PEACETALK: Perspectives from the BangsaMoro CSOs: “Talk to each other rather than talk about each other”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 September) — An 8-yr old daughter asked her father (chief of the GPH nego panel), “ Papa, why don’t you just give them the government that they want?”


  1. They are asking for more than what we can give;
  2. They are asking for something they cannot manage;
  3. They are asking for something where others have rightful claim;
  4. They are asking for something that are not do-able and implementable in our term;
  5. They are asking for something that is not any better than that we offer;
  6. They are asking for coffee when tea is healthier;


“But Papa, who determines what is better and healthier for them? “We know better,” the father said. “But why do you insist tea when they like coffee?” insisted the daughter.  “Have you tried their coffee? What if they couldn’t live with tea?  Can’t you drink your tea and let them drink their coffee?”


This is how I felt with what happened in the latest exploratory talks that led the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace panel to reject the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) proposal.


We in the BM-CSOs were also among those who were entertaining high hopes that the peace talks will finally conclude a political agreement in a year’s time.


Both the GPH and the MILF were saying that agreement may be signed within one year.
A few days before the resumption of the exploratory talks between the GPH and the MILF, a survey conducted showed that 8 out of 10 people were hopeful for a successful peace talks. The expectation was even higher when PNoy (President Aquino) and Murad (MILF chair) met in Tokyo, Japan.


Now the mood has changed after what happened in the last exploratory talks. While it is said that the gap between the two  proposals is like heaven and earth, those on earth always pray that they will go to heaven. And those who are in heaven are ready to welcome those from earth. The distance is still short. Walking will not bridge the gap, but talking will. I think that is the reason for this conference. We can provide the bridge.
It is not yet a case of heaven and hell or east and west. Few people say it is a case of LQ?


Our Expectations
We in the BM-CSOs (Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations) were among those who have  high expectation that a final agreement will be signed under this administration. In fact we started to make a peace countdown for 365 days. But we were frustrated though not exactly hopeless, for what transpired in the latest talks. We expected the GPH to look into the proposal of the MILF the conventional way and make comments point by point and tell politely their counterpart that this one is acceptable, this we share, this one needs revision, etc. etc. In fact, the GPH can also say, but if you want, we have here a proposal that you can look at and find out if we can reach a convergence. Then series of review time can be called for purposes of reconciling positions until an agreement is reached.  This was our expectation.


Our Belief


We are convinced that the sub-state proposal of the MILF constitutes the highest expression of their right to exercise self-determination without jeopardizing the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines as well as those with vested interests. It also enjoins democratic processes where plebiscites are held in some areas. It is a perfect balance of respecting people’s RSD and the protection and preservation of the state’s sovereignty.  And the purpose of the peace talks is to look into its possibilities in consideration of the constitution and find common grounds for convergence.


To set it aside without seriously scrutinizing it   and offer something, even if it is honestly different, is not the right way. We understand what the government wants, and that is asking the MILF, the BM to listen to what it is saying. Because who knows, the government may even offer better and that “we are trekking the same destiny.”  It can also be that meaningful autonomy is the other name for sub-state”? But we can also reverse the situation. The government to listen to the MILF, the BM, because they may also have better stories to learn from.


Maybe we can transform the concept of honestly different into sincerely accommodating and the
3 for 1 into the holy trinity of cooperation, collaboration and coordination


We still have to understand whether honestly different or the 3 for 1 proposal ( since we don’t have a copy of it)  is better than the sub-state or that what is practical, do-able and implementable also means satisfactory to the Bangsamoro.


Our Observations


Our understanding of the GPH proposal is backtracking rather than fast tracking. This is because rather than  use the consensus points earlier initialed, a renewed consensus has to be discussed, since neither the proposal of the MILF nor the GPH serves as a working draft.


Rather than do away with the Constitution, why not tinker with it and find a way to accommodate the agreement?. The Constitution does not make sense if it does not promote peace.


Considering the limitations of the ARMM, it can only do so much and enhancing it may even take longer than working with the Constitution now to accommodate a political agreement. The most that the ARMM can offer is a political capability and a confidence-building measure.


Improving the standard of living and promoting peace and security in the region can best achieved if the BM has achieved a clearly defined  political entity that serves as  their source of political authority. A joint effort by the national government and the BM will make things a lot easier.


We in the BM-CSOs firmly believe that a political agreement that is acceptable and satisfactory will usher in a new relationship between the Filipinos and the BM that will ultimately  give birth to national unity and reconciliation. This is what our country needs.


Our Role


The BM-CSOs have been very active in helping the peace talks between the government and the MILF in various ways. We had in the past and up to now joined any OPPAP-sponsored for fora and consultations.  During the past administration we and other networks, helped the government convinced the MILF to declare SOMA as a condition for the resumption of the talks.


We help provide political environment that is conducive to the peace talks by building the optimism of the BM masses towards peace and giving chance to the peace talks. We help monitor  the implementation of the ceasefire, promote the culture of peace  and we continue to build peace constituencies on the ground.


Our groups are involved in the civil protection component of the IMT (International Monitoring Team). We help in relief and rehabilitation work and engaged in socio-economic development work which is supposed to  be a government functionaries.


We are mentioning all these things because we could have used our resources and efforts in development work rather than managing conflict. That is why we are very jealous of seeing a final agreement in Mindanao.


Our Challenges


  1. The GPH and MILF to  resume talks. Talk to each other rather than talk about each other; leave your prejudices and stereotypes behind and work as a team rather than  as opponents in a problem-solving manner;
  2. Hammer out a political agreement that can usher in new relationship towards national unity and reconciliation;
  3. For the unlike-minded to give peace an opportunity to move, rather than entertain your fears and spread unfounded speculations;
  4. For peace advocates to continue to build optimism and reach out others to build peace constituencies;
  5.  That this group can come up with concrete recommendations that can fill in the gaps and hasten political convergence.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and executive director of Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in Mindanao. Mr. Alim presented this at the 2nd National Solidarity Conference on Mindanao on September 8 in Davao City).