People have been asking how many Muslim Filipinos are there in the Philippines. Well, Filipino Muslims compose 5 percent of the total population in the Philippines. In Mindanao, they comprise around 20.4 percent (according to the 2000 Census).
Now back to Arroyo's Mindanao deal.
The government panel negotiating the peace deal with the MILF says there's no peace pact signed yet, even though documents on a signed peace agreement already exists, according to the Tribune.
Despite the existence of documents that show a signed agreement on a consensus reached between the Arroyo government and the secessionist Islamic group on the ancestral domain issue which grants the BangsaMoro Juridical Entity virtual status of an independent state, government peace negotiator Silvestre Afable yesterday debunked reports that the Arroyo administration has ceded part of Mindanao to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as part of the peace agreement that will be signed with the rebels next year.
Afable stressed that the government has not given the MILF negotiators a political commitment on the issue of ancestral domain although an agreement between the government and the secessionist group was reached at the technical level in Malaysia last month.
“I do not wish to dignify all these charges that have been leveled by certain groups in Mindanao that we are trying to sell out the region in this negotiation,” Afable told a press conference after a closed-door briefing conducted for the diplomatic corps on the status of the peace process.
“We have not signed at the panel level or plenary level any agreement that would show a political settlement with the MILF,” he added.
Afable explained that technical agreements “do not reflect any political commit-ment of the government.”
But earlier, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita admitted that that the reports were accurate, even saying that anyway, the country is going into federalism.
The so-called technical agreements, however, clearly state that on the issue of ancestral domain, as discussed in the meetings, have not been objected to by either party and clarifications of certain terms and conditions have been threshed out.
The final agreement will have to be based on the technical agreements and minutes reached by the two parties.
If the Eduardo Ermita link is now dead, here's the relevant parts of what he said in the article:
Malacañang yesterday admitted there indeed are terms in an agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that would give the Muslim separatist group territories where they could impose taxes and create military and police forces.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita's admission confirmed a Tribune report published also yesterday that President Arroyo has unilaterally decided to carve out the country's southern Mindanao region, the lair of the MILF and other Muslim secessionist groups, with areas partitioned as ancestral lands and homelands to be independently governed by the MILF, under the term “BangsaMoro People.”
But Ermita, during a phone patch interview, insisted that the agreement is still a draft that has to be firmed up by December or after the Muslims end their holy weeks of Ramadan by November....
He allayed fears that the MILF is carving out their own territory in Mindanao.
“Well, it (partitioning) can very well (be) like an expanded autonomous region for the MILF, especially since we're pushing the amendment of our Constitution, (which) could be expanded, (with the expanded region) becoming some sort of a federal state, that's where we're heading once we amend the 1987 Constitution,” Ermita said.
Ermita claimed the reaction of the international community to the slicing of Mindanao was positive, citing the response of US Ambassador Henry Crampton, US overall coordinator for counter terrorism.
“In fact, the other day (Crampton was) in Malacañang... (and said) they are satisfied (with) how we address the anti- terrorism campaign we're pushing. In fact, he kept on asking me what the US could give in terms of assistance in our fight against international terrorism. He understood that our military and the police have to get some assistance wherewithal to improve our capacity,” the Executive Secretary said.
Well, who isn't for a "peace deal" anyway? But is this really a well thought out "peace deal" that is fair to both sides or more of a rush job?
Ermita defend Mrs. Arroyo, saying to judge her and her government as being treasonous over the agreemment with the MILF is unfair.
“Well, it's very hard to say (if the President could be held for treason), it's still on the table for discussion, it would be finalized come December,” Ermita said.
Which got Bob Martin, an American living in Mindanao, reacting:
So, Arroyo’s own employee is saying that she cannot YET be accused of treason because it’s only a draft? In other words, he is saying that if it goes beyond a draft, it is a treasonous act? That is how I would read the statement.
Heh. Try reading the comments below too from disappointed supporters of Mrs. Arroyo.
Here's are samples:
From Marcus Aurelius:
Bad move on GMA’s part if true. One of the tihings that gives her some definite clout are the threats coming out of MIndanao to secede if GMA is ousted, and here she is giving Mindanao away. Her supporters in power down there now have little or no incentive to support her.
From Bob Martin:
You are right on the mark. Not only do her Mindanao supporters have little incentive to continue supporting her, GMA has now put in an incentive to proceed full speed ahead with plans to secede from the Philippines. With Mindanao being about 80% Christian, not many people here will relish the idea of living in a Muslim theocracy, that I am sure of.
From Marcus Aurelius:
You think this is disinformation being pushed by the PGMA opposition to neutralize her support in Mindanao and the Bisayas?
By support I mean political, it sounds like the people are every bit as PO’ed at her down in the Bisayas & Mindanao as they are in Luzon.
LMAO!!! He thinks the deal is so bad that it must have been cooked up by the opposition just to hurt the fake president. LOL!!! More on Marcus Aurelius' "opposition plot" theory here and here.
Bob also said that this peace deal will lead to war in Mindanao, if all the reports about it are accurate. And that's coming from a guy who I believe is pro-Arroyo, based on the writings in his blog. (So I don't know why is he so afraid all of a sudden about this news. Only anti-Arroyo critics will be targetted here, Bob. ;))
And from what I have read and what I can sense, most of the people who are familiar with Mindanao and are not affiliated with the MILF have a negative opinion on the so-called peace deal, whether they are pro-administration or pro-opposition.
Is it a really good deal, or "peace at all cost" like what Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat said? "Peace at all Cost"? Hmmm... that's harsh. It's like Mayor Lobregat is saying na GMA has chosen "appeasement" ala Neville Chamberlain.
Former Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Parouk Hussin, a ranking member of the MNLF, thinks the Arroyo administration is playing a "dirty game."
COTABATO CITY -- Former ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin, who is a ranking official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said on Saturday the Arroyo administration had insulted and effectively dumped the group as an ally when the government entered into an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) allowing the latter to draft the charter of an expanded Muslim region in the southern Philippines.
Hussin, also the MNLF foreign minister, told the Inquirer by phone that the government did not consult the group before it entered into the agreement with the MILF.
Hussin said the agreement was also an insult to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which had brokered the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.
"It's a dirty game. I don't know how they can play with the Bangsamoro people," Hussin said.
Wow. Tough words from an MNLF official. Will this cause the MNLF take up arms again? Let's hope not.
I myself am still undecided about Arroyo's Mindanao deal, but that's only because I don't live in Mindanao. I and most Filipinos from Luzon will be least affected by this deal.
Wretchard of the Belmont Club comments on Marcus Aurelius question:
I have no independent confirmation that this is true. But it wouldn't surprise me if Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had cut a deal like that for political advantage. People whose judgment I trust say that her support is at rock bottom. Whether or not there is a better alternative to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo available she may fall notwithstanding. You will also recall she has been making noises about federalism and raised the specter of secession should she be ousted. And there are rumors she is building a private army to survive in a post-cataclysmic Philippines. So while I don't know anything for a fact there's nothing I'd discount.
More: RP, Muslim rebels to split revenues on ancestral lands
UPDATE: A determined 20 percent Sunni population in Iraq...
I was reading Krauthammer today and noticed this part:
The insurgency in Iraq is not proof of an escape-from-freedom human nature that has little use for liberty and prefers other things. The insurgency is, on the contrary, evidence of a determined (Sunni) minority desperate to maintain not only its own freedom but its previous dominion over the other 80 percent of the population now struggling for theirs.
A determined 20 percent Sunni minority in Iraq wants dominion over Shiites and Kurds, which comprise a combined 80 percent of Iraq's population?
Parang familiar ito ah.
While I think the Sunni Baathist minority in Iraq are unrealistic about their goals, looks like magiging reality naman ito para sa MILF, which will lead to a 20 percent Muslim minority controlling most of Mindanao.
UPDATE: I've heard the Mindanao situation being compared to East Timor, where the East Timorese chose independence over autonomy.
But the difference between Mindanao and East Timor though is that 90 percent of East Timor's population is Roman Catholic, and only 5% are Muslims. Halos magkabaliktad naman ang situation sa Mindanao.
Aug. 30 1999 – A massive 98.6 percent of registered voters turn out to cast their ballot. Voters are asked to chose between Jakarta's offer of autonomy within Indonesia, or full independence – 78.5 percent chose independence.
In the wake of the vote, the anger of pro-Jakarta militias and their supporters in the Indonesian military explodes in a bloody rampage.
Tens of thousands of East Timorese are forced to flee their homes; entire villages are burned to the ground, much of the territory's infrastructure is destroyed and unknown numbers are killed.
As worldwide outrage grows Indonesia's President Habibie is forced to allow an Australian-led international intervention force to move in and bring a halt to the violence.
If Mindanao decided to have a referendum today, I doubt the majority of non-Muslim Mindanaoans would like to put themselves under MILF rule.
UPDATE: Bob Martin comments,
Just to let you know, I have slightly modified my position on the whole peace deal. A friend and I were talking the other day (he is also a foreigner living here in the RP). Basically, after we talked the issue out, the conclusion that each of us reached was - "how much worse could it get than it is now?" I mean, the political climate in the Philippines is terrible right now. Not much is getting done here because everybody is politicing. Would life under the MILF be worse? Maybe not. I am willing to see how it is. I think it is a bad deal for the Philippines, but maybe it wouldn't have much affect on my daily life. Let's see!
-- Wikipedia on East Timor.
-- Timeline on East Timor's long path to nationhood.
-- Q&A on East Timor
-- Goodbye Mindanao?