COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’ (II: ‘3 for 1’ Solution – Continuation 2)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – Ferrer premised her commentary on the following to corroborate Leonen’s presentation of the Government’s “3 for 1” Solution:

First: The initial reactions to the proposal: To the “3 for 1” Solution, she sees two reactions — “relief” on the part of those who fear the “unknown entity” called “sub-state” and “feeling of inadequacy” on the part of those wanting “bolder measures”. She must have seen but did not say that to the MILF, the reaction is “feeling of disgust, frustration and, worse, betrayal”

 

Second: The “3 for 1” Solution is realistic and pragmatic: The Government proposal is “firmly grounded” on prevailing realities:

 

(1) “the reality of present-day Mindanao as made up of diverse and complex sociocultural, political and even armed groups, all claiming their rightful share to the land;”

 

(2) “the system of separation of powers among governmental branches, which even tremendous political capital and a firm political will cannot bypass;”

 

(3) “what are achievable within the time frame of this administration given the realities;” and,

 

(4) “sad to say, the dominance of an unsympathetic majority thinking on the minority population’s claims.”

 

[To interpose: The four realities and their complexities cannot be ignored. The real poser is in the assessment of the complexities and how to unravel them. To the MNLF, these realities created the Bangsamoro Problem or blocked its solution; to the Government, the MILF must bear with these realities and reconcile them with the Problem. Hence, the change of scenario: The Government is now negotiating to solve the problems of the stakeholders concerning the Bangsamoro Problem.]

 

After stating the above, Ferrer avowed: “At the same time, the GPH’s “3-for-1” proposal does address the key issues that have driven the Bangsamoro cause in the last 100-plus years. It is not reneging on the President’s commitment—reiterated in his meeting with MILF chief Ebrahim Murad—to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

 

There are two vital claims in this avowal: first: the “3 for 1” Solution addresses the key issues of the Bangsamoro cause; second: it fulfills the President’s commitment which he reiterated to Murad.

 If So, Why …

 

Why then does MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal say that the Government’s “3 for 1” Solution and the MILF Comprehensive Compact are “heaven and earth” apart? The answers lie in the veracity of the vital claims.

 

Two questions are in order:

 

  1. Are the “key issues” contemplated by the Aquino III Government the same as those agreed by the MILF and past Philippine government peace panels?

 

  1. What commitment did the President “reiterate” to Murad in their Tokyo Meeting?

 

On the First Question

 Ferrer reiterated the “key issues” as already presented by Leonen: massive economic development, political settlement, and retelling of history. These are the components of the “3 for 1” Solution.

Are these the “key issues” of the Bangsamoro cause? The “Bangsamoro cause” should be distinguished from the litany of complaints about the injustices to and deprivation of the Moros which the Philippine Government since President Manuel L. Quezon’s rule has ignored. From the “litany of complaints” emerged the “cause”.

The key issues of the Bangsamoro cause when resolved would empower the Bangsamoro people within their rights to self-determination to remedy these injustices and deprivation through a government of their choice. These key issues the MILF and past government peace panels had agreed to be the negotiation agenda. Since government is a continuing institution, the government of President Aquino III – as the segment of that continuity — must negotiate on the same key issues.

What key issues had been agreed as shown in past GRP-MILF negotiations?

  • On February 27, 1997, the MILF enumerated nine issues and concerns to flesh out the single talking point: “How to solve the Bangsamoro problem”. The “retelling of history” is not among the nine.
  • On August 27, 1998, the GRP and MILF panels signed the “General Framework of Agreement of Intent” stating in five articles the commitment of both parties “to pursue negotiations on the substantive issues”. No detailed issues were set out.
  • On March 24, 2001, to revive the talks after the all-out war in 2000, the GRP and MILF signed the “Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks”. Ending the “armed hostilities” and achieving “a negotiated political settlement” were the primary objectives – adding “that the resumption of the peace negotiation should go hand in hand with relief, rehabilitation and development efforts …” These were the key issues in general terms.
  • On June 22, 2001, the GRP and MILF signed the Tripoli Agreement on Peace specifying three key issues: (A) Security Aspect; (B) Rehabilitation Aspect; and (C) Ancestral Domain Aspect.

As the core aspect of the negotiation, the Ancestral Domain was divided during subsequent negotiations into four strands: Concepts and Principles, Territory, Resources and Governance. By negotiating with the MILF, the past Philippine Government accepted these four strands as the remaining key issues to be finally resolved in the Comprehensive Compact. The Aquino III Government as shown in their proposals is now evading the key issues.

The Security Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001was resolved with the signing of the “Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace” on August 7, 2001 and of the “Joint Communique on AHJAG” on May 6, 2002. The “Rehabilitation Aspect” was resolved with the signing of the “Implementing Guidelines on the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace” on May 7, 2002 – basically the older twin of “massive development” in the “3 for 1” Solution.

The Ancestral Domain Aspect is the political settlement the past Philippine Government and the MILF had agreed to negotiate culminating in the Comprehensive Compact. In this the Bangsamoro people determine their own government. This is not so in what the Aquino III Government is offering a “partnership” that Manila controls.

 

Transformative Approach

 Ferrer summed up the “3 for 1” Solution: “In all, the GPH panel is saying that most of the demands of the MILF for self-governance can be accommodated within the present Constitution. By passing a new Organic Act, a more functional, representative and participatory governance institution with many of the features envisioned by the MILF can be incorporated. Coupled with the socioeconomic component, the means and conditions to become truly autonomous are enhanced.

 “The GPH offer is, therefore, principled and pragmatic. It is transformative rather than “surgical.” While it understands the vision behind the MILF’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that will allow the creation of a Bangsamoro substate whereby they themselves will craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the GPH is saying that this option is not viable at this time.”

 “Still, the GPH offer is another way to get closer to that ‘heaven’ in the Bangsamoro’s dream.”

This is the “transformative approach”. It’s entirely a new approach from scratch to solve the Bangsamoro Problem if closely compared to the course of the peace process the past GRP and the MILF had agreed to follow. To the MILF the difference is “heaven and earth”. While the MILF wants the Bangsamoro people to be in heaven” the Aquino III Government would only allow them “to get closer to heaven”.


On the Second Question

 

We hope the President can reveal in an official statement or at a press interview what in details he exactly told Murad in their Tokyo Meeting. Only by that can it be objectively ascertained what commitment he is fulfilling with the “3 for 1” Solution. We are only being told by Leonen and company that it is the Bangsamoro Problem.

On his part, Murad revealed details which indicated that he briefed the President about the real issues of the Problem and how the negotiation must proceed as agreed with the Government in the past. Obviously, the President had no full grasp of the Problem.

 

The President has promised to solve the Bangsamoro Problem during his term. With the “3 for 1” Solution as the fulfillment of that promise – in Ferrer’s own words, “to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Mindanao” – the President is solving a problem that he calls “Bangsamoro Problem” but which is not the real Bangsamoro Problem. The “armed conflict” is the consequence of the real Problem.

 

Regrettable Reality

 From 1997 to 2010, the Philippine Government under three presidents had not signed a final peace agreement with the MILF. However, the peace process was at its crucial phase – the negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact to wrap up the Problem – when President Aquino III took over on June 30, 2010. That reality challenged him.

President Aquino III accepted the challenge with the promise to solve the Problem within his term ending on June 30, 2016. He and his peace team studied for a year the past negotiation papers and the prevailing realities in the area subject to negotiation. In their assessment, if they continue from where the Arroyo GRP and MILF left off they would not be able to solve the Problem before June 30, 2016. So, they modified the Problem.

They hatched the “honestly different” type of negotiation and the “3 for 1” solution to suit the modified Problem in order to fulfill President’s commitment. If you can’t solve the problem change it – so goes the joke about difficult examination questions. They are asking the MILF to give up their version of autonomy in exchange for partnership.

Unfortunately, the MILF has resolved to stay on course as agreed with the Arroyo Government. The Aquino III Government is now facing a stone wall – the regrettable reality of its own making. Will it bulldoze the wall if the MILF will not voluntarily demolish it?

 (Next: Part III: Candid Notes)

 (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” He was conferred the 1st Agong Awards for Journalism by the Mindanao Media Forum early November this year. You may e-mail your comments to [email protected])

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