September 4, 2011 – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could not accept as political solution to the struggle of the Bangsamoro people to regain self-governance is not autonomous but an administrative region of the Malacanang Palace.
“Sorry to say but the present ARMM is but an arm of Malacanang and not a government of the Bangasmoro people,” said Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when interviewed by ABS-CBN stalwart Korina Sanchez at Camp Darapanan last September 1, 2011.
There is no real self-governance in ARMM and it cannot stand without the support and influence of Malacanang, Chairman Murad said.
ARMM is a constitutional body inaugurated in 1991 and now presently composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan, and the City of Marawi.
More than 20 years now since the creation of this government unilaterally-created ARMM but “everybody knows that it only become a milking cow of the politicians and technocrats,” the Chairman said.
“The politicians became rich but the benefits did not trickle down to our people,” he added.
Murad expressed conviction that autonomous government should not be called Muslim autonomy for it is not an exclusive domain of the Muslims. “Bangsamoro government must be inclusive of all the peoples both the native inhabitants, including the Bansgamoro, and the settlers.”
A sub-state for the Bangsamoro, which in essence is also an autonomous political entity, and not the present ARMM, according to the Chairman, is acceptable to the Bangsamoro people as a political solution to the Bangsamoro struggle for self-governance and self-determination.
The MILF submitted to the government through the Malaysian third party Facilitator its proposal for a comprehensive peace compact which is essentially political in nature reduced in the form of a sub-state in February this year.
The core territory of the MILF proposal, without going through a plebiscite, is the present areas of ARMM. Those areas outside of but contiguous to ARMM, whose respective votes won in plebiscite but could not be made part of the areas of the present ARMM as the votes of the provinces these areas belong voted against inclusion in the territories of the ARMM, are also included.
At one hand, the government submitted its so-called “3 in 1 Proposal” during the last talks in Malaysia on August 22-24, 2011.
The supposed three-day talks was cut short to two days with the “3 in 1 Proposal” of the Government of the Philippines left deferred for discussion pending referral of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel to the MILF Central Committee in Camp Darapanan.
Chairman Murad confirmed the recommendation of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel headed by Mohagher Iqbal to MILF Central Committee to reject the Government Proposal , citing reason that the proposal of the government as detached, had no connections and derogated the past agreements and consensus reached by the two parties during the past 14 years of negotiations. “This will clearly prolong further the peace process contrary to what have been agreed in Tokyo,” he said.
The 3 in1 proposal of the government had outlined for (1) strengthening of the delivery of basic services and implementation of large-scale and massive development; (2) political settlement with reference to the present Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); and (3) acknowledgment of the correct historical and cultural identity of the Bangsamoro people.
When asked of the bottom line and deadline of MILF on the negotiations, Murad answered “if the government is really sincere then she has to address the root cause of the problem, which is not poverty, absence of peace or ceasefire, but political (self-governance and self-determination).”
“As revolutionary organization, we do not set deadline. But we will see how the government will approach the present situation on the peace talks. If it is still progressing and moving forward towards the real solution then we have no other options but to continue on with the negotiations. But if see it not moving forward then we can’t just sit down on it if it is progressing.”
“While it is a matter of principle and an established policy of MILF to go for negotiations being the most civilize and practical means of resolving the Bangamoro Question, but our struggle is only political and military,” he said.