MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 29, 2008) - Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. said the Arroyo government should resolve the Muslim insurgency problem in Mindanao through means at its disposal instead of relying too much on external help.
Pimentel decried that the government appears to be in a quandary on how to restart the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after the fiasco over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which ignited armed hostilities in the southern Philippines.
He said the government is desperate for a new approach to address the problem and is now even contemplating on requesting the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to intervene and broker the derailed peace negotiation.
Pimentel said the breakdown of the government-MILF peace talks with Malaysia as third-country facilitator only serves to show the pitfalls of foreign intercession in settling an internal conflict.
"However, it must be borne in mind that with or without the intervention or mediation of a foreign country or organization, ultimately a domestic problem so complex as the Muslim insurgency can be solved only by Filipinos themselves," Pimentel said in a statement.
He said that while the Philippines acknowledges the efforts of Malaysia in the difficult quest for peace in Mindanao, there is basis for the reservation of a lot of people over the choice of this neighboring as peace broker.
Pimentel said the effectiveness of Malaysia as a peace broker has been somehow affected by its still unresolved territorial dispute with the Philippines over Sabah to the extent that it is widely suspected to have a "hidden agenda" for assuming this role.
He said the fact that the Arroyo government is now thinking of asking Indonesia and the OIC to step into the shoes as peace broker indicates that it is having second thoughts in having Malaysia continue with its role as facilitator.
Pimentel also lamented that the peace process has turned upside down after the government itself disowned the MOA on Ancestral Domain in the face of widespread objections from Congress and several other sectors due to its glaring constitutional infirmities.
He said the government has nobody to blame but itself for the debacle as it never bothered to consult with Congress specially in resolving difficult issues in the peace talk. Even local government officials and constituents of communities that will be annexed to the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity were left in the dark about the contents of the peace accord.
Pimentel said that the MOA on Ancestral Domain was problematic because while the Philippine Constitution only grants autonomy to Muslim Mindanao, the agreement virtually confers sovereignty on the proposed BJE and cedes part of the national territory to it.
In the words of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon, the agreement will lead to the creation of "a state within a state."
Pimentel maintained that the most acceptable and ultimate political solution to the Muslim conflict is the establishment of a federal system which will lead to creation of 11 federal states, including the Bangsamoro state.
"The adoption of a federal system will enable the Bangsamoro a fuller opportunity to promote their own identity and culture, and their own economic development at their own pace without the need of seceding or declaring their independence from the republic," he said.
"It will likewise address the concerns of the rest of the country that their respective development efforts are being thwarted by the bias shown by Manila-based bureaucrats in favor of what is popularly called Imperial Manila."