Arroyo’s Policy Shift in Peace Negotiations Will Intensify Conflict in Mindanao

Initiatives for Peace In Mindanao
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Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

Mrs. Arroyo’s policy-shift in her administration’s peace negotiations to ‘disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation’ will spell more disaster than bring about peace especially in Mindanao.

Already, Malacañang has hinted at reneging on its Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front through a policy of ‘review’ and ‘non-renegotiation.’ Now, government reportedly wants to directly relate with communities, side-stepping revolutionary organizations if they refuse to lay down their arms.

Disarmament and demobilization should logically be at the tail end of any negotiated political settlement, after the more substantive agenda such as economic, social, and political rights and welfare are resolved. Mrs. Arroyo wants to shortcut the substantive agenda in its talks with the MILF and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This policy practically shatters the building blocs that were conscientiously built by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and other protagonists in the armed conflict.

At worse, this policy negates confidence-building with parties across the negotiating table which is direly needed at this hour. At worst, it is totally abandoning the framework that political and social justice are prerequisites to peace.

This move, like Arroyo’s reported laptop-throwing fit in Malacanang, shows that she wants swift, militarist solutions. Arroyo is showing contempt against legitimate armed social movements of the MILF and the NDFP that have existed for decades because of poverty, hunger, and repression.

In other words, Arroyo is adopting an ahistorical approach to peace; and for this she would repeatedly fail like previous administrations, which have adopted an all-out war approach to the armed insurgency.

By abandoning the peace process with the MILF and NDFP, Arroyo is laying the ground for localized martial rule in many conflict areas. Arroyo’s plan to “directly talk to communities” instead of revolutionary movements representing constituencies is a mere cover up for “localized peace talks,” an approach that has sought to divide-and-rule communities instead of address the roots of insurgencies.

Arroyo’s localized peace talks dovetails into sinister moves of local governments and landowners to arm civilian populations supposedly to deter armed attacks by Moro rebels. Armed vigilantism is a throwback to the days of Martial Law when landlords and politician-warlords fanned Muslim-Christian conflict to their benefit. We fear that instead of pushing for GRP and MILF accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, arming civilians will lead to the further breakdown of law and order.

Peace advocates insist that the negotiating table, not all out war, is the most viable option to ease tensions on the ground and properly seek justice and indemnification for slain and displaced civilians. The people of Mindanao refuse to be dragged into anarchy and a contrived discord between Muslims and Christians. The people likewise refuse to be dragged into Arroyo’s Cha-Cha dance floor. We say ‘No to All-Out War!’ Posted by (

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