IT challenges reflection that a lawyer, instead of a doctor, is the chief architect and single strong advocate of House Bill 5043 which actually consolidated into one, House Bills 17, 812, 2753 and 3920 in this 14th Congress. The simple idea of gender equality easily permits room for women proponents themselves, in either House or Senate, to be the mouthpiece as well as the voice behind such a now controversial bill that is met with so much opposition from not few traditional groups -- not Rep. Edcel Lagman -- unless otherwise no other proponent from the female species is available. Women issues are the exclusive domain of women, or so I thought? Offhand, HB 5043 pretentiously placed reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and population development under its policy framework. Good. But let us be reminded that a single legislative measure such as HB 5043 that carries more than three subject matters is actually “violative” of “overloading.” Bottomline: that is the way professors of law teaching on “How a Bill becomes a Law” always teach us. Where will HB 5043 all transport us to? Such a would-be law that prohibits and in fact penalizes any healthcare service provider who refuses to perform medically safe reproductive health care services in the absence of spousal consent or authorization is revolting. What is this? Boldly, the bill claims the policy is anchored on the rationale of sustainable development with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens. Truly, this carries some kind of racist bias against those otherwise unhealthy, uneducated, and unproductive in our realpolitik. Is this Hitler’s idea of a “super race?” What about China with approximately two billion in population that has managed equitably well without compromising its position as the next economic superpower? I say as anecdotal the sweet claim of a population management stratagem of a two-child policy. The proponent himself has more than two of his own, doesn’t he? If we have higher population than any developing country in the world, it is a blessing especially so that all developing countries, no exception, are now suffering from a graying population and are now in search of manpower to replace their aging manpower base. Where then do they have to import human capital? Where will they recruit the Industrial Reserve Army but from the Philippines? Have we as much as forget that OFW remittances of our fellow Filipinos buoys up an otherwise fledging economy? The next generation of overseas workers to fill the great demand of manpower from the global market has to be born now -- beyond the two-child limit. This kind of thinking might run counter to the bill’s claim that manpower is the principal asset of every country. If there will be a universal access to quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information, this means that a whole range of options is at anybody’s disposal. Studies have already validated that reproductive health care as practiced in the more developed societies already negative impacted upon the home, family life, career, social milieu, culture, and society as a whole. It has been shown that women committed suicides. It has been shown that the incidence of broken families rose. It has been shown that children from broken homes are what triggered dramatic rise in the crime statistical chart. As divorces multiply, broken homes multiply just as well. Medically, a lot of these so-called contraceptive pills are not safe and just how many pills are manufactured in a minute and at what cost? Shotgun approach has been the design of HB 5043 -- it will kill all birds that took flight -- adults, adolescents, children – without distinction. It sounds crazy for the bill to claim that women seeking care from post-abortion complications shall be treated and consoled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner without being guilty of doing abortion in the unseen process. This kind of intended access opens the door wide to a lot of other possibilities in need of reproductive health care attention, not to be excluded, would be abortion itself at its initial stage. To give people the freedom to decide, if, when and how often to have a satisfying and safe sex life, as claimed, tears at the very moral fabric of our social existence. What then constitute as reproductive health-related problems that the bill aims to prevent and avoid -- reason for a full range of options? Openly enough, the bill espouses making available all methods and techniques to prevent unwanted, unplanned, and mistimed pregnancies but what exactly are these? Pregnancies – whether or not wanted, planned, or timed – are pregnancies. Any act or means to be sought to prevent it should be called as what? It would not be abortion, would it? Whoever invented these labels without any scientific basis ought to be a murderer? It is noticeable how a proviso has been carried that would, in effect, expand the coverage of the National Health Insurance Program or NHIP especially to many poor and marginalized women to include a full range of reproductive health care services and supplies as health insurance benefits. Will money be inserted in another else’s pocket? How much in State subsidies will be infused into a supposed-to-be existing program or agency, again and again? Rider or not to a proposed bill, the creation of a Board of Commissioners of POPCOM (or Population Commission) of 14 heads of agencies plus 3 representatives from the private sector ought to be the subject matter of another and separate bill yet to be proposed and filed in Congress considering that when a board meets, honoraria are given. At the very least, their appointment by the President for a term of 3 years means that some people get to be employed, first and second, time. Even the Department of Agriculture and the Commission on Higher Education will be members thereof make for Ripleys. Again, more midwives or skilled attendants need to be employed in every municipality or city based on some ideal ratio. More qualified personnel in each city or province will have to be employed in hospitals to provide emergency obstetric care, again, based on ideal ratio of say one such hospital for every 500,000 population. How good indeed those indigent patients will be covered by PhilHealth insurance benefits for hospital services related to family planning? Again, are we putting money in another else’s pocket? Another apparent caveat of the proposed HB 5043 is the fact that every congressional district will be provided a van for Mobile Health Care Service from their PDAF but it is not stated too clear if this means an additional budget to their PDAF. A mandatory health reproductive education will be required of those from Grade V to Fourth Year High School. Will parents agree to this law? Inserting 10 percent additional increase in the honoraria of barangay health workers is truly an inducement. Will not barangay captains or mayors agree to this scheme and its pecuniary benefits? From where I stand, readers of HB 5043 can read with caution the corpus of purely statistical data in the explanatory note of the bill from which it based its goal to erect a law that is always met with extreme opposition from those thought to become its beneficiaries as well as to its intended victims. In the end, adults, adolescents, and children that the bill purports to help will be the true victims of a law that is easy enough to approve given that it has “strings attached” to it. Not remotely, some laws really self-destruct as soon as they get implemented and this proposed measure shall be one of them. Since coins will be dropped in the vendo machine, many legislators might tend to stamp their own approval of HB 5043, irrespective of dictates of conscience – and so be it. Primer C. Pagunuran, via reader’s comment
September 2008 Archives
IT is lamentable (to borrow the word of Senator Pangilinan) that Mon Tulfo would call Ermita and Atienza "decent men," while branding Jun Lozada’s claims "exaggerated." Now we see why the country is in a lamentable state. We glorify those people who never manifested "decency" when the NBN-ZTE scandal was a hot item, while the person who risked everything is being crucified. At least I’m basing what I’ve written here from their previous actions and not based on their personality. Let me remind Mon Tulfo that even family and friends of criminals say that those criminals are "mabait" and not capable of committing crimes. Lamentable! Robert C. Garcia, via reader's blog comment
By Soliman M. Santos, Jr. Contributor THE government has not only set aside the initialed but unsigned final draft of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD); it has also dissolved the GRP Peace Panel which negotiated the MOA. With the way things are working in this country, this can only mean that they (the panel) must have done something good. I therefore wish to give them some tribute. In the Harvard Negotiation Project’s now classic book "Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury, the first of four main points of method here is to "Separate the People from the Problem.” One of the notes under this is that "Negotiators are people first." In negotiations, one is dealing not with abstract representatives of the "other side" but with human beings. They have emotions, deeply held values, and different backgrounds and viewpoints. That's why one basic rule in negotiations is "Be hard on issues but be soft with people." And who are these people whom many in the Filipino Christian mainstream are being so hard with now? The GRP Peace Panel Chairman was retired Gen. Rodolfo Garcia from San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. When he retired from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2004, he was Vice Chief of Staff. His military service in Mindanao dates back to 1970, after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). He was a platoon leader and later Executive Officer in the 26th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army (PA), covering Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur. He rose to become the Commander of the 6th Infantry Division, PA in Central Mindanao in 1999. His transition from man of war to man of peace was made in 2003 when, while still AFP Vice Chief of Staff, he concurrently becomes Chairman of the GRP ceasefire committee for the peace process with the MILF. After the military retirement, he joined the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process (OPAPP) as an Undersecretary, was appointed a member of the GRP Peace Panel and later became its Vice-Chairman. He took over as Chairman only in July 2007 after the stint of Secretary Silvestre C. Afable, Jr. who oversaw most of the ancestral domain negotiations up to June 2007. The GRP Peace Panel Vice-Chairman was Prof. Rudy Rodil from Upi, Maguindanao and long-time resident of Iligan City. He is a Mindanao historian, author of several books on Mindanao, and a long-time now retired history professor at the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Iligan Institute of Technology (IIT). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Philippine Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) with a dissertation on ancestral domain, one of his lifelong fields of expertise. His active involvement in the government’s peace efforts started in 1988 as a Commissioner in the Regional Consultative Commission for drafting an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He then became a member of the GRP Peace Panel for the third and final round of negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from 1992 to 1996. He was a special consultant to the GRP Peace Panel for talks with the MILF from 2001, becoming a panel member in 2004. A third member of the GRP Peace Panel was Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, a Maranao from Marawi City. He is the incumbent Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) since 2005. His stint in public service started in 1993 as Chairman of the ARMM 2000 Technical Committee. His involvement with the GRP-MILF peace talks started in 2004 when he was designated to the GRP Technical Working Group (TWG) on Ancestral Domain in his capacity as DAR Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs and Indigenous Peoples. He later headed the TWG team dealing with the Territory Strand of Ancestral Domain. He became a panel member only in September 2007. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Colegio de San Jose Recoletos (CSJR) in Cebu City. A fourth member of the GRP Peace Panel was Ms. Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya, a Higaonon from Impasugong, Bukidnon. She is the Executive Director of the Mindanao Alliance of Self-Help Societies-Southern Philippines Educational Cooperative Center (MASS-SPEC) based in Cagayan de Oro City since 2000. She is also Chairperson of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE), Commissioner-at-Large and Vice-Chair for Peace and Multi-Culturalism of the Mindanao Commission on Women, and Co-Chair of the Economic Development Committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region X. She is a Chemical Engineer by profession, graduating as National State Scholar and College Valedictorian at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City in 1984. She also has a Master of Business Management degree from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) as an AIM Scholar in 1990. A fifth and alternate member of the GRP Peace Panel was lawyer. Leah Tanodra-Armamento from Sibalum, Antique. She is presently the Assistant Chief State Prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2003. Her legal career started with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) as a Trial Attorney in 1986. She then moved to the DOJ as a State Prosecutor in 1991. She was designated head of the GRP TWG on Ancestral Domain and, in such capacity, was appointed as an alternate member of the panel only in July 2007. She graduated Bachelor of Laws Second Honors at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) in 1985. She is connected by affinity to Mindanao through her husband and in-laws from Cotabato City. The first thing that has to be said about these people in the recently dissolved GRP Peace Panel is that it would have been completely out of character for them to commit any “grave abuse of discretion” in their negotiations with the MILF. They just are not the type. Thus Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, had been able to say: “At present, I give the MOA-AD and the two peace panels the benefit of the doubt. They have worked at the agreement for years, painstakingly hammering out every word and every phrase, every concept and its implications. I know that they have the interests of their respective constituencies always in mind.” Secondly, their credentials speak for themselves in terms of competence and loyalty. How can anyone doubt the loyalty of Gen. Garcia who did his part in “defending every inch of Philippine territory,” particularly from Moro rebels in Mindanao? How can anyone doubt the competence of Prof. Rodil when it comes to Mindanao history, the Moro Problem, the peace processes with the MNLF and MILF, ancestral domain, and the Lumads? He was practically the institutional memory between the successive peace negotiations with the MNLF and then with the MILF. Lawyer Armamento is actually only one of several good Ateneo lawyers, all students of their constitutionalist guru Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., who grappled with the legalities and constitutionality of the ancestral domain negotiations. And Bernas himself has lent his constitutional expertise to this peace effort. An interesting sidelight to all these are some prominent UP lawyers tending to be on the other side of the MOA debate. (But let’s not forget the provincial lawyers on both sides.) Third, all -- yes, all of the panel members have a connection to Mindanao, even Bulaqueño Gen. Garcia who had a long military stint in Mindanao, and Antiqueña lawyer. Armamento who still visits her in-laws in Cotabato City. As for those Mindanao natives in the panel, there was a nice tri-people mix: Prof. Rodil who is of Christian settler family background, Secretary Pangandaman who is a Moro, and Ms. Paraguya who is a Lumad. She also represents NGOs and women. And still on the matter of mix or balance, there was good enough gender balance of three men and two women (at least better than the MILF’s all-men panel). I think it will be hard to find another good panel like this. We said earlier that negotiators are people first, human beings with families too. In the end, for them, as for any of us, I suppose, the most important appraisal is that which comes from one’s loved ones, like one’s own children who will ask you in the future what you did for their peace when you had the historical chance to do something. Take Prof. Rodil. He has been declared persona non grata by the City Council of Iligan where he lives. But his grown-up daughter Amillah writes, with much maturity: “As of yesterday [Sept. 3], GMA has officially dissolved the government panel for peace talks with the MILF. (Disclosure to those who don't know: my dad was part of the panel). I feel sad because I know how the panel has been working hard to achieve a deal. They were aiming to sign a final peace agreement by 2010. The controversial (and I think, misunderstood) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was part of the deal, and now it has also been scrapped along with the panel.” “Attributing the breakdown of the talks to the Memorandum of Agreement itself is not fair. It was an attempt at a solution, and not (as some people think) something that GMA just thought of to extend her term. It was the result of years of negotiation. I believe what contributed to the breakdown of the talks was the series of knee-jerk chain reactions of the people involved.” “For the good of all involved, I hope the ceasefire holds, and negotiations resume at some point. But the work to be done is not just with the negotiators. We should all be involved in creating a culture of peace, and it can be as simple as breathing deeply and thinking things through before opening your mouth, marching in the streets, attacking people, or ditching years of work down the drain.” One big group of Mindanao civil society peace advocates, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), through its Chair Professor Octavio A. Dinampo (remember him who was kidnapped with Ces Oreña-Drilon), for their part, sent out this text message: “All said and done, we still salute the courage and sincerity of Sec. Garcia and Sec. Esperon in pushing hard not only peace but the very Moro right to self-determination…we’ll remember that.” And then to Sec. Garcia: “We protest vehemently the insinuation of your mishandling the peace process. Forgive them for they know not what they are doing. And be assured of our solidarity with you and Sec. Esperon.” Finally, what about the “adversary,” the MILF Peace Panel, what does it have to say about its dissolved GRP counterpart? Sometimes, the ultimate compliment comes from the adversary. MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal formally wrote Sec. Garcia: “We were saddened by the news that the GRP Peace Panel has been dissolved effective September 3, 2008. We felt that, indeed, the peace process has lost people whom we personally know are competent, trustworthy and sincere in addressing the long struggle of the Bangsamoro people.” Iqbal went on to say: “We will always treasure the fruits of our hard work, sleepless nights and sometimes our constructive disagreements to thread together the two very far ends (very far when we started) of issues, particularly ancestral domain…This was not the end of the long journey to peace in Mindanao, but it initially showcased how far sovereignty and right to self-determination can harmonize and accommodate each other…” “On behalf of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel, we bid farewell to our worthy partners in peace, as my honorable counterpart puts it. Let me thank the good Secretary Rodolfo Garcia, Prof. Rudy Rodil, Atty. Leah Armamento, Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, Sec. Nasser Pangandaman, and the energetic head of your secretariat, Director Ryan Mark Sullivan. We will never forget you and your wonderful team and we hope that in some future time and occasion we meet and cross paths for the sake of peace and humanity.” Right now, it is the GRP and MILF themselves which should meet and cross paths for the sake of peace and humanity.
Editor's Note: This article was originally written by the author for his blog. We're posting it with his permission. By Doy Cinco Nakakalungkot isipin na kung sino pa ang “nagsusulong, nagtutulak at nananawagan ng good governance, moralidad at responsible citizenship, krusada laban sa jueteng at kurakot” ay siya pa ngayon ang iniipit, pinapatanggal sa pwesto at kinakasuhan ng katiwalian at kabuktutan. Ano ang layunin at bakit gustong patalsikin sa pwesto bilang gubernador si Among Ed? Ang recall petition ba’y interest ng nakararaming Kapampangan, para ba ito sa kaunlaran, good governance at para sa pagbabago? Dahil ba sa plataporma at prinsipyong ipinaglalabang political reform, pagwawaksi ng kabulukan ng pulitika, pagwaksi ng guns gold at goons at sistemang padri-padrino? Ano ang political agenda, ano ang ALTERNATIBA? Ang isa pang tanong ay kung bakit tayo nakikialam at nababahala sa pampulitikang sitwasyon ng Pampanga, the same manner na bakit ganun na lamang ang pagmamalasakit natin sa Mindanao, partikular sa Maguindanao, ang lugar ng Ampatuan clan, MOA-AD at digmaang nagaganap sa pagitan ng militar at MILF. Hindi naman tayo Kapampangan, tubong WARAY tayo, hindi tayo tagaMindanao-LUMAD at lalong hindi tayo Muslim. Tulad ng kasabihan at awit ni Jess Santiago, “ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan,” lahat tayo ay stakeholders, lahat tayo ay aktibo’t responsableng mamamayang Pilipino. Tahasang pinangunggunahan na natin na isang “futile exercise, pagsasayang ng panahon at resources lamang ang recall petition ng grupong Kambilan, Bokal at mga mayor ng Pampanga.” Hindi maiiwasan paghinalaang may kinalaman si GMA sa recall petition. Naniniwala ang marami na siya lamang at wala ng iba ang maaring makapagpatigil sa inaasal ng kanyang mga galamay sa Pampanga. Kung tutuusin, isang kumpas lamang ni GMA sa mag-asawang Pineda at kay Guiao, tapos na ang boxing sa Pampanga. Inaamin ni Among Ed at ibang mga nagmamasid na bilyong pisong budget ang gagamitin para maabot ang 100,000 pirma para sa recall petition at special election at tulad ng dati, gagamitin ito sa pananakot, malawakang pandaraya’t panunuhol at vote buying. Malabong magprosper ang recall petition sapagkat, may kasalukuyang umiiral na status quo order pa ang Korte Suprema. Ultimo ang astig na abugadong si Romulo Macalintal ang nagsasabing isang “political absurdity” ang naturang recall petition. Anya, “hindi ito magpoprosper sa dahilang may nakapending na election protest na nakafile sa Comelec ang talunang si Lilia Pineda.” Inaamin mismo ni Con Mikey Arroyo, ang padrino ng lalawigan na “malabong magtagumpay ang recall petiton, sapagkat, “may malaking kakulangan sa historical precedent ang recall sa Pilipinas. Walang recall move ang nagtagumpay at kadalasa’y banderang kapos at hindi na umaabot sa Comelec.” Kung ganun pala, bakit ayaw niyang patigilin ang kahibangan ng kanyang mga alipores sa probinsya. Ano ito, trial and error tactics, tinatakot lang ba, pinaparusahan lang, tinuturuan lang ba ng lesson si Among Ed? Bukud sa babaha uli ng pera at kikita ang ilan, hinding-hindi makapapayag ang mga Kapampangan na muling ibalik sa pwesto ang mga may kasalanan sa taongbayan. Totoong may kahinaan organizationally si Among Ed at may ilang tao sa kanyang paligid ang parang anay na gumigiba ng kanyang programa de gobyerno sa Pampanga. Dahil ayaw tantanan ng mga kaaway sa pulitika si Among Ed, kahit paano, apektado ang delivery basic services at programang ipinatutupad sa lalawigan. Sadyang nagbabago na ang political landscape ng Pampanga. Sa tulong ng mga Macapagal-Arroyo, Pineda, Lapid, Guiao, Henson at Pelayo, unti-unting nagigising at patuloy na lumalakas ang THIRD FORCE, ang makabagong kilusan ng mamamayan, ang “bagong pulitika,” mga AKTIBISTANG hindi klarong Kaliwa at lalong hindi makabagong konserbatibo o maka-Kanang pwersang reaksyunaryo. Kung dati-rati’y usaping agraryo at anakpawis ang pangunahing pwersa at maka-uri (class oriented) ang oryentasyon, ngayo’y tila ata multi-sectoral, nagka-cut across sa lahat ng uri. Kung magtatagumpay ang recall at matatalo si Among Ed sa special election, walang kaduda-dudang magluluksa ang mga Kapampangan. Tiyak na lalong sisigla ang kilos protesta at magreresulta ng malalaking mobilisasyon ng mamamayan kahalintulad ng electoral campaign nuong nakaraang taon ang magaganap sa Pampanga.
Editor's note: We love a good conversation. So starting this week, we will be highlighting readers' comments we deem interesting and relevant to this blog. Readers must identify themselves and not use anonymous names to get higher chances of being picked out from the crowd. Also, best to say where you're from and put a link to online articles you wish to comment on. Here's one we picked for this week. +++ I am so appalled at how the Inquirer editorial on September 7, 2008 can be so careless and wrong about its facts despite its vast network of reporters and contacts who can do even a cursory verification. The Consortium on Electoral Reforms or CER is not composed of lawmakers from both Houses of Congress. It is purely a civil society network of electoral reform workers and it definitely cannot “railroad” the passage of a bill. With all due respect, the tone of the editorial makes it look more like a hatchet job against groups that supports reform in our political party system, than one that would encourage debate on this important issue. Where did this piece come from? I understand that Inquirer has to take strong positions on important issues, and although I do not agree with all of them, they are generally well written and informative. This editorial is different. All that Inquirer should have done was to talk to Mon Casiple, the CER Chair, who is anyway very visible in the media, to ask CER’s positions on the political party reform bill. Inquirer may disagree, but at least it would be an informed position. The insinuation of malice and sinister motive on CER is a grave insult to its network members who have selfishly worked for electoral reforms for a number of years now. This is plain irresponsible journalism that must be rectified. I have made it a daily habit to read the Inquirer and its editorials over that of the other papers. Now I am having second thoughts about your paper. Luie Guia, via readers' comment.
I really admire the order imposed against cutting trees by Mayor Lim. Definitely, deforestation and land degradation are serious problems in our country, which explains the worst floods in Metro Manila during heavy rains. This act may decrease the effects of the natural calamities and if we do not act on this, perhaps in the next 10 years, illegal logging will be so rampant that the local and national government will not be able do anything to stop it. Although they may have millions of reasons for cutting the Mahogany and Narra trees, this is does not make it right. Illegal loggers should be punishable by law if the case becomes legitimized. Pircelyn B. Pialago, Bacoor, Cavite, via e-mail
By Atty. Soliman M. Santos, Jr. Contributor THE initialed but unsigned final draft of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), the subject of much current controversy at the national level and of fighting in Central Mindanao, has been “set aside for all intents and purposes” by the Philippine government, at least by its Executive Department (we have to be clear these days which of the three departments is actually acting). The matter is still pending in the Supreme Court but the Executive has announced:“No matter what the Supreme Court ultimately decides, the government will not sign the MOA… in its present form or in any form.” In so many words, the MOA is dead. Those who were so worried about what they thought as the MOA giving away national sovereignty and territory to a new Bangsamoro state, in grave violation of the Constitution, need not worry anymore. The MOA is dead. What they should perhaps worry about now is whether the peace process with the MILF is also dead or at a dead end, where the detour taken could lead to a full-blown war. The peace negotiations were meant to resolve the armed conflict on the Moro front through a negotiated political settlement for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution of the Bangsamoro problem. The ancestral domain aspect of that problem was lined up as the penultimate substantive agenda heading before finally working out the political solution and the legal modalities in a Comprehensive Compact. But this mutually agreed process has reached a dead end of sorts with the non-signing of the MOA, as far as the MILF is concerned. It remains to be seen whether this deadlock can be unlocked. The logic of the whole process would seem to dictate that, since the peace negotiations cannot proceed for the MILF, then it can be expected to consider “alternative means to achieve freedom and justice for the Bangsamoro people” (from an official statement of MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal). These other options include a return to armed struggle which the Moro liberation fronts had waged in the first place to achieve political objectives. And when this rebellion is met by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in order to suppress it, then you have an armed conflict. This could go back in some ways to the situation during the early years of martial law before the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The Executive Department had announced that it will not sign the MOA due to “changed circumstances” like the ongoing controversy at the national level and the precarious ground situation in Central Mindanao, in effect saying that the MOA issue had become more political than legal. Stated otherwise, the MOA has become politically untenable to sign as far as the government’s own Christian majority constituency is concerned. The non-signing the MOA was calculated to give the Executive some space to engage in various political efforts to defuse the political situation as well as address the ground situation. As for the peace process, the Peace Adviser and the GRP Peace Panel Chairperson have mulled continuing this through “further negotiations” that already “move towards a Comprehensive Compact,” of course coupled with “consultation with various stakeholders” -- the major lesson from the aborted MOA experience. But there are strong indications that the MILF will not entertain any GRP proposal for “further negotiations” even towards a final peace agreement with the Arroyo administration after its firmed-up decision not to sign the MOA. For them, never mind if there is another indefinite impasse, they will just wait for the next President, “if we get there.” In the meantime, they will consider other options. Let me try to share my understanding of this likely MILF view of rejecting “further negotiations” with the Arroyo administration. They take what happened to the MOA (including but not just the Executive’s decision of non-signing) as the GRP having negotiated in bad faith, and thus the basic trust built by years of peace talks has been seriously eroded. The bottom line is that the Arroyo administration cannot deliver after all. This whole experience hurts for them but at least they now know the real score and where they stand vis-à-vis the whole Philippine side -- Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, Local Governments, Business Sector, Media, General Public, etc. all ganged up on the MOA. The widespread and loud rejection of the MOA by the whole Philippine side is like a rejection of the Moros and their aspirations for recognition of their identity, way of life and longing for self-rule. The truth hurts but it sets us free. The MOA is now an already closed chapter as far as the MILF is concerned, even as it remains an important document for them. The MOA had at least placed Moro aspirations on the national agenda, discourse and consciousness. They say that it has even become a rallying point for Moro unity. So, there is already with them some sense of moral ascendancy or even victory with the MOA issue. They cannot for their own self-respect go into “further negotiations” which would not be on the basis of a signed MOA. This was already the product of difficult but successful negotiations up to its final draft with the “Government of the Republic of the Philippines” (that’s what the MOA says, not just “Executive Department”) for more than three years starting 2005. They cannot defend doing this (“further negotiations” without first signing the MOA) to their own forces and constituency. They themselves do not see the viability of “further negotiations” for a final peace agreement which may end up just like the MOA. To use an Islamic expression, it would be like “getting bitten by a snake twice in the same pit.” Still, the MOA should be seen an important document, and not just for the MILF and the Bangsamoro people. It is also an important document for the peace process, for history, for eventual understanding between two peoples, and no less for the Filipino people in addressing their various nation-building problems, not just the Bangsamoro problem. Notwithstanding the admittedly unfamiliar and difficult language and concepts in the MOA, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, says it “is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I believe that the MOA can bring lasting peace…. The balancing act… may be seen in the concepts on governance, concretized in such terms as ‘associative relationships,’ ‘shared authority,’ the idea of ‘central government,’ and its responsibility for external defense, etc. For the GRP, the balancing continues with two fundamental democratic safety values -- acts of Congress and referendum [or plebiscite].” In this sense, long live the MOA -- as a landmark or watershed exercise in exploring the possibilities of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the Philippine and Moro sides, after decades of armed conflict with long historical roots and complex dimensions. The MOA shows that at least some Filipinos and Moros can compromise or find a middle ground for a proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) which would be something between the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and independent statehood, the original common aspiration of the Moro liberation fronts. This aspiration is based on the historical sovereignty of the Moro sultanates which were once sovereign independent nation-states several centuries before there even was a Philippine State and Constitution. Thus, also a compromise or middle ground between a man-made Constitution with its sovereignty of the people, and a God-made Qur’an with its sovereignty of Allah. The MOA idea is for “shared sovereignty” between the Central Government and the BJE in an “associative relationship” where it is the former, not the latter, which represents the sovereign independent State. Then, there is also a compromise or middle ground between the present ARMM territory and that of the original historical Bangsamoro homeland covering the whole of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. This was their homeland which was annexed to the Philippine Islands ceded by Spain to the United States by way of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, and then incorporated in the Republic of the Philippines granted its independence by the U.S. in 1946, in both cases without the plebiscitary consent of the Bangsamoro people. This was the same homeland in Mindanao which was 76 percent Moro in population in 1903 but which had become just 19 percent Moro by 1990 as a result of government resettlement programs which systematically brought Christian settlers from the Visayas and Luzon into Mindanao over several decades. The MILF to its credit is seeking as territory for the BJE basically those geographical areas which the Moros still actually occupy or where they are the majority per present reality on the ground, and still subject to plebiscite. In any case, this BJE territory would remain part of, not be dismembered from, the national territory. If there is one thing that the MOA issue has opened up, aside from a deeper sense of Moro aspirations, it is the need to “think out of the box” of the Constitution. Newspaper columnist and Sociology Prof. Randy David pointed out, as early as 1999 to 2000, the need for “the readiness on the part of government to allow a wide latitude for institutional experimentation in the region, instead of the constant invocation of constitutional limits as a warning against insolent initiatives.” He also wrote of a certain “constitutional pragmatism” which is necessary to overcome “constitutional obstacles that that have needlessly prevented the exploration of more creative approaches to the Mindanao problem.” He is reminded of John Dewey’s insight: “The belief in political fixity, of the sanctity of some form of state consecrated by the efforts of our fathers and hallowed by tradition, is one of the stumbling blocks in the way of orderly and directed change; it is an invitation to revolt and revolution.” There is, of course, so much more subject matter involved in the MOA. There is still much to learn in further studying and discussing the concepts found therein as well as the issues which have emerged in the controversy about it. After an adequate period of dispassionate, informed and intelligent discussion of these concepts and issues by all concerned -- “after some sanity is restored,” says Fr. Eliseo R. Mercado, Jr., OMI -- the time should come when the parties can viably continue their peace negotiations, presumably from where they left off. Much depends on how an expected interregnum or hiatus or what the MILF’s Iqbal calls “purgatory” is handled by both sides in the coming weeks and months. Given that prospect of no “further negotiations” as well as the danger of military options on both sides, the best bets for the remaining period (one year and ten months) of the Arroyo administration are to somehow maintain the ceasefire, enhance rehabilitation and development work and projects, and pursue the three-part imperatives suggested by Archbishop Quevedo. The premise for the first two “bets” is that the prior agreements on the security and rehabilitation aspects should not to be derogated or set aside. The Quevedo imperatives refer to: “consultation and dialogue, information and education, and building of a constituency supportive of the general goals and specific objectives as well as the processes and contents of peace negotiations.” In these various ways, the ground is laid for a return to the ancestral domain aspect and other substantive matters of peace negotiation when this become more viable, even if in the next administration already. The time for the MOA will come but then in another form.