To prevent further conflict between opposing parties and to ensure long lasting peace in Mindanao, the signing of the peace agreement between the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines ((GRP) should be put on hold first. This was the claim of Cotabato Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, who stated his foresights on the possible chaos that might result from the signing of the peace pact wherein such may also adversely affect on the holding of peaceful elections in Mindanao this coming May 10 election. According to Bishop Colin, details in the peace agreement might spark again controversies and erring views especially among those who are against the creation of the Bangsamoro.
Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and GRP Representative to the GRP-MILF Peace Process Rafael Seguis said that the newly revised proposal of the GRP to the peace process can be easily understood and showed equal advantages for both parties involved. With this, a positive output from this peace agreement can be expected.
Meanwhile, many Filipinos are hoping that a genuine peace agreement will be forged the soonest between GRP and MILF as this will help resolve the centuries’ old conflict in Mindanao, which has been primarily dominated on the desire of most Muslims in the area to create a separate.
The GRP-MILF Peace Process
It has been almost eight years now that the peace process between GRP and MILF has been laid out on a table. In this timeframe, there have been lots of incidents that tested the strength and the sustainability of the peace process.
As a back grounder, it was in 1997 that the peace process between MILF and GRP started – a leap in policymaking that gave light to the seemingly never-ending conflicts in Mindanao. It was in 1999 that the rules and procedures of the peace process were finalized by both parties. In 2000, the peace talk was at a halt due to an all-out war against the MILF. In 2001, both parties agreed for the resumption of the peace talk. In 2003, the GRP canceled the process upon knowing that the MILF was the one to be blamed on two bombing incidents in Davao City during that year. The same year, MILF Chief Commander Hashim Salamat died due to heart attack. In 2003, the peace talk again resume in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During this time, the peace talk went smoothly until the issue of ancestral domain was mostly debated upon in 2007. In 2008, a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was signed.
The Issue on Ancestral Domain
Although one can say that the GRP-MILF Peace Talks had withstood all the low points of the peace process due to emerging armed conflicts in between, the incident in 2008 was probably the lowest and most controversial for the GRP-MILF Peace Talks. The said MOA-AD was junked by the Supreme Court, declaring the agreement as unconstitutional. Such attention given by Supreme Court on the MOA-AD was prompted by the series of oppositions from both the government and private sectors that mainly cited on the unconstitutionality in having a separate Bangsamoro state. The MILF, on the other hand, agreed with the MOA-AD.
Because of the injunction of the Supreme Court on the MOA-AD as null due to its unconstitutionality, some MILF base commanders were outraged to the point of conducting inhumane killings of innocent civilians and indiscriminate burning of houses in Lanao Del Norte. MILF rogue base commander Umbra Kato and Bravo were said to be the main perpetrators of these crimes. Such incident led to the all-out war against these MILF commanders as it also sparked as well animosities among Christians in Mindanao against the Muslims.
Long Lasting Peace in Mindanao
Despite the many setbacks and _ bloodshed brought upon by the GRP-MILF Peace Talks, the peace process was resumed and has been going on until to this date. With the upcoming May 10 elections, however, it was suggested by many that the planned signing of a peace agreement should be put on hold for the meantime as the results of which might spark anew enormous oppositions, which can adversely affect on the holding of honest and orderly elections. Also, with the poor popularity rating of President Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo, some political experts said that it is best that the signing of the peace agreement will be handled by the new upcoming president.
Meanwhile, it can be surmised that the conflict in Mindanao has go beyond the political strata as such has been there already for a long time, a so-called fixation. It can be said that the social problems that beset the area, poverty for one, are the forefronts why there is no lasting peace in the area. Also, the division between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao can be traced back to history. This will be a challenge for the next president of the country – to iron out old traditions that create divisions among two great religions in the area, and unite it with modern yet equal perspectives.
On the presence of secessionists such as MILF, it can be solved if they have sustainable livelihoods where they can focus their attention with.