Revisiting the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement; "Blessed Are the Peacemakers, for They Will Be Called Sons of God." -- Matthew 5:9

Article excerpt

Byline: Fidel V. Ramos

THESE past three Sundays, this column has focused on the Government's two pending and long-standing peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, starting with The Hague Declaration of 01 September 1992 cosigned by Jose V. Yap (GRP) and Luis G. Jalandoni (NDF); and the MILF, starting with the Agreement for the Creation of a Joint Committee on 10 September 1996 co-signed by Ruben D. Torres (GRP) and Ghazali Jaafar (MILF).

During the period 1986 to 1991 (President Aquino's term) military mutineers inflicted 9 coup attempts upon the people - all of which failed because of solid civil-military cooperation, although five of them were messy, bloody fight-to-the-death struggles. The General Peace Agreement (GPA) between the GRP and the military rebels represented by the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan-Soldiers of the Filipino People-Young Officers Union (RAM-SFP-YOU) was forged on 13 October 1995, with Ambassador Fortunato Abat (GRP) and General Edgardo Abenina (RAM-SFP-YOU) as the co-signatories, and attested by Secretary (Ambassador) Manuel T. Yan, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The GPA resulted, among others, in the surrender of firearms, explosives, ammunition and other lethal materiel by the rebel soldiers, and the reaffirmation of their Oath of Allegiance to the Republic. Earlier, on 29 May 1995, the Marcos-loyalist Alyansang Tapat sa Sambayanan (ALTAS) concluded the Peace Agreement with GRP with Ambassador Abat and General Jose Ma. Zumel as co-signatories under the same conditions for the surrender of weapons, etc. and oath-taking. Eventually, a General Amnesty was promulgated for the mutineers, except for those charged for common (or "non-ideological") crimes such as rape, kidnapping-for-ransom, and murder.

The final peace agreement

To complete the full picture of the GRP's peacemaking policies, programs and activities, it is important to revisit the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA). This is now undergoing a process of review and evaluation by a tri-partite body of GRP, MNLF and OIC representatives who initially met in Jeddah on 10-12 November 2007, thanks to the joint hosting of the OIC and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For his part, ARMM Regional Governor Zaldy Ampatuan who attended the Jeddah tripartite talks, organized five Technical Working Groups (TWGs) - matching the OIC's five TWGs - tasked to find ways of implementing the 1996 FPA in full, to include amendments to Republic Act 6734 known as the ARMM Organic Act of 1987, subject to a plebiscite by the people in the affected areas.

The conclusions and recommendations of the tri-partite review and evaluation are still forthcoming. The OIC, however, in a statement attributed to its Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, "urged the Philippine Government to redouble its efforts to restoring peace and development in Mindanao." The original OIC "Committee of the Eight" to monitor the GRP-MNLF FPA has been expanded with the addition of three new members: Pakistan, Egypt, and Turkey (with Indonesia still retaining the Chairmanship). In other words, "the jury is still out" on the evaluation of the implementation of the GRPMNLF FPA, which is why Malaca-ang, together with Congress, should now seize the initiative and lead the way - before more lives, property, goodwill, and, of course, time are lost.

In the meantime, concerned NGOs notably the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) headed by Lead Convenor Amina Rasul, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) led by Country Representative Klaus Preschle, had put together the "First Southeast Asian Forum on Islam and Democracy" which opened last 10 December, at the Manila Hotel with participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands and other countries for the purpose of deepening inter-faith dialogue, understanding, and cooperation towards genuine democratic consolidation within and among Muslim and non-Muslim nations in our region. …