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Word has just come in that the president has certified as urgent bill the postponement of the ARMM elections to 2010. Speaker Nograles is mustering attendance in tomorrow’s session for its first reading, committee hearing, and to prepare for Monday’s plenary session to pass it.

The stated reason for such an urgent bill was the MILF’s request to postpone the ARMM elections in the light of the impending GRP-MILF agreement on the “ancestral domain” issue to be signed this August 5. The agreement is supposed to expand the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity(BJE)” from the present ARMM.

On its face, this would be a logical thing to do if there really is an agreement. However, the fact is there is as yet no final and formal agreement. Postponing a constitutionally-mandated exercise as the ARMM elections based on a mere request by a party to the peace negotiations–in the course of a preliminary negotiation–is a fishy and untenable proposition.

One would have to find the real reason elsewhere for the railroading of such an “urgent” bill. It is not far from what you and I think. I refer you to an authoritative roadmap by Atty. Bong Montesa, a former technical working group member, in his blog bongmontesa.wordpress.com:

Peace roadmap

Peace roadmap (click to expand)

The important thing about this roadmap is the charter change phase in mid-2009 which will happen if what is required will be more than the autonomous region allowed by the 1987 constitution, such as–you guessed it–setting up a local Moro state under a federal Philippine system.

There is an intense interest in Malacañang that the peace process reach the stage of charter change. It would, of course, pave the way for a continued stay in power of GMA, probably as both the president and prime minister under the transition provisions of a new constitution.

To do this, it has to humor the MILF, including its request for the postponement of the ARMM elections. MILF, on its part, is interested in postponing the elections to undermine the legitimacy of ARMM, push their own alternative BJE,  and otherwise prepare for their accession to power.

The GRP roadmap itself does not care if the ARMM elections are postponed or not–it will not materially affect the peace process. What matters is that the process continued on into the charter change phase. In fact, there is a bigger chance that the ARMM elections will push through. So much money, efforts, and mobilizations have already been expended–the momentum is simply hard to stop. There is also the opposition, open and hidden, against such a proposition.

For Malacañang, the effort to stop the ARMM elections is the more important consideration rather than stopping the polls themselves. It thus demonstrate to the MILF its “sincerity” and “political will.”

What will happen next after the signing of the August 5 memorandum of agreement will be an intricate tinikling dance. The GMA administration, as bamboo-holders, will try to pursue the roadmap towards charter change, while the MILF, as the dancer, try to finish the dance without its feet getting caught by the bamboos. In this dance, MILF has no chance for a favorable outcome. It simply does not have the political leverages to dictate the implementation of its position.

If  the peace negotiations proceeded to the charter change phase, MILF will have lost much of the goodwill it has earned among the majority Filipinos and possibly even among the Moro people who know the real political implication of a cha-cha under the GMA administration. Unfortunately by then, the Moro struggle will have been compromised and subverted by an agenda for prolonging GMA’s stay in power.

I do not think the GMA administration will allow the peace process to successfully end after the charter change. Either it will dribble the ball or it may enter into an agreement it will not implement, as what happened in the Tripoli and Jakarta agreements. It cannot simply forsake its Christian-based constituency or its Moro political allies. If the MILF is not coopted into the current political arrangement, it will not be in position to demand a favorable implementation.

The whole peace process regarding the Moro struggle for self-determination is in danger of being coopted to be sacrificed before the altar of GMA’s political survival. The MILF will then serve only as a decoy for the real charter change agenda.

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