MANILA, FEBRUARY 3, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Emil Jurado - The Social Weather Stations released the results of a recent survey in the Visayas. President Aquino reportedly garnered “very good” acceptance and popularity ratings there. This is now being questioned by Yolanda victims—and for good reason.

First of all, how in the world could Yolanda survivors heap praise on the President when in Tacloban City, they are still retrieving at least three bodies daily? This after more than two months since the super typhoon struck.

Second, even schools and hospitals there still don’t have power.

There’s also an ongoing “People Surge”—Taclobanons are protesting the slow and inadequate government assistance.

Something is terribly wrong when a poll says that despite these conditions, the President continues to enjoy high trust ratings.

Survey companies must tell us what questions they asked, which areas they surveyed, and most importantly, who commissioned the surveys. Only then can we believe what they say.

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There is some apprehension on the attainment of lasting peace and development in Mindanao.

The Philippine government and the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have signed the final annex on normalization, or disarmament on the part of the armed erstwhile secessionist movement.

There are still many miles to go before the final peace agreement is signed.

A Bangsamoro Basic Law still has to be formulated by the transition committee to be submitted to Congress. This will surely take months. There are still many questions unanswered.

If a Bangsamoro Basic Law is enacted by Congress, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Law, also an organic law, the final peace agreement must still have to be submitted to the people affected by it. There would be a plebiscite called for that purpose.

The most difficult part of it is the implementation of what has been agreed upon.

The last annex agreed upon is on the disarmament and total demobilization of some 11,000 fully armed MILF rebels.

Santa Banana, knowing the culture and tradition of the Muslims who have never been colonized, not even by the Spaniards, Americans and the Japanese, the question is:

To whom would they surrender their firearms if indeed they would do so? If not to the government, to the Malaysians, who provided the firearms in the first place?

And what kind of firearms would they surrender since we all know that the MILF are even equipped with heavy firearms?

We know that traditionally, Muslims live by the power of their guns. Without firearms, Muslim clans are often under the thumb of other tribes with superior firepower.

Most Muslims feel that firearms give them power, which translates to money and control of other Muslims. Remember that joke that a Muslim would rather sleep with his gun than his wife?

Then, there is the addendum in the Peace Framework that private armies must be disbanded to enable government to control loose firearms.

My gulay, doesn’t government realize that private armies and loose firearms are a way of life in Muslim-controlled Mindanao? Pray tell, how in the world can government implement this?

Just recall what happened in 1996, when the Tripoli Agreement was enacted and there was some kind of peace between government and the Moro National Liberation Front under Chairman Nur Misuari.

Muslim rebels were integrated into the military and firearms were surrendered. The truth of the matter however is that the more sophisticated firearms of the MNLF were never surrendered. They are being used now.

That is why I say that the government peace negotiators must have been hallucinating to ever imagine that the Muslims will ever be disarmed.

Most importantly, there is so much doubt about the peace agreement because Mindanao is composed mainly of Christians. There are only a little more than four million Muslims out of 11 million in the island called “Promise Land”. The rest are called Lumads composed of different indigenous tribes.

Stakeholders are not just Muslims—they are Christians, Lumads, the breakaway group of the MILF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), the Sultanate of Sulu, to name a few. They were never consulted about the creation of the Bangsamoro juridical entity.

So many groups are feeling left out and abandoned!

And then, there is the question of the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Waters which formed part of the annex on normalization.

Another issue is the participation of Malaysia in brokering the peace agreement with government.

What is in it for Malaysia?

Does this also mean that the government will finally give up the Sultanate of Sulu’s claims to Sabah?

This is a question foremost in the minds of people who have sworn allegiance to the Sultanate of Sulu.

My gulay, would Malaysia broker a peace agreement for nothing? We were not born yesterday! We don’t believe Malaysia is doing this out of the goodness of its heart.

The Muslim issue is complicated; this is why I am not so confident when I see that President Aquino is so upbeat, believing that everything will be resolved before he steps down in 2016.

As a Filipino, I’d like to see peace and development in Mindanao within my lifetime. But as somebody who lived with Muslims for two years— I was editor of the Oblate-published “The Mindanao Cross” provincial newspaper—I share these doubts.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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