(1. The Key Points)
GENERALSANTOSCITY,April27,2012–The “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles” is exactly just that: ten principles to guide the negotiation starting from the 28th Exploratory Talks. How the ten principles will be used as “guides” is still to be seen. This “How” will determine whether the “Principles” will hasten the negotiation unto the signing of a final agreement or continue to hinder its pace.
What compose the “Decision Points on Principles”? What do the panel chairs say in their opening statements and post-signing statements of relevance to the “Decision Points”? By these, we may see what will happen starting from the 28th Exploratory Talks.
Originally, the proposal consisted of eleven “basic issues and concerns” which the Parties formulated during their 23rd exploratory talks in December 2011 and readied for signing as an agreement during their 25th exploratory talks in February 2012. Obviously, this was to bridge the “heaven and earth” difference between the “MILF Draft Comprehensive Agreement 2011” and the Government’s “3 for 1 Formula”.
During the 26th exploratory talks in March 2012, MILF refused to sign the agreement when its panel noted annotations in Government’s copy. Four points had been annotated. In resolving the controversy, first hour during the 27th exploratory talks last Tuesday, Government deleted its annotations on Points 1 and 2; MILF accepted the annotations on Points 7 and 8, this MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal revealed to MindaNews Editor Carolyn O. Arguillas. They came up with the 10-point “Decision Points of Principles”.
As stated in the introductory paragraph of the signed document, the “ten principles” are only to “further guide discussions on the substantive agenda of the negotiations”. And it provides: “This preliminary list does not contain all points so far agreed upon and does not preclude future agreements on other key points.” Government panel chair Marvic Leonen explains this in his post-signing statement. We will discuss this later.
The introductory paragraph admits there are guidelines already followed; the “Decision Points” supplements these guidelines. What could be these guidelines?
First: Decision Point No. 3 states: “The Parties agree to the continuity of negotiations in the context of agreed documents.” This must mean the GRP-MILF agreements signed starting with the February 25, 1997 “Talking Points” under President Ramos to the June 3, 2010 “Declaration of Continuity” under President Arroyo. Iqbal mentioned the major agreements in his opening statement. Leonen in his post-signing statement acknowledged the June 2010 Declaration of Continuity – hence, all the other pertinent past agreements.
Second: Leonen said that the “GPH panel is a creation of Executive Order No. 3, series of 2001” which is the basis of the appointment of the panel members. This also suggests that pertinent provisions of EO No. 3 are among the guidelines of the peace negotiation. Past government panels that signed agreements with MILF were guided by EO No. 3, implying that those past agreements were consistent with the EO.
Third: The Parties’ mandates from their principals – the President and the Constitution, for Government panel; the Chairman and Central Committee, for MILF.
It may be inferred that the Parties, henceforth, will negotiate the final or comprehensive agreement guided by the “Decision Points on Principles” in consonance with past GRP-MILF agreements [Note: “GRP-MILF” is past; “GPH-MILF” is present], EO No.3, and their mandates from their principals. Expect some contentious moments along the way.
The Key Points
The ten key points of the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles follow in full:
- The Parties recognize Bangsamoro identity and the legitimate grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people.
- The Parties agree that the status quo is unacceptable and that the Parties will work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM.
3. The Parties agree to the continuity of negotiations in the context of agreed
4. The Parties agree that the new autonomous political entity shall have a
ministerial form of government.
5. The Parties agree to the need for a transition period and the institution of
transitional mechanisms in order to implement the provisions of the agreement.
6. There will be power-sharing and wealth-sharing between the National
Government and the new political entity. In the matter of power sharing, the
National Government will have its reserved powers, the new political entity
will have its exclusive powers, and there will be concurrent powers shared by
the National Government and the new political entity.
The Parties agree that the following matters are reserved for the competence of the National Government:
a. defense and external security
b. foreign policy
c. common market and global trade (FOOTNOTE: The power to enter into
economic agreements already allowed under R.A. 9054 shall be transferred
to the new political entity.)
d. coinage and monetary policy
e. citizenship and naturalization
f. postal service
This list is without prejudice to other powers, which the Parties may agree to reserve to the National Government in the course of the negotiation.
7. The Parties agree that wealth creation (or revenue generation and sourcing)
is important. The Parties also acknowledge the power of the new political
entity to create its own sources of revenue, subject to limitations as may be
mutually agreed upon by the parties, and to have a just share in the revenues
generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural
8. The Parties recognize the need to strengthen the Shari’ah courts and to
expand their jurisdiction over cases. The new political entity shall also have
competence over the Shariah justice system.
9. The Parties agree to the creation of (third party) monitoring and evaluation
mechanisms, which may utilize competencies already available in existing
mechanisms, e.g. ICG, IMT, CCCH.
10. In addition to basic rights already enjoyed, the following rights of all citizens
residing in the new political entity bind the legislature, executive and judiciary
as directly enforceable law and are guaranteed:
a. Right to life and to inviolability of one’s person and dignity;
b. Right to freedom and expression of religion and beliefs;
c. Right to privacy;
d. Right to freedom of speech;
e. Right to express political opinion and pursue democratically political
f. Right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means;
g. Right of women to meaningful political participation, and protection
from all forms of violence;
h. Right to freely choose one’s place of residence and the inviolability of
i. Right to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in social and
economic activity and public service, regardless of class, creed,
disability, gender or ethnicity;
j. Right to establish cultural and religious associations;
k. Right to freedom from religious, ethnic and sectarian harassment; and
l. Right to redress of grievances and due process of law.
Excepting Key Points 2 and 3, all the eight other key points of the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles are basically in the MILF Draft Comprehensive Agreement 2011 – the latest revision of the reframed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. In their July 29, 2009 Joint Declaration, the Parties agreed to resume negotiation based on the reframed MOA-AD following the Supreme Court Decision. The June 3, 2010 Declaration of Continuity refers to this.
Key Point No. 2 puts to rest the repetitious offering — repeatedly rejected by MILF — since 2003 of “Enhanced ARMM” (now, “Reformed ARMM) as the political settlement of the Moro problem. Yet, it may be asked: What does Key Point No. 2 really mean?
Key Points 1, 4 and 5 may spring contentious issues; whatever controversies will arise from Key Points 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 can easily be resolved.
How will the “Decision Points on Principles” hasten the negotiation of an agreement that — if signed in the first half and implemented in the second half of the Aquino administration then sustained by the succeeding governments — will finally end the Moro problem?
If it will guide the Parties in refining the MILF Draft Comprehensive Compact –since the eight points are basically in the Draft – a final agreement may be signed soon. But, if it will be the basis of an entirely new negotiation seeking the convergence of the MILF Draft and Government’s “3 for 1 Formula”, the signing of a final agreement may take much longer.
What do the chief negotiators say at the opening of the 27th exploratory talks and after the signing of the “Decision Points on Principles”? (To Be Continued)
(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at email@example.com.)