COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’

I. Two Different Types (Continuation)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 September) – To fast-track the negotiation toward a meaningful and lasting agreement, Leonen said the Government and MILF negotiators must do the following: (1) “…clearly articulate the differences of our principals and constituencies;” (2) “…proceed to examine the reality as well as the viability of logical inferences that we make from our versions of reality;” (3) “… discover how things really are and work to find implementable agreements.”

He proposed a new type of negotiation – the “honestly different” approach – to sincerely and honestly address the differences. He described as “posturing” [implying: lacking in sincerity and honesty] the GRP-MILF negotiations under the past three presidents which he categorized as “linear paradigm or positional bargaining”.


True, But …

 Sincerely and honestly addressing disagreements can achieve “a fundamental agreement to bring about a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in our country”. That is true. But are “sincerity” and “honesty” inherent in some types and frameworks of negotiation and inherently not in others?

 To the point: Did the GRP-MILF negotiation in the past 13 years fail to come to a final agreement due to the lack of sincerity and honesty in the Parties? Was this lack due to the “positional bargaining” type of negotiation? Obviously, both are assumed so.

One assumption implied in official statements that presume “the lack of sincerity and honesty” in past negotiations is that it was an error focusing on “political settlement” when “ending the cycle of poverty in ARMM” is the real solution to the Bangsamoro Problem. In fact, it is further suggested, political settlement anchored on Bangsamoro substate would aggravate the Problem.


More to the point: Is the “honestly different” type of negotiation that the Aquino III Government Panel is proposing the formula of sincerity and honesty for a meaningful and lasting agreement?  Leonen’s four-point paragraph above explaining “honestly different” type of negotiation suggests the answer from what most probably will happen under this type of negotiation.


Unfolding Scenario     

 First: Two proposals are on the table. Definitely, one is the MILF’s “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem” which could expand to “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem according to the wishes of the stakeholders and the Constitution”. In another document, the Government’s proposal is the “3 for 1 Solution”.

 Second: The two proposals’ frameworks distinctly differ from each other. That of the MILF – the Comprehensive Compact – reframed the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain establishing the Bangsamoro Substate. That of the Government – the “3 for 1 Solution” – proposes the massive socioeconomic development of ARMM in partnership with the MILF as members of the Bangsamoro Commission together with other Moro and civil society leaders among the three-prong solution.

 Third: The Comprehensive Compact is a closed framework – its proposal stated clearly and the issues contained in the reframed MOA-AD consensuses drafted in a ready-to-be-signed agreement. The Government proposal is a “work in progress” open to cover more “issues” including “the various points that many of our constituencies may currently cherish”.


Fourth: The negotiation will be stuck on the question: Which proposal will be negotiated first? The two proposals are not complementary; they are irreconcilable. For one Party to agree with the other is to fundamentally give up its proposal. This will be seen in another document from OPAPP – “GPH’s ‘3 in 1’ proposal seeks to promote peace, uplift lives”.


Challenge to MILF

Leonen assured the MILF of the comprehensiveness, motivation and intention of the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” – that the “proposal took a lot of views into consideration” and “seeks to trigger conversations about what is critical to our principals and the constituencies that they represent.”

He appealed to the MILF Panel: “We hope that the rationale behind these proposals be addressed in earnest.  Together we should examine their viability and if indeed they are reasonable, find our way to accommodate them.”

He had no illusions “that our patience will be tested as we go through each other’s proposals. In anticipation of MILF’s objections, he was forthright, “Perhaps, even in this meeting, when we propose to talk about the procedure on how to proceed to craft a settlement, we can find that we will be at some cross purposes.”  Indeed, rejection of the MILF was immediate.

Presumably to dispel skepticism and cynicism and at the same time win the support of the stakeholders, he qualified the sincerity and honesty of President Aquino III and his Government in negotiating with the MILF.

 First: We consider that “patience and the openness to consider each other’s point of view may be the bedrock of building a true consensus.”

 Second: “We never promised that our negotiations [would] be easy or simple; we do however guarantee that it is sincere and earnest.”

 Third:  “We intend these negotiations to be fast tracked, but never at the expense of being truly analytical.”


 No one should belittle the principal features – principled, realistic and practical – of the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”. However, Leonen should have just explained the merits of the “honestly different” type of negotiation without deprecating the past GRP-MILF mode of negotiation as “posturing”. While that must have hurt the MILF sensibilities, the remarks were unnecessary.

That “posturing encourages the parties to entrench their position is true and is expected in that type of negotiation he called “linear paradigm or positional bargaining”. However, his other objections sounded rash and fallacy laden

“This type of negotiations” was used through centuries to settle disputes of nations – the type used to free colonies after World War II under the auspices of the United Nations. Were the pacts between the colonizers and the colonies mere results of “force or power” devoid of “rationality”? Did freedom of decolonized nations not “last”? Was decolonization “disastrous”?

What must be admitted is: The “honestly different” approach has been tailored to suit the “3 for 1” Solution proposal and policies of the Aquino III Government. This will fast track the peace negotiation if the MILF would accept the approach and the proposal. At the moment, the Government gambit has been rejected.


Old and New


Back to his first love, journalism, from the cabinet of two past presidents, Jesus G. Dureza, the first chief GRP negotiator under President Arroyo, compared the old type of negotiation and the new “honestly different” in his column Advocacy Mindanow posted in MindaNews, August 29, 2011.


Of the “old” – looking from experience – he saw some merits: “My old fashioned belief was that peace negotiation is a tedious process in itself that allows sufficient time, irrespective of how long a time it will take, to build confidence, heal wounds, redress grievances and build or strengthen relationships and institutions and slowly evolve a mutually acceptable sharing of paradigms and arrangements bringing about the eventual consolidation of all stakeholders, if not all, then the critical mass.”


Of the “new”, he observed: “Now it seems we do not have the luxury of time. Everyone seems to be impatient and cannot wait any longer. We all know that quick results or “quickies” necessarily bring about issues of sustainability and endurance.”


Referring to the “honestly different” approach – seen from his own immersion in the Moro Problem and the peace process – he noted some flaws: “The process in itself has shifted to a new paradigm. Then there is the temptation and tendency of trivializing or simplistically viewing the long-unresolved issues that had impelled people to take up arms that cost countless lives and sufferings not only of those directly involved in the conflict but by the whole body politic. Alas, this is where we are today.”


The Predicament

In expostulating, “Alas, this is where we are today”, Dureza sees a predicament. This is significant – coming from someone who had spent much of his time and energies in the Arroyo cabinet in pursuing the peace process in different roles. Ironically, the same forces that aborted the MOA-AD now supporting the GPH “3 for 1”Proposal can derail the new quest for peace.

The ball is not in the MILF’s court, contrary to Leonen’s conviction. If he does not see it in his court, he is in for trouble. The MILF Panel has flatly rejected the GPH “3 for 1” Proposal. Should the Central Committee finalize the rejection, President Aquino III and his peace team have to move mountains if not “heaven and earth” to override the MILF rejection. Rallying the MOA-AD opponents and the majority stakeholders behind the Proposal will only worsen the predicament.

What can ease the predicament is the Proposal if the MILF accepts it as the “principled, realistic and practical” substitute to the Comprehensive Compact. What in the Proposal might convince the MILF?

(Next: II. GPH “3 for 1” Solution)

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently 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