III. Candid Notes 1 (Premises and Alternatives)
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 September) – In their official and press statements, the three top figures in the Aquino III Government’s peace team – OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Panel Chair Marvic Leonen and Panel Member Miriam Coronel-Ferrer — have repeatedly emphasized that the proposed “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” is “principled, realistic and practical”. While these features must not be belittled we have to candidly take note of their veracity.
In taking candid notes, we should consider these premises inferred from GRP-MILF agreements before Aquino III:
The negotiation is between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to solve the Bangsamoro Problem. “How to Solve” the Problem has been negotiated and set in the interim GRP-MILF agreements.
The focus of the GRP-MILF peace negotiation is the interest of the Bangsamoro people – the redress of the historic injustices and other wrongs against them and fulfillment of their aspirations to be free to live in a progressive society according to Islam under a government set within their right to self-determination.
Government is a continuing institution in segments of administrations (also called interchangeably “governments”) under different presidents. Each succeeding administration or segment of government assumes the legitimate obligations of its predecessor.
The GRP-MILF negotiation is a legitimate obligation of Philippine Government especially that it has been internationalized with Malaysia as the diplomatically invited foreign-government facilitator and the involvement of the International Contact Group as mediator and of the International Monitoring Team as cessation of hostilities enforcer.
The negotiation with MILF must continue according to the commitments of Government not at the sole discretion of the Aquino III administration.
The commitment of Government and MILF to continue the peace negotiation is summed up in the GRP-MILF Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiation signed on June 3, 2010.
Key Conditions of Continuity
In the June 3, 2010 Declaration of Continuity, the last GRP-MILF interim agreement under the Arroyo administration, the “Parties … determined to continue engaging with each other in the GRP-MILF Peace Process until they finally conclude and reach a comprehensive compact.” The Arroyo government committed for the incoming Aquino administration under the principle that government is a continuing institution.
To move the peace process “towards the Comprehensive Compact to bring a negotiated political settlement” GRP and MILF “considered” three key conditions quoted in toto as follows:
[First:] New formulas that permanently respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for just peace, freedom founded on parity of esteem, equal treatment for their identity, ethos, and rights and for the Bangsamoro as a whole to exercise self-governance on the basis of consent in accordance to an agreed framework which shall be negotiated and adopted by the Parties.
[Second:] In good faith, building on prior consensus points achieved, these negotiations and their results will proceed on the basis of consent and courses of action free of any imposition in order to provide the parties definitive commitment to their success for peace settlement.
]Third:] The ultimate goals of the talks is to consider new modalities to end the armed hostilities with responsibility to protect and for human security, in addition to resolve the legitimate grievances and claims for the people of Moro ancestry and origin.
To the MILF, the negotiation with the Aquino III government should continue only by adhering to these conditions.
The Declaration of Continuity imposes key conditions; the Aquino III Government counters with alternatives. The President recognizes the seriousness of the Bangsamoro Problem and the obligation of his government to continue negotiating. But, obviously, he does not like to be totally tied to the Declaration of Continuity and the premises inferred from past agreements. This is clear from his statements and those of peace team.
Considering the inferred premises:
The negotiation is between the Philippine Government and the MILF and the focus is the interest of the Bangsamoro people. However, the peace accord must be acceptable to all; to be so, all stakeholders in the peace process, especially the majority Christians, must be consulted; their fears, concerns and interests relative to the Bangsamoro Problem must be part of the negotiation.
Government is a continuing institution. The Aquino III government, being a segment of the continuity, will assume the legitimate obligations incurred by its predecessors. But were its predecessors’ mistakes – particularly those of the Arroyo government – legitimate? Should these be assumed or rectified? The “3 for 1 Solution” is the Aquino III government’s discreet response.
Considering the key conditions of continuity:
Government will negotiate until a final agreement or comprehensive compact is signed; but the negotiation must be fast-tracked so that the agreement can be implemented by President Aquino III before he steps down on June 30, 2016.
Government understands the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. However, response to these must consider some limits such as constitutionality and rights of non-Moro majority especially the framework of governance still to be “negotiated and adopted”.
The “honestly different” mode of negotiation and the proposed “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” are “new formulas” to fast-track the negotiation adhering to the first key condition of the 2010 Declaration of Continuity.
Viewed from these alternatives, the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” is principled, realistic and practical.
(To Be Continued: A Closer View)