Reaping the whirlwind: GMA and the MOA-Ad mess

by Atty. Adel A. Tamano, AB, JD, MPA, LLM

I received information that war is imminent in Mindanao because of the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the MOA on Ancestral Domain pending before the Supreme Court. According to one message, the Supreme Court was “adding fuel to the fire.” The proposition is that if the MOA is declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then hostilities would break out between the MILF and government. Also, in media and in numerous fora, the supporters of the MOA argue that those who support the MOA are for peace in Mindanao and those who oppose it, like myself, are, therefore, are not only against peace but are anti-Moro. This is preposterous.

Firstly, that argument implicitly characterizes the MOA as the cure-all for the peace problems of Mindanao, so much so that if you are opposed to its implementation or disagree with its effectivity, then you must ipso facto be against peace in Mindanao. This characterization grossly oversimplifies the problem and underestimates the human capacity to find creative and even better solutions to the problem. The MOA essentially creates a separate Moro State; the obvious stand of the MOA proponents is that this is the only answer to the Mindanao conflict. There are other approaches to the peace problem in Mindanao, such as enhanced Moro integration, providing greater autonomy to the ARMM, creating a culture of peace, intensive Muslim-Christian dialogue, or even establishing federalism in Mindanao, which – unlike the MOA - does not create an unconstitutional State within a State. Apparently, the MOA proponents do not find merit in these less drastic, and yet
more effective, solutions.

Unfortunately, making the MOA a panacea to the peace problem only creates unreasonable expectations that, ultimately, will cause greater disappointment and even heightened conflict in the long-run. Sadly, because the terms of the MOA are undeliverable because of their inconsistencies with the Fundamental Law and the inability of GMA to convince the public to support her moves to amend the charter, the MOA is, by its very terms, doomed to failure.

Secondly, it is another gross oversimplification to argue that those against the MOA are anti-peace and anti-Moro. On a personal level, being a Moro myself, that is absurd and I am not the only Moro who opposes the MOA. Other Moros share my stand that while we are against the MOA for being unconstitutional and done without proper consultation with stakeholders, nevertheless we are for greater autonomy and federalism for Filipino Muslims. It is true that some non-Moros who oppose the MOA are driven by interests not related to the peace process, such as preservation of their private lands or fear of loss of political power. In truth, some Christians may even oppose the MOA because they discriminate against Moros. That is a fact that we must admit in all candor and it is, of course, most unfortunate. However, the whole truth is that discrimination is not a one-sided affair. There are Moros who discriminate against Christians as well and we must condemn that
as strongly as we condemn Christians who discriminate against Muslims. Additionally, fairness dictates that we must accept that there are Christians who oppose the MOA on principled grounds and who do so out of a sense of patriotism and even a genuine concern for the interests of Moros.

Thirdly, opposing the MOA may have little to do with being anti-peace and anti-Moro but have everything to do with being anti-Gloria. GMA has never been shy about her desire to amend the Constitution. In 2006, she attempted to do this via the aborted People’s Initiative, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. Also, she has explicitly stated in her State of the Nation Addresses that charter change is part and parcel of her administration’s agenda. It has become obvious to many that her support for the MOA is another sinister attempt to amend the charter for the purpose of staying beyond 2010. GMA’s claim that she will amend the Constitution only to conform to the MOA is belied by the fact that there is no such thing as a “surgical amendment” of the Constitution. Once constitutional change is discussed, whether by a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention, the assembly or convention has plenary power to consider any amendment,
which of course may include term extensions, not merely amendments to conform to the MOA.

In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA - even going beyond the constitutional issues and whether or not it was negotiated by the government in bad faith – is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate. The marginalization of the stakeholders to MOA, which not only include the MNLF, the lumads in Mindanao, the Christian communities that are to form part of the BangsaMoro Juridical Entity (BJE), the Congress that will be duty-bound to enact laws to effect the MOA, but, more importantly the public-at-large who have an interest in a matter of this transcendental importance, fatally undermines the MOA. It must be obvious that there can be no final peace settlement unless all stakeholders are part of that settlement. The MOA is only between the government, as represented by the peace panel, and the MILF. If consultations had been done, if we had a full and fair debate on this issue,
then we would not be where we are now, which is at the verge of war. Let us put the blame squarely where it belongs – not with the MILF who had every right to negotiate for the best terms that they could obtain, not the Supreme Court that is merely fulfilling its constitutional duty to hear the cases on the MOA, not the petitioners who oppose the MOA, and not the political opposition who see the MOA as a Trojan horse for charter change – but with the person whose administration has been characterized by secrecy and repeated claims of executive privilege, who will use any means, even tearing our country apart, to perpetuate herself in power. The blame lies with GMA.

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