MIND DA NEWS: Impasse: Basic vs. Expedience

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Dec) – At the root of the “technical impasse” that occurred at the 34th exploratory talks of the peace panels of Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front early this month are the basic concept of “transition” held by MILF and the expedience of establishing Bangsamaro under the presidency of Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III as the solution to the Bangsamoro problem. Which of the two should be considered primary?


Two questions are the key to the option. First, why must an MILF be the chairman of Bangsamoro Transition Authority? Second, why may any Bangsamoro will do? The primacy of one over the other hinges on the purpose of transition as planned by MILF in reference to the establishment of Bangsamoro according to its concept and vision at the heart of How to solve the Bangsamoro problem”, the original talking point MILF proposed in 1997.


All GRP-MILF negotiations from February 25, 1997 to June 3, 2010 under Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revolved around this talking point, essentially the focus of all agreements. All GPH-MILF negotiations under President Aquino III have acknowledged all past agreements implying their recognition of the original talking point as may be gleaned from Key Points 1 and 3 of “Decision”.


The only GPH-MILF substantial agreements, the “Decision Points on Principles” and the “Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro”, essentially reflect – if not textually adopting in their provisions – the “GRP-MILF Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral Domain” in its original or in its 2010 and 2011 reframed versions. This may be clearly seen through a close comparison of the GPH-MILF and GRP-MILF agreements referred to above.


Provisions of the FAB Part VII on “Transition and Implementation” were obviously culled from Articles III, IV and V of “MILF Draft Agreement of 2011” which the MILF submitted to the Government panel in February 2011. Key concepts and terms in the “Draft” have been either modified or adopted in the FAB in the process of negotiation. Parts I to VIII of the FAB consist of the “agreeable” provisions in the “Draft”; Part IX (1) guarantees the joint implementation of the FAB which is (2) an agreement in progress.


Article IV, 4c of the “Draft” states the MILF’s concept of transition: “Transition process will serve the function of entrenching institutions for capacity building and mobilization of human resources during the interim period.” This is vital to the stability of Bangsamoro as the foundation and basic structures are to any building.


The two basic concerns during the transition are “institutions” and “human resources”. Entrenching the first to build the capacity of the second and mobilizing them will take time. The “Draft” sets one year to establish institutions and mechanisms (pre-interim) and six years for their full operation (interim). That MILF has agreed to shorten the transition to three years – the real transition one and a half years at the longest – does not diminish its vital importance and the need for MILF to lead it.


Why must MILF chair the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)? MILF has struggled to reclaim the Bangsamoro ancestral domain and envisioned the government in pursuit of its right to self-determination. Government under President Aquino III has agreed to establish Bangsamoro in fulfillment of the struggle and the vision. Is there any other one better than MILF to lay down the foundation on which to establish Bangsamoro?


To MILF, the establishment of Bangsamoro it has envisioned is a promise to the Moro nation. The fulfillment of that promise is a responsibility. In declaring that leading the BTA is a non-issue, MILF is stating that it does not want to pass on to any non-MILF the responsibility of fulfilling its promise.


However, Government is proposing that any Bangsamoro can be the chair of the BTA under the principle of inclusivity. That will make Bangsamoro more acceptable to non-MILF Moro leaders as well as leaders in the national government especially those in the Congress. That is most expedient for the establishment of Bangsamoro under the Aquino III regime; it will prove that Bangsamoro is not just for MILF, so it will disarm the anti-MILF opposition to the establishment of Bangsamoro.


But MILF, as its top leaders especially Chairman Murad Ebrahim have stated, has recognized the imperativeness of inclusivity. The Transcom and BTA – it has agreed – are composed of MILF and non-MILF Bangsamoro unlike their composition in MILF Draft 2011. The leadership of Bangsamoro after the transition period will be “an open game”; MILF will constitute itself into a political party to contest the leadership in the election of the regular members of the Bangsamoro Assembly.


When the Parties meet for their 35th exploratory talks in January 2013, will Government see the weightier reason in letting MILF chair BTA? MILF wants to fulfill its responsibility to the Moro nation. Despite the difficulty – after agreeing to shorten the transition period for expediency – in entrenching the institutions to build the capacity of the Moro people and mobilize them, MILF still wants to take the lead.


With a non-MILF as BTA chairman, the MILF leaders, in case Bangsamoro fails, can conveniently wash their hands: “Bangsamoro has not been established as we had envisioned.” Yet, MILF still wants to take the responsibility despite the shortness of the transition period. (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)