As of this date, the tense Mindanao situation is in a slide towards a bloody ethnic war between Moros and non-Moros. That is, unless the political leaders on both sides step back from the brink and stand down their respective armed groups and go back to the negotiation table.
The culprit, of course, is the MOA-AD. When it was made public, a nationwide uproar against it erupted, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order, the Kuala Lumpur signing was canceled, furious MILF commanders retaliated by attacking Christian communities, an enraged AFP and police ordered offensives and issued 10,000 firearms to civilian volunteers, MILF refused to acknowledge and apologize for the attacks, landed arms, and prepares to defend its positions, and now local Christian authorities form their own vigilantes. Voila, we have transited to a war situation.
There is the persistent illusionary opinion that the Supreme Court TRO and the non-signing of the MOA-AD was the culprit. In this context, this opinion sees the MILF attacks as “understandable.” Those who hold on to this view should wake up to the fact that the logical sequence of events started with the imminent signing of the MOA-AD, not the TRO. The MOA-AD was seen by many key national and local leaders and political forces as unacceptable.
To argue that these leaders and forces are “rightists,” “anti-Moro,” “chauvinists,” “warmongers, “non-Mindanaoans,” etc. and, by implication, do not have any right or any say on the MOA is futile, childish, and non-sequitur. Since the MOA-AD, with its sweeping coverage, touches on and has grave implications on the very foundations of our lives and that of the Republic, these leaders and forces have all the right and the say, as all of us living here in the Philippines, including the pro-MOA-AD advocates, have all the same right and the same say. We call ourselves stakeholders.
The Moro people and the rest of the Filipino people are all stakeholders in the search for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. As are the various key sectors as the ARMM, MNLF, Moro tribal leaders, Ulamas, and Moro civil society on the Moro side, and the political parties (including the political opposition), key state institutions as Congress and the Supreme Court, key institutions as the churches, mass media, private sector, and civil society, local governments and people in affected areas, and even relevant international and foreign entities on the government side. As stakeholders, we, or at the least the leaders, should have been consulted (and solicited our views and consent to the limits of concessions) by government negotiators before even initiating the drafting of the document.
The failure to do so, and the overly-secretive process of the negotiations, predictably made all of us uneasy. When the agreement was forced to be made public, it turned out that the government made commitments that certainly would lead to the national uproar that ensued. It conceded commitments beyond what is politically-acceptable based on present political realities. The MOA-AD cannot simply be accepted by the people and many of the above-named stakeholders.
The danger here is that the MILF, and possibly many Moro friends and peace advocate colleagues as well, does not realize this: That the Macapagal-Arroyo government has sold them a set of defective, if glossy, goods. An agreement without the consent of all stakeholders, is not a recipe for lasting peace–it is a recipe for more conflict and humanitarian disaster.
The right political balance has not been struck in the peace negotiations. Lamentation for the late and departed MOA-AD is a lamentation for war.