GPH panel submits “3 for one solution” proposal to MILF peace panel

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/22 August) – “Three for one.”

That ‘s how government peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen described the government’s peace proposal submitted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) this morning at the Executive Boardroom of the Royale Chulan Hotel.

In response to the MILF peace panel’s February proposal for a Bangsamoro sub-state, Leonen told MindaNews the government’s proposal involves three major components: socio-economic;  a “more empowered, more workable, and thus, more genuine autonomy of a Bangsamoro region;” and acknowledgement of Mindanao history that would include retelling the history of the Bangsamoro struggle.

The submission of government’s peace proposal comes 18 days after President Benigno Simeon Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met in Japan and talked for two hours on how to fast-track the peace process.

The two leaders agreed to move the negotiations forward to ensure that whatever agreement is forged can be implemented  within the Aquino administration whose term ends on June 30, 2016.

The government is currently instituting reforms in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to make it responsive to the needs of the constituents. The present five-province two-city ARMM constitutes the core area of the proposed Bangsamoro sub-state.

The MILF proposal provides for an “asymmetrical state-substate relationship, wherein powers of the central government and state government are clearly stated, aside from those powers they jointly exercise.”

It is not a proposal for independence, Leonen has repeatedly said.

The government’s proposal “is based on a more balanced understanding of whether (the ARMM’s) failure was due to its structure and the systems that it spawned or the quality of the past national or regional leadership,” a two-page summary of the proposal said.

It noted that “the form of government that should be entrenched should be able to deliver good and effective governance, social services and foster economic development within the soonest possible time.”

Among the key words of the proposal are: “comprehensive, just and lasting peace;” “founded on partnership;” “politically comprehensive;” “works with what is available and doable within the next few years;” recognizes the identity of the Bangsamoro and its history.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal declined to comment on the government’s proposal during a break at around noon in the opening session. But he smiled and greeted those who were waiting at the foyer.

Before the formal opening,  Iqbal and senior member Datu Michael Mastura followed by  government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen and  Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and the Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, came out of an hour-long executive session at the nearby Sri Bendahara room,  unsmiling.

The executive session started at 9:12 a.m. and ended at 10:12 a.m.

Monday’s formal opening of  the third panel-to-panel meeting under the Aquino administration, was, like previous sessions, held behind closed doors. The opening session started at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 1:40 p.m. In the spirit of Ramadan, the talks scheduled August 22 to 24,  are only half-day sessions, Leonen said.

No copies of the government proposal were made available but Leonen released a two-page briefer on the “11characteristics of the government proposal.”

No copies of the MILF proposal were also made available when the MILF submitted it in February but Iqbal released a two-page “general features of the MILF comprehensive compact draft” containing 11 points.

The GPH peace panel’s 11 points:

1. This proposal contains a formula to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in our country. It presents a practical and bold approach to create the conditions for meaningful and effective governance through a sustainable partnership that will bring in the needed social services and projects that provide the springboards for sustainable economic development. Unlike past administrations, this government is poised to use its massive resources and its theme of good governance for this undertaking.

2.  This proposal is founded on partnership.  It has the potential to create mutual trust amongst peoples of our country, heal the wounds of conflict, mobilize and capacitate Bangsamoro leaders and therefore increase understanding among all Filipinos of every ascribed identity.  It is a partnership that will therefore set the stage for more enlightened political discussion amongst all parties.  This discussion, in turn, will effectively point the way to the realization legal reforms that may be truly necessary.

3.  This proposal is politically comprehensive. It contains ideas for reforming the relationship between national and regional government.  But, it also meets the challenge of finding viable mechanisms that increase the possibility for finding convergence of programs among all those who claim to represent the Bangsamoro, Christian settlers and indigenous peoples within the conflict affected areas. The reform of political relations takes into account the realities of socio-economic underdevelopment, demographic shifts and diversity across communities.

4.  The proposal works with what is available and doable within the next few years. It does not start with contentious and divisive issues whose resolution may not be realizable as yet.     The proposal thus realistically meets the urgent and present needs of many communities who were the victims of colonial oppression, postcolonial neglect, misguided leaders and past abuses of some national leaders while preparing for the viability of longer term and mutually agreed upon solutions to the Bangsamoro problem.

5.   The proposal works on the premise that the form of government that should be entrenched should be able to deliver good and effective governance, social services and foster economic development within the soonest possible time.

6.  This proposal shows government’s awareness of the extent of the legal and political powers of the President.  However, it is also a political document that is intended to cause public discussion that can support future debates, when it becomes necessary, in other constitutional forums such as the legislature and the courts.

7.  The proposal recognizes the identity of the Bangsamoro and its history. This proposal takes this history into consideration but avoids simplification of the solutions for a complex and myriad problem.  The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may have been a failed experiment in the past; but the current proposal is based on a more balanced understanding of whether its past failure was due to its structure and the systems that it spawned or the quality of the past national or regional leadership. This proposal presents the possibility of a more empowered, more workable, and thus, more genuine autonomy of a Bangsamoro region.

8.  This proposal continues a discussion on how revenue and the use of resources could ensure enhance autonomy.  However, it also introduces the idea that ecological and cultural diaspora as a result of unbridled exploitation of resources have effects far beyond political boundaries.  The proposal therefore includes a system of cooperation between the national and regional government to ensure sustainable futures.

9.  This proposal starts a discussion on the process of normalization.  This includes weapons disposal, disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of combatants.  It also includes processes to achieve restorative justice.

10.  This proposal is founded on the belief that legal reforms do not by themselves bring about social change.  Rather, this proposal proceeds from the fundamental faith that no legal reform can take root without genuine public consensus.

11.  This proposal seeks to correct our historical narratives so that it truly acknowledges the struggles of all Filipinos including those with ascribed Bangsamoro identity.  It believes that the various struggles of each group of people within our State contribute to the latter’s strength. The proposal seeks to entrench the retelling of our true historical narratives across all generations through existing mechanisms within the powers of government.

The 11-point “general features” of the MILF proposal provides, among others, for “an asymmetrical state-substate relationships, wherein powers of the central government and state government are clearly stated, aside from those powers they jointly exercise” and “gives modest recognition to the Moro aspiration for separate national identity, as Bangsamoro, while retaining their Filipino citizenship.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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