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Fr. Jun Mercado OMI

Parallel and confusing tracks

August 25, 2011 7:47am

Recent developments have struck the people of Southern Philippines on what appears to be parallel and confusing tracks in the pursuit of peace and development in Southern Mindanao.

The first is the peace track. It began in full earnest during the first year of the PNoy administration with all the on going three negotiations: the GPH-MILF Peace talks, the GPH-NDF talks and the GH-MNLF talks.

In a much earlier time, the peace track seemed rosy and promising especially with the seeming progress on both the MILF and the NDF fronts. The two GPH Peace Panel Chairs were not only very knowledgeable about the issues involved but the parties on the other side of the negotiating table also held them in high esteem.

Things become awry about three months ago when ‘delivery’ capacity of the negotiating table was put in serious doubt. On the NDF Front, the doubt began when the release of prisoners allegedly covered by the joint agreement on safety and immunity guaranty was found wanting. On the MILF Front, the much awaited GPH Peace proposal turned out to be a ‘dud’ vis-à-vis the ‘sub state’ MILF Proposal.

In short, there was nothing really new appearing on the peace track horizon and the high hopes that greeted the opening of the three peace tables had gone pffft! There is NO new wind blowing the peace track and definitely NO BOLD proposal or BOLD actions. As many observers have opined, the B in the word bold has earlier collapsed and what remains is an OLD proposal and the usual old catch up program that has become the ‘default’ mode since the 1996 Final Peace Accord between the GPH and the MNLF.

The parallel track is the ‘Reform’ ARMM ‘fever’ following the passage of the RA 10153, synchronizing the ARMM elections with the national midterm election in May 2013. PNoy has taken the cudgel to spearhead this reform fever. During the signing of the law in Malacañang, he articulated his desired reforms. PNoy’s wish list contains a wide range of ambitious goals that would take more than a lifetime to achieve.

Number one in the list is putting an end to the rule of political families that have fostered a culture of electoral frauds. Whew! This would be tough for the OICs since the political families and clans are deeply entrenched. The political families are NOT the monopoly of the ARMM. In other regions they are called political dynasties. The ARMM political families are distant cousins of the dynastic rule in other regions and they differ only in degrees of when it comes to political frauds.

The other ambitious goal for the next twenty-two months is the abolition of private armies that are actually closely tied to political families. The call for the abolition of private armies has always been an articulated goal of government since the time of people liberation in EDSA in 1986. The call was acutely felt following the Maguindanao Massacre in November 2009. Many thought that the abolition of these private armies would finally come true during the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao and the continuing State of Emergency in the Provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City. Well, the abolition of private armies has turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of the citizens and a big joke!

In a month’s time, PNoy will appoint the new OICs who would steer the development and the reform track in the ARMM. These OICs are given the ‘road map’ to achieve during their 22 months stint as the leaders of the new ARMM.

As the selection process of the OICs has begun, we can only wish the national government ‘good luck’ in the choice of their ‘anointed’ to do the ‘job’. The job is daunting. In fact, it would be close to a miracle! After all, the OICs are not gods and the time frame is so short.

The real task is to make sure that these two tracks would NOT remain parallel and confusing. They ought to converge sometime and somewhere else they become the proverbial ‘pie in the sky’.