The worst fear of many may have already been confirmed, that contrary to the Palace’s initial claims, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) has serious flaws and may be truly unconstitutional. This, after Malacañang’s decision today to backtrack from the signing of the agreement, until a thorough review has been made.
Surely, there is appropriateness in this decision. After all, it would be a greater disaster for the government to sign an unconstitutional pact. But for me, this appropriateness now pales in comparison to what is now a reflection of the peace panel’s (as well as the Palace’s) incompetence in handling the peace process.
Why is it that they only realized the flaws now? Members of the peace panel should have done their homework, and ironed out the flawed provisions before it made it sounded the trumpet last month. Such prudence, obviously, could have saved the lives of many, and the ongoing violence in Mindanao would probably not have started.
The Palace may have finally learned its lesson the hard way — at the cost of many lives. It cannot just rush into a pact without a carefully reviewing its consistency with the law. And the government cannot just enter into an agreement without proper consultation of all stakeholders. The government cannot be in a reckless hurry.
The possible flaws of the agreement aside (since the Supreme Court has yet to rule on it), there is appropriateness in the decision from the point of view of negotiation.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita made his point well at his regular Wednesday briefing at the Palace: “The President regrets that the MILF’s failure to restrain its field commanders reflects the organization’s lack of sincerity to push for a successful conclusion of the peace process. In the past, the Philippine government tolerated and let pass minor skirmishes between its forces and the MILF on the latter’s excuse that these were perpetrated by rouge elements in their fold. This excuse has been abused for too long and the President now draws the line.”
As I have said, it really now is hard to believe that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has no control over its forces on the field. If it were truly sincere about entering the peace process, and if it wishes to prove that it is capable being part of an autonomous Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, it should surrender Commanders Kato and Bravo.
The question now is whether an all out war would be declared again. With debates over this growing louder and louder, an all out war may just be a question of when and not if. There are calls to demote the MILF into a terrorist group like the Abu Sayyaf. Former President Estrada, who declared war on the MILF during his term, insists that it is the right thing to do — and as the violence worsens, more and more people are being open to it.
But if the government should decide to continue negotiating with MILF, the Palace should realize that as early as now, it has dug a deeper hole for itself. By backtracking on the MOA-AD, and by having pushed for it without sufficient review, the GRP lost negotiating strength. Assuming that the both the Palace and the Supreme Court conclude that certain provisions are illegal, how can the government expect the MILF to sign the agreement with lesser terms? For example, if the government were to take out the provision for a separate police force and judicial system, would the MILF take this sitting down, considering that the government has already offered this in the draft MOA-AD?
Now, add to all of these Malacañang’s earlier desire to suddenly jump into charter change as a result of the MOA-AD debates and calls for federalism. Is there a psychiatrist in the house?