Sorry for the absence in the past couple of months. I was in other realms of the Intarwebz, pursuing some rekindled interests. Meanwhile, the country has again treaded upon interesting times.
I've been active again in the Philstar feedback section and have been engaging in debates with posters who either are sympathetic to the MILF, unwarily bought their propaganda, or simply unaware of history. One such debate brought up a series of good posts from me, which I would like to quote here:
You seem to be hung up with the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF which has obviously failed. Accept it, with what is happening now, the peace pact with the MNLF failed to achieve peace in Mindanao. You put the blame of its failures with Erap's all-out war with the breakaway MILF group and this is where I point out to you that the problem existed even before that all-out war. The peace agreement itself was flawed, and I list here some of the reasons:
1. It did not cover the other existing armed groups most notably the MILF and the Abu Sayaff.
2. There was no provision for disarmament of the MNLF.
3. There was no guarantee that it will lead to the development of ARMM, which would have prevented discontent.
4. There was no guarantee that MNLF has total control of its members, especially Nur Misuari, such that all would fulfill their end of the bargain.
I agree that I have the benefit of history when I give my analysis. But that's what history is for, so let's learn from it for a change, shall we?
You quoted FVR's speech proclaiming himself a peacemaker and according to Scripture, peacemakers are worthy to be a son of God. I'm sorry for FVR but I have a higher standard before I would call one a peacemaker, especially a peacemaker worthy to be a son of God.
I say a peacemaker is one who has created peace and sustains that peace.
First we have to be clear of my idea of peace. It is not simply a truce or an absence of battles. People may not fight, but if there is enmity between them, there is no peace. Peace should at least be a condition that discourages conflict to thrive in the first place.
So you see for me, being a peacemaker is more than creating peace pacts, but in making them last.
As for Erap's all-out war, it was another chance to negotiate correctly from a position of strength. We could insist that they (MILF, NPA, Abu Sayaff) disarm and cease from supporting terrorism and submit to authority or else be annihilated. With the removal of armed conflict with as a distraction, we could finally build infrastructure, provide education, boost agriculture and other social services in Mindanao
This was actually done before by Magsaysay against the Huks. All-out war or all-out friendship, he offered and also delivered. The Huks were defeated and rendered irrelevant. Unfortunately, he can't sustain it. The government can't sustain it. The festering problems causing discontent remained, and it was not that long after when discontent again reached a boiling point and the NPA and the MNLF were born.
They say poverty and conflict is a chicken and egg problem. The way to solve it is to break the cycle by choosing to decisively tackle on one first and then leverage on the gains to tackle the other. Erap and Magsaysay chose to tackle the conflict first and got favorable results. Well and good. Now tackling poverty proved to be more challenging and it wasn't helped that both were cut short in doing so. For Erap, it's also his fault--the irony! Gloria seems to want to tackle the poverty first, and as expected is also having difficulties. It also didn't help that her negotiators don't know how to negotiate (I assume they were hoping to prevent further hostilities from the MILF so as not to interfere with the ever so slow economic development) and there are foreign meddlers all around. Also, just as the MILF leadership is having credibility problems by having lost commands, Gloria's scandals have also lessened her and the government's credibility in striking a deal she will keep.
If I would add, FVR, to his credit, also focused on economic development first and did better than Gloria. It's just that he could still have done better. And then there's the problem on continuity that has been plaguing not just the peace process but other development projects. Does that mean a term extension is needed? Not necessarily. But with the inconsistency I'm getting from Malacañang, I am seriously considering the conspiracy theory that the President is seeking agitation that would be enough to justify martial law and a term extension, although the usual government-bashing will also never be of help in peace-building.
Actually, I'm not surprised with this administration's incompetence in negotiation. I could mention many instances, most of which have been in the news. Instead, let me share a more personal anecdote. This happened when I was still in college. Our Political Science instructor also worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). One time, in explaining her lengthy absence, she mentioned having been part of simulation exercises in negotiating with the MILF. I asked her if they simulated the scenario wherein foreign terrorist organizations are aiding the MILF. She said they only considered the ideal setting to show their good faith. My jaw dropped. Why call it a simulation in the first place? Besides, why should the MILF know about it? In fact, I would've been more comforting for me if she merely stated that details of the simulation were confidential.
For more in-depth analysis, I'd rather refer to Dean Jorge Bocobo (DJB) at Philippine-American Commentary. Though I may not agree with him all the time, especially when he goes hard-line, I appreciate his courage to openly voice out unpopular and non-PC (politically correct) opinions that I myself would rather be subtle or diplomatic or even silent about, especially in this blog. The political pundits in the Philippines could be quite vicious, and I'm not looking for trouble. Good thing for DJB, he has superior research skills, and actually go deep into the root of every contention more efficiently than I could. For instance, he's been questioning the legitimacy of the "ancestral domain" claim and showing the danger of its mere suggestion. He also brings to light the feeling of guilt for one's predecessors' mistakes that he says explains why some people would be fine with appeasement. His views are complementary to my predominantly problem-solving approach.
For the historical perspective, a newspaper archive is your friend. Below are some interesting links mainly due to the sense of deja vu:
A 2002 editorial entitled Bare the Details
Soliven ranting about a 2002 appeasement deal