COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’: Candid Notes 2 (A Closer View)

III. Candid Notes 2 (A Closer View)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 September) — The “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” is the alternative to the Comprehensive Compact. It has three components: massive economic development, political settlement, and cultural-historical acknowledgment [through retelling of history]. It, however, is more an alternative to the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001 – a 3-aspect solution to the Bangsamoro Problem.

Practically, only political settlement remains to be negotiated. Massive development does not need to be negotiated; cultural-historical acknowledgment has long been in progress. Massive economic development in conflict-affected areas was agreed on May 7, 2002 with the signing of the “Implementing Guidelines on the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspects of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001”. It needs serious implementation. Besides, in principle, economic development is a duty of Government. Why negotiate to uplift the economically deprived Moros offering to MILF the same “partnership” role already agreed?

Like economic development for the deprived, correction of errors in history or of cultural disrespect – also in principle – is the duty of Government. In fairness to it, [as said in “Footnote” to “Retelling History” in Part II] since Marcos, errors have been corrected. Why should the Aquino III government now offer it as one major component of its peace proposal to MILF? Why not just continue reviewing and correcting?

 

In the transformational approach as explained by Ferrer, Government is saying this: The Constitution will not be surgically (selectively) amended to make room for the sub-state; however, the demands of the MILF for self-governance that are constitutional (most of them are, they say) will be transformed into provisions of a new Organic Act of ARMM. This will give the Moros autonomy with the MILF as a partner in the Bangsamoro Commission.

 

What Government really wants to do is to surgically revise the MILF sub-state proposal – adopting into the ARMM Organic Act parts deemed constitutional and rejecting those deemed not. Ferrer calls this “principled and pragmatic”. How? It puzzles.

 

In principle, where is Bangsamoro autonomy when MILF [or any other Moro leaders] will only be a partner of Government and stakeholders with Government in control? Is the transformation pragmatic in truth if unacceptable to MILF? Neither will it be realistic if, as it now looms, it will destroy, not build, bridges.

 

More Contentious

 If the Aquino III Government and MILF follow the Declaration of Continuity, the negotiation will focus on the political settlement proposed by MILF. The issues will be on how principled, realistic and practical are the sub-state relation and the modalities necessary to establish the Bangsamoro Sub-State. The differences may be wide but focused on one proposition, they will be satisfactorily reconciled.

If the Aquino III Government insists on following the 3 for 1 Solution, the political settlement will be limited (1) to what the 1987 Constitution and the majority Christian stakeholders will allow; (2) to what the Aquino III government can deliver; and, (3) to the disposition of Congress as well as the Supreme Court.

The negotiation has become more contentious. Reconciling the Comprehensive Compact and the 3 for 1 Solution through the transformational approach explained by Ferrer looks improbable. For the MILF, it will mean swallowing a bitter pill. They will sacrifice the core of the political settlement they are seeking. And worse, they will embrace what they believe to be the roots of the Bangsamoro Problem.

For the Aquino III government, granting the MILF demand for political settlement as provided in the MILF Draft Peace Agreement would be perpetuating the mistake of Government under President Fidel V. Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. After extensive consultations with the majority Christian stakeholders and political leaders, Aquino III and his peace must have been convinced that negotiating with MILF on their demands was a blunder that should be corrected.

Wide differences between two sides of an issue are extreme ends of a bridge from where the disputants can move to meet in the middle. But reconciling two widely different proposals is exploring “heaven and earth” with no bridge in sight – the predicament of the Aquino III government and MILF.

And Leonen is making the predicament more confusing with his riddles. Differences are common to negotiations, he has repeatedly said; instead, let’s talk about agreements, not of differences. Correct! If differences are on two sides of an issue; not differences of two or more propositions.

 

The standing GRP-MILF agreement is to tackle the proposed MILF political settlement. Government now would not do that; it has a different proposal. That’s not talking about agreements but of newly created differences. Riddles dissemble.

 

On a Limb

 

With its 3 for 1 Solution”, the Aquino III government is pushing the MILF on a limb. To the majority, the “Solution” is the answer to the Bangsamoro Problem. Should the MILF refuse the Government’s call to sit down and iron out the differences, the failure of the negotiation will be blamed on the MILF who may find themselves alone on the limb.

 

The MILF Draft Peace Agreement contains the principled solution to the Bangsamoro Problems. Unfortunately, it does not have the significant support of non-MILF Moro political and civil society leaders. This is seen in their support for President Aquino’s drastic program to reform ARMM — one component of the “3 for 1 Solution”.

 

To the Moro masses, what matters most is better life — defined by their privation. They must be pinning their hope on the Bangsamoro sub-state.  But Government now is telling them that that’s only a dream. What can give them better life, they are assured, is the reformed ARMM being pushed hard by President Aquino III. That pushes MILF farther on the limb.

(Next: Part IV: MILF Response)

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