Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Veteran peace-process man, a Muslim, a very good choice

At last someone who has been involved in the Mindanao peace process for many years, and a Muslim at that, has been named Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The appointment of former vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Nabil Tan has been praised in all quarters. Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has welcomed Mr. Tan’s appointment—albeit with a few misgivings.

Mr. Tan was officer in charge of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in 2001. And he was working at that office when, during the term of former President Fidel Ramos, the Moro National Liberation Front’s Founding Chairman Nur Misuari and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representative Ambassador Manuel Yan signed the FPA in MalacaƱang on September 2, 1996. The FPA ended decades of on-and-off hostilities and negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF.

The MILF’s qualified welcome of Undersecretary Tan’s appointment can be seen in “Moro Native from Sulu Heads OPPP,” a story published October 12, in the latest issue of Luwaran, the MILF Central Committee’s online publication. It says:

“Undersecretary Atty. Nabil Tan, the younger brother of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, is named by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the new head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process after Secretary Avelino Razon had resigned from the OPAPP on October 12, 2009.

“Nabil Tan who hails from Maimbung, Sulu is a native Tausug and a lawyer by profession. Some Tausugs welcomed Tan’s new position. They even say that his appointment would be of help to the on-going peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao because Tan knows the real situation of the Bangsamoro.

“Tan is the first Tausog from Sulu to head the OPAPP and he has served in the government for some years and mostly involved in the situation in Mindanao particularly in the province of Sulu, his birthplace.

“However, a political officer of the MILF based in Western Mindanao who requested anonymity said that Tan might not be an effective leader of the OPAPP considering that he belongs to a family that has political dynasty in Sulu. Notably, his brother Governor Sakur Tan had refused to acknowledge the presence of the MILF members in Sulu and had never tried to solve the political problem in Sulu emanating from the people’s demand to exercise their right to self-determination.

“But he said, the appointment of Tan might pave the way for the OPAPP to fully understand the real political issue in Mindanao taking into consideration that OPAPP had been created out of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

These caveats are symptomatic of the reality of the political alignments among the Moros. The two major formations of Filipino-Muslims are the MILF and the organization from which it broke away, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The MNLF is not comfortable with Malaysia as a peace broker because Malaysia had once arrested Chairman Nur Misuari and jailed him before turning him over to the Philippine government. Malaysia has taken over the Philippine territory of North Borneo (Sabah), which is important to all Filipinos, especially to the Moros of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Zamboanga and Palawan. Malaysia does not recognize that the Moro Filipinos who are siblings and cousins to many people in Sabah have a right to trade and have dwellings in both their Philippine towns and provinces and in Sabah.

This is why the MNLF leader has asked for the removal of Malaysia as the peace broker in the GRP-MILF talks.

We hope Undersecretary Nabil Tan will be able to resolve this among other problems of the conduct and revival of formal negotiations between the GRP and the MILF.

Implementation of GRP-MNLF FPA

ASIDE from steering forward the peace negotiations between the GRP and the MILF, Peace Adviser Tan must also set right the government’s imperfect implementation of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front. He has reaffirmed the central government’s resolve to see to the FPA’s complete implementation.

How the government and the MNLF leaders are progressing—or sliding back—on the FPA has been subject to a continuing review by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC groups all the
Muslim-majority countries. The Philippines wishes to belong to the OIC as an observer.

OIC’s undersecretary general, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo, in 2007 convened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the first session of the conference among the Philippine government, the MNLF, and the OIC, to review how the FPA has been implemented so far. A second meeting of the three parties was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2008. The most recent one was held in Pasay City in March 2009.

The OIC has a ministerial-level committee, formerly called the Ministerial Committee of Eight and now known as the Peace Committee for Southern Philippines, to monitor the implementation of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement. Its chair country is Indonesia. The committee has reported to the OIC that Phase I of the FPA was fully implemented and that the implementation of Phase 2 is still going on.

We wish Undersecretary Nabil Tan all God’s blessings to succeed in his mission of, in his words, “putting closure” to the work of achieving peace in Mindanao for the common good and harmonious co-existence of its Muslim, Lumad and Christian Filipinos.

We are also mindful of his other assignment—to come to a peace agreement with the communists and their allies in the National Democratic Front. May he also have the grace of God and the aid of the angels in that also difficult task. Editorial Manila Times

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