The Philippine government and forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have come to an agreement. The President himself made the big announcement yesterday (English translation here). It is a historic moment. It is a moment that could potentially bring armed conflict in the region to a halt and drive Mindanao to a path of peace and prosperity. This, if President Aquino succeeds is a legacy beyond “Daanng Matuwid“.
President Aquino speaks of the failed experiment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). And people will find few critics to argue differently. The Maguindanao Massacre happened under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s watch. There are other indicators, of course. The region of conflict and warlordism speaks of the failure of the experiment.
The Framework Agreement between the Bangsamoro people, and the Aquino Administration speaks of a similar entity being born from the ashes of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It speaks of an “asynchronous” relationship.
The framework agreement highlights that the Central Government shall have powers on defense, and external security. The National Government shall take care of foreign policy, as well as a common market and globeal trade— so long as Republic Act No. 9054 “will be transferred to the Bangsamoro”.
“The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro,” President Benigno S. Aquino III said in his statement. “This agreement,” he added, “Will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal. The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony. They will enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice.”
The Framework Agreement says that the Shari’ah Justice system will be “supreme” when it comes to Muslims. Shari’ah (Sharia) is Islamic Law, which is its fundamental religious concept.
“This framework agreement,” President Aquino said, “Is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved. It is about acknowledging that trust has to be earned– it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, good will, and hard work.”
The transition to Bangasamoro will without a doubt take time. The basic law needs to be passed by Congress. A plebiscite will happen to ask the people of Bangsamoro and those in the added regions if they agree to this. It will take time before anyone knows if this will work. What’s clear is that this is the first big step towards peace since the Ramos presidency. It is a promise of lasting peace in Mindanao, and the path to prosperity. “Plowshares, not guns”, as the President remarked is the only way. If President Aquino succeeds, then peace in Mindanao cements the president’s legacy.