly complained that a Bangsamoro substate is being established and has raised a number of constitutional questions:

  1. why should executive agreements with the MILF determine and diminish the powers of the central government, in violation of the supremacy of the Philippine constitution by dividing the so-called reserved powers of the central government and the so-called exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro political entity?

  2. How can the ARMM provision in the 1987 constitution be practically dissolved by mere agreement with the MILF?

  3. Why should the powers exercised by the national government over local government units be yielded to, or become the exclusive powers of, the Bangsamoro political entity?

  4. Natural resources belong to the Philippine state, but how come they shall be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity?

  5. What exclusive powers can belong to the Bangsamoro political entity in a unitary state like the Philippines?

  6. How will the ministerial form of Bangsamoro government jibe with the presidential form of government for most of the country? and

  7. How can the Bangsamoro Transition Commission be tasked to work on proposals to amend the constitution for the purpose of amending and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements whenever necessary, without derogating from any prior peace agreement?

Other contentious issues have been raised by those who adhere to the 1987 constitution. They include the following:

  1. Why subject the people of the five provinces claimed by Bangsamoro to one more plebiscite, when in fact they said yes to autonomy twice already in the past?

  2. Why should the Philippine state cede or concede a part of its internal waters and territorial sea to become Bangsamoro waters under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity?

  3. Why the extraordinary high shares of Bangsamoro in the division of government revenues, which are discriminatory to other regions? and

  4. Why should there be a Bangsamoro police without a clear frame or line of subordination to the Philippine National Police, which is mandated by the 1987 constitution as the sole police force?

5. How are these constitutional issues possibly being addressed by the GPH and the MILF?

JMS: I presume that both the GPH and MILF are aware of these issues and they must have discussed these within the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, especially upon the initiative of the GPH agents. It is possible that the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law has been watered down and toned down by the commission and brought down to a level much lower than the earlier high expectations of the MILF.

To update ourselves on the constitutional issues, we have to get a copy of the draft basic law recently submitted to the GPH executive branch. After submission of the draft, the GPH executive branch can amend the draft. And this can be further amended by Congress. As soon as the draft of the BBL reaches Congress, it should be available to the public for scrutiny and opposition to objectionable provisions.

6. Will the MILF be able to protest or withdraw from the entire deal if it gets far less than its expectations, or if it considers itself swindled by the GPH?

JMS: The MILF has already declared and agreed that it will decommission its weapons and dismantle its army only after the implementation of all the agreements. The implication of this is that the MILF can withdraw from the deal if it is swindled. But in the first place, it has already submitted itself to the constitution and constitutional processes of the GPH. The MILF leaders seem to be satisfied with prospective appointments to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, with elections to the Bangsamoro political organs, and with the absorption of most of the MILF fighters in the Bangsamoro police.

7. Behind the scenes Aquino and his political agents are known to laugh at the MILF for believing that the Bangsamoro political entity will have exclusive powers, independent of the central or national government, and for supposedly expecting to have extraordinary shares of revenues and opportunities for bureaucratic corruption and personal enrichment, when more than US$ 300 billion of US and other foreign investments are supposed to pour in to exploit the natural resources in Bangsamoro. Would imperial Manila actually allow the Bangsamoro bureaucrats to grab the lion’s share from the opportunities of bureaucratic corruption?

JMS: Despite all the promises that the Bangsamoro political entity will have for more powers and financial resources than the ARMM, I think that the GPH president and the central government in Manila will put in all the caveats and make sure that the Bangsamoro political entity will be something like the existing ARMM, a bureaucratic layer, between the presidential office and the local governments still operating according to the current code on local governments. The high bureaucrats and big compradors of Manila and the Moro political dynasties will still take the lion’s share of whatever bureaucratic loot can arise from investments of the US and other multinational firms exploiting the natural resources in the Bangsamoro.

8. Assuming that the Bangsamoro political entity will replace the ARMM, what will become of the MILF in the short term and long run? Will there really be a durable peace in the areas of the Bangsamoro?

JMS: The MILF itself has indicated that it shall liquidate itself, become an Islamic movement and form a political party for electoral purposes. The highest MILF official Brother Ebrahim Murad is expected to become the Chief Minister. I presume that the other MILF officials will also assume high offices in the Bangsamoro political organs.

If we go by the historical example of the MNLF, the MILF has to be vigilant against ceaseless attempts of the Manila-based bureaucrats and the military officers of the reactionary government to subordinate, corrupt and split the MILF officials. The electoral process will also be a way to weaken the former cohesiveness of the MILF and will allow the traditional ruling families and favorites of any current president to take over the Bangsamoro political entity. Remember how the MNLF split and the ARMM eventually fell into the hands of the Ampatuan family.

The GPH-MILF peace agreement and establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity will not necessarily result in a just and lasting peace. There are armed clans and armed political forces like the MNLF of Misuari and the BIFF. It remains to be seen how they can be appeased or outraged.

The exploited masses of workers and peasants have a high potential for waging an armed revolution against their exploiters and oppressors in the Bangsamoro areas. The agreements made by the GPH and MILF are not concerned about national independence vis a vis the imperialist powers, democracy for the workers and peasants, social justice and development through land reform and national industrialization.

9. What are the prospects of the Bangsamoro people and Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization in the Bangsamoro areas?

JMS: The Moro people will continue to wage various forms of struggle in order to assert and realize their right to national self-determination and ancestral domain. The Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), the revolutionary masses and allies can take more initiative in carrying forward the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. The imperialists and the Manila puppet government will not satisfy the basic demands of the Moro people. The MRLO is in a position more than ever to arouse, organize and mobilize the Moro people to fight for national and social liberation.

10. What is the consequence of the peace settlement between the MILF and the Manila government to the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines? Will such peace settlement strengthen the reactionary government in waging a campaign of military suppression against the revolutionary? If not, why and how?

JMS: The MNLF and MILF have had long ceasefire agreements with the Manila government since a long time ago. Meanwhile, the New People’s Army, the people’s militia and the self-defense units of the mass organizations have grown in strength nationwide, together with the Communist Party, the National Democratic Front, the mass organizations and the people’s democratic government.

According to reports, sixty per cent of the reactionary forces are now deployed in Mindanao. Most of them are tasked to attack the rapidly growing forces of the NPA. But some continue to be posted in the Bangsamoro areas in order to contain and attack the BIFF and the MNLF-Misuari, not to mention the infamous Abu Sayyaf. The concentration of the reactionary troops in NPA areas in Mindanao will give the NPA a chance to seize more weapons and encourage the NPA to attack and seize arms from the weaker enemy forces in Luzon and the Visayas.

The CPP, NPA and NDFP are resolutely and militantly carrying out the plan to advance from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate in the people’s war nationwide. For more information on the progress of the people’s revolutionary struggle, I refer everyone to the www.philippinerevolution.net to read the long message of the CPP to NPA on the latter’s 45th founding anniversary and the latest battle reports of the NPA in various parts of the Philippines.

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