Even though it involved creation of a federal state just for them.
“Peace delayed in southern Philippines,” by Jeoffrey Maitem in Asia Times (thanks to Morgaan Sinclair):
COTABATO, Philippines – Two months after Manila and the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), agreed during mediated talks in Malaysia to a final settlement of their armed dispute, new complications have emerged that threaten to derail the deal.
Government officials and Muslim leaders have expressed optimism that the decades-old rebellion in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, which has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people on both sides of the conflict, would come to a final and peaceful conclusion through a proposed new autonomy deal.
Marking a significant government concession, officials recently said they would consider a constitutional amendment that would allow for the creation of a federal state in Mindanao. The latest proposal was nonetheless rejected out-of-hand by the MILF as a “deceptive offer”, underscoring the group’s lingering concerns about the terms of implementation of any peace agreement.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s mediators and MILF representatives were expected to sign early this year a final peace agreement that has already been drafted. Earlier it seemed that both camps had overcome the sticking point concerning the territorial composition of a proposed MILF autonomous region.
The draft agreement provides for the expansion of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), first created in 1989, to also cover Muslim-dominated villages in central and western Mindanao, encompassing six provinces, two cities and a thousand Muslim-dominated villages. As part of the deal, the new autonomous region would be known as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) and a law would be passed to repeal previous acts that more narrowly defined the ARMM.
Now the talks have hit a snag, as the MILF raises questions about whether the government is negotiating in good faith. The MILF has rejected government negotiators’ inclusion of the phrase “constitutional process” in the proposed draft Memorandum of Agreement as the mode of implementation of the agreement. The government has until now demanded that the BJE be approved by a plebiscite, a proposal that the MILF has rejected.