POSTSCRIPT / June 24, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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OIC: Merge MILF, MNLF peace pacts

UNPALATABLE: By allowing too many foreign cooks into the Muslim Mindanao kitchen, the Philippines as master chef may just end up with a spoiled Bangsamoro broth.

Except in the hands of a skillful manipulator, internationalizing a domestic sovereign issue such as the political fate of Mindanao may see the complex situation spinning out of control.

Last Saturday, the Manila Standard Today reported that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, one of the cooks, rejected as unpalatable the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October 2012.

The report written by Francisco Tuyay quoted the OIC as saying the agreement failed to incorporate the spirit of the Tripoli (1976) and the Jakarta (1997) agreements signed with the Moro National Liberation Front led by its founding chairman Nur Misuari.

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FUSION WANTED: The 57-member OIC, regarded as the collective voice of the Muslim world, proposed a linkage of the two earlier MNLF peace pacts and the 2012 Bangsamoro agreement signed by Malacañang with the MILF, a splinter of the MNLF.

OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani said last Wednesday at the 41st session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers Session of Exploring Areas of Islamic Cooperation held in Saudi Arabia:

“The support of the rapprochement on both fronts and legal follow up of the implementation of the new agreement and the compliance of the Philippine government to its text and soul is unavoidable if we want Bangsamoro Muslim people in the Philippines to obtain their most basic rights.”

He noted that all MNLF factions oppose the CAB and that the texts of the new pact with the MILF “do not mention or build explicitly” on the Tripoli and the Jakarta agreements that were facilitated by the OIC.

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REOPEN TALKS?: The cautious OIC reaction was unexpected since a number of its members are with the international groups that had supported the CAB talks. Also, then OIC Secretary-General Exmeleddin Ihsanogluwas even present at the pact’s signing in Malacañang.

Will President Noynoy Aquino ignore the adverse OIC position and insist on the speedy approval by the Congress of the basic law creating the Bangsamoro? He wants the Moro sub-state established as a legacy before he bows out of office in 2016.

Adjusting to the OIC position could mean reconvening the Malacañang-MILF negotiators to fuse into the CAB the substance of the two older MNLF agreements that were brokered by the OIC.

What if the MILF is not willing to relax its stiff position on key issues and to hammer out a revised CAB?

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FOLLY OF HASTE: Reopening the talks could be cumbersome. The MILF would have to admit it is not the sole voice and representative of the Muslims, that there are other principled views such as those of the MNLF, the royal houses, religious leaders and the academe.

The OIC objection exposes the folly of haste. Malacañang should have adopted an all-inclusive approach, ensured that it was listening to the authentic voice of the Muslims, and paid no heed to furtive facilitation.

It also betrays Malacañang’s urgent need of advisers with a keen sense of history and an abiding love of country.

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FOREIGN ROLES: The Aquino administration still has to explain why it sought foreign approval of its sovereign decision pertaining to a domestic issue.

In fairness, however, the involvement of foreign countries and such entities as the OIC started way back with the Marcos administration and continued through succeeding presidents.

In the case of Libya’s role, then First Lady Imelda Marcos, the vaunted “secret weapon” of the late dictator, flew to Tripoli in 1976 to talk to the Libyan leader Gadhafi in his tent in the desert to clinch what later emerged as the Tripoli Agreement.

But that pact put together with the help of several countries was not implemented — leading to the Jakarta talks under then President Fidel V. Ramos who had wanted a final closure.

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RECOGNITION: By the time negotiators of Malacañang and the MILF for the CAB started meeting in Kuala Lumpur under the watchful eyes of Malaysia, there was already a bunch of foreign parties in varying degrees of involvement.

In the so-called International Contact Group were Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Japan, and international non-government organizations such as the Asia Foundation, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah (of Indonesia) and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

In the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Group were fellow ASEAN members Brunei and Indonesia, as well as contingents from Japan, Norway, Libya and the European Union.

If the Bangsamoro eventually rises from the grave of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which President Aquino wants to bury as a failed experiment, there will be enough nations to give it early recognition as a new state.

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AMERICAN HAND: United States involvement has been largely behind the scenes. The US is unofficially represented in the International Contact Group by the Asia Foundation (formerly the Committee for Free Asia).

The Congressional Research Service described the Asia Foundation in 1983 as “an ostensibly private body” sanctioned by the National Security Council and supported with covert Central Intelligence Agency funding. Such indirect funding has been reportedly cut.

When the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (the earlier edition of the CAB under then President Gloria Arroyo) was to be signed in Kuala Lumpur in August 2008, US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney was caught in an odd situation when she rushed to the venue a tad too early as if she had with her the script.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 24, 2014)

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