COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’ : IV. MILF’s Response

IV. MILF’s Response

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 Sept) – As the North Star was to ancient sailors, so “Continuity” is to MILF in their negotiation with the Philippine Government. “Follow the North Star or you get lost” was the first commandment of ancient sailors. Following the Declaration of Continuity is the only way to go forward is MILF’s unbending position.

GRP and MILF signed the Declaration of Continuity on June 3, 2010 not only to remind the incoming Aquino III administration to resume the peace negotiation from where it stopped under the Arroyo government but more to seal “Continuity” as the hallmark of the peace process – then President Fidel Ramos agreed to solve the Bangsamoro Problem as proposed by MILF; President Joseph Estrada continued the negotiation from where it stopped in 1998; so did President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001.

By the nature of Government as a continuing institution in segments under successive heads of government – president or prime minister or whatever — “Continuity” is in reality a doctrine. The succeeding government or administration assumes the legal obligations of its predecessors. The Cory Aquino government and all its successors assumed the legally contracted debts and other obligations of the dictatorial Marcos government no matter how immoral they were and burdensome to the Filipino people.

 

On this premise, MILF expected the Aquino III government to resume the peace talk from what and where it was on June 30, 2010 – not starting from scratch in any form or guise contrary to or derogating from the Declaration of Continuity. The least expected is to tackle MILF’s proposed political settlement – the full implementation of whatever agreement signed to be continued by the government succeeding after June 30, 2016.

 

Tokyo Understanding

 

Besides “Continuity”, MILF also anchored their hope for an early political settlement on the understanding of President Aquino III and Chairman Murad to fast-track the negotiation during their historic meeting in Tokyo, Japan last August 4. What was the understanding? [They did not sign any agreement; whatever they agreed was mere understanding. – ppd]

 

No details of the meeting termed as “conversation” was officially released. However, the core of the meeting could be seen from official statements:

From the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process: “Both [Aquino and Murad] agreed that the implementation of any agreement should happen within the current administration. Both agreed to fast track the negotiations.” This was replicated in Philippine media and wire services.

 The separate statements of Government and MILF Panels may be summarized:

 First, the President and Murad were cordial, intimate, frank, candid and honest in their exchange of views. They covered a wide range of issues and concerns related to the negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro Question. These included the frames of continuing peace talks and some possible approaches that the parties can take to bring about a peaceful settlement.

 

Second, all substantive and outstanding issues discussed by the President and Murad will be taken up by the peace panels for deliberation on the negotiating table.

 

Third, the negotiation will be fast tracked; any political settlement agreed should be implemented within the Aquino III administration.

 On what basis was the understanding?

 MILF Revelations

Later in an interview with MindaNews editor Carolyn O. Arguillas, [MindaNews, Sept. 12, 2011: The Bangsamoro Dream (4)] Murad recalled that the President “elaborated on how they see the problem. He said the problem has been there for decades already so we have to do something. So he said ‘for me, personally, I want whatever I can do, I want to do it now.’”

Murad continued: “So he started elaborating on improving basic services, governance strengthening… nakikita sabi niya there is no real governance in this area and then the people need social services, development, so that is how he explained it. Then he said. ‘I want to do this with your group within my term… I will be good until 2013 only because after 2013 I might be a lameduck President.’” The President was referring to economic problems in and his projected reform of ARMM.

Murad said he acknowledged the problems the President cited but countered: “For us these problems are the fruit, the result of the real problem. What we see is there is a real problem, the root cause of the problem, the absence of peace and order, the absence of effective governance, the absence of development, basic services because there is an ongoing war in the area and the war is because the Bangsamoro people are struggling to achieve their aspirations for self governance and self determination.”

Murad stressed: “So that I think Mr. President is the real problem and root cause of the other problems. Even if we address these problems, they are all palliatives because unless we solve the real problem, the root cause of the problem, this will keep on going on.”

From Murad’s recollection of his conversation with the President, it is clear how MILF and Government view differently the Bangsamoro Problem. The MILF’s focus is on the political problem; the Government’s is on the economic.

 

As MILF peace panel chairman, Mohagher Iqbal took down notes at the Aquino-Murad meeting as Government Panel Chair Marvic Leonen did. During a forum at the Ateneo de Davao University on September 5, 2011, Iqbal revealed three key points of understanding – he called “messages” – between Murad and the President:

  1. The only way to solve the Moro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao is through negotiation, not through the barrel of the gun or by integrating the Moros into the national body politic. This has been tried or is being tried, but it failed miserably. It did not only worsen the situation of the Moros; on the contrary, resistance is increasing;

 

  1. The problem in Mindanao is political in nature that requires a political solution. This can be addressed by granting genuine self-rule to the Moros, in the form of a substate, which is still part of the Philippines. A close semblance or similar to this is Scotland, which is a substate, functioning within the ambit of the unitary system of the United Kingdom;

 

  1. Real and hard development projects can only come after the signing of the peace settlement. In the meantime, a relief, rehabilitation, and small-scale development activities can come to the conflict affected areas to alleviate the sufferings of the people and to make them feel of the benefits of the ongoing peace negotiation.

The key points are essentially, the MILF position. Collating these with the recollection of Murad of his conversation with the President, Iqbal implies that the President did not object to the MILF position. Or, was the President, by some gestures, understood to have implicitly approved the MILF position – leading MILF to believe their position was the basis of the Tokyo understanding? So, this must explain the shattered expectation of the MILF peace panel on receiving the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Below Expectation

 Luwaran.com, the MILF official website, reported on August 24, 2011 that on August 23 Iqbal, with permission of the MILF Central Committee, read at the 22nd Exploratory Talk – shortly before its untimely adjournment – the “reasons in not accepting the GPH’s proposal” that his panel had forwarded “to the MILF Central Committee with the recommendation to reject it.”

 

The reasons:

 

  1. The GPH peace panel draft is way below the MILF expectation. The MILF peace panel thought that the Aquino administration had a better formula than the previous administrations in addressing the Moro Question and armed conflict in Mindanao; 
  2. The draft has no meeting point with the MILF peace panel draft; hence, will not fast track the negotiation as agreed by President Aquino and Chairman Murad in Japan last August 4; 
  3. The GPH draft is not solving the Moro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao but it is a formula to prolong it; 
  4. The unbridled domination of the Philippine government over the Moros through the unitary setup of government is not only maintained but reenergized or reentrenched; and 
  5. Practically, the GPH draft derogated all signed agreements or documents including the historic Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.

Luwaran continued: “Iqbal said that the MILF Central Committee has the final say whether it will sustain or reverse the panel’s recommendation.”

 MILF’s response to the “GPH Honestly Different ‘3 for 1’ Solution” underlines the paradox in the Aquino-Murad historic Tokyo meeting: Their understanding was a historic misunderstanding.

 (To Be Continued: Reiterations)

 

(“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 [email protected])

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