COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’ (Part 2)

II. ‘3 for 1’ Solution


GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 September) – For all the Government’s declarations to be transparent, it is still guarded in its official statements concerning peace negotiation with the MILF. At the 22nd exploratory talk in Kuala Lumpur last August 22, negotiating panel chair Marvic Leonen would not release copies of their 20-page peace proposal since it is still “work in progress” – suggesting “more” will be submitted later as the panel continues to conduct consultations and that the present document can be changed.

The Aquino III Government proposal may be verified by sifting through (1) the “Eleven Characteristics of the Government Proposal” – as generally stated in guarded language as the “[11] General Features of the MILF Comprehensive Compact Draft” which the Government is obviously matching; (2) official statements posted in the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; and, (3) media reports.

Eleven Characteristics

In No. 1: The “3 in 1” Solution is, first, “a formula to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in our country”; second, it is “a practical and bold approach to create the conditions for meaningful and effective governance”; third, this governance is “through a sustainable partnership” that, fourth, “will bring in the needed social services and projects that provide the springboards for sustainable economic development.


Observe: In “first”, there is no specific reference to Mindanao. In “fourth”, there is no specific reference to the MILF as the party in the “sustainable partnership”. The Aquino government will do what the past governments did not: “Unlike past administrations, this government is poised to use its massive resources and its theme of good governance for this undertaking.”


In No. 2: The “sustainable partnership” stated in “No. 1” is elucidated. “The proposal is founded on partnership.  It [partnership] has the potential to [1] create mutual trust amongst peoples of our country, [2] heal the wounds of conflict, [3] mobilize and capacitate Bangsamoro leaders and therefore [4] increase understanding among all Filipinos of every ascribed identity.


The four potentials bolster the acceptability of the proposal. Obviously, the partnership is “amongst all peoples” “Filipinos (Moros included) of every ascribed identity”.  As envisioned, the “partnership … will … set the stage for more enlightened political discussion amongst all parties.  This discussion, in turn, will effectively point the way to the realization [of] legal reforms that may be truly necessary”.


Observe: If “political discussion” will be “amongst all parties”, it has no implicit reference to the MILF political settlement; “realization of legal reforms” does not necessarily refer to constitutional amendments called for in the MILF Comprehensive Compact Draft. As stated “all parties” can include the MILF, all other Moro groups, the Government and all stakeholders; “legal reforms” can only concern ARMM and RA No. 9054. The two terms do not allude to the MILF and the Bangsamoro Sub-State.


In No. 3:  “The proposal is politically comprehensive.” It means this: “It contains ideas [1] for reforming the relationship between national and regional government”; and [2] to meet “the challenge of finding viable mechanisms that increase the possibility for finding convergence of programs among all those who claim to represent the Bangsamoro, Christian settlers and indigenous peoples within the conflict affected areas.”


Observe: The “relationship” to be reformed in [1] must be referring to that of the national government and ARMM, the existing “regional government”. In qualifying –“The reform of political relations takes into account the realities of socio-economic underdevelopment, demographic shifts and diversity across communities” – the proposal is referring to the same concerns being addressed by RA No. 10151.


The reform is still in the form of “ideas” – not concrete programs. In fact, flexible ideas that can be revised if the people want — this Leonen essentially told forum participants at Notre Dame University in Cotabato City [See: MindaNews, September 3: GPH to MILF: proposal to MILF is “minimum;” entire draft can be changed]


Observe Further: In [2] the “challenge” is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack; “viable mechanisms” has a lot of possible meanings to fill up a big hole of ambiguity the purpose of which is to “increase the possibility of finding convergence of programs” – another ambiguity-filler. Whose “programs”? They are those of (1) MILF, MNLF and Moro traditional leaders who all “claim to represent the Bangsamoro”; (2) the “Christian settlers”; and, (3) the “indigenous peoples”.


Is this practical and realistic? Is ambiguity comprehensiveness?


In No. 4:  A two-step solution is being proposed: [1] “The proposal works with what is available and doable within the next few years. It does not start with contentious and divisive issues whose resolution may not be realizable as yet.”


This rules out the Bangsamoro Sub-State, obviously alluded to in the second sentence. The first sentence must be referring to how the MILF can cooperate in the OIC reform project in ARMM under RA No. 10153.


[2] “The proposal thus realistically meets the urgent and present needs of many communities who were the victims of colonial oppression, postcolonial neglect, misguided leaders and past abuses of some national leaders while preparing for the viability of longer term and mutually agreed upon solutions to the Bangsamoro problem.”


This does not necessarily mean a negotiation to meet the MILF political settlement; but just agreeing on how to enhance autonomy in ARMM within the Constitution as an alternative to the Bangsamoro Sub-State.


In No. 5:  “The proposal works on the premise that the form of government that should be entrenched should be able to deliver good and effective governance, social services and foster economic development within the soonest possible time.” This obviously refers to the OIC government and that after it to which the MILF is being invited as a partner.


In No. 6: “The proposal shows government’s awareness of the extent of the legal and political powers of the President.  However, it is also a political document that is intended to cause public discussion that can support future debates, when it becomes necessary, in other constitutional forums such as the legislature and the courts.” The Government does not want to repeat the MOA-AD debacle.


In No 7:  There are three unrelated points: [1] “The proposal recognizes the identity of the Bangsamoro and its history. This proposal takes this history into consideration but avoids simplification of the solutions for a complex and myriad problem.” This is among the consensuses in MOA-AD wherein the “solutions” are far from “simplification”.


[2] “The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may have been a failed experiment in the past; but the current proposal is based on a more balanced understanding of whether its past failure was due to its structure and the systems that it spawned or the quality of the past national or regional leadership.” This refers to the OIC reform of ARMM to which the MILF is being invited to participate as a partner.


[3] “This proposal presents the possibility of a more empowered, more workable, and thus, more genuine autonomy of a Bangsamoro region.” The “possibility” envisioned has some of the features of the Bangsamoro Sub-State; however, since this is not within the limits of the Constitution, the “possibility” may just refer to ARMM autonomy.


In No. 8:  Take note of three points: [1] The proposal continues a discussion on how revenue and the use of resources could ensure enhanced autonomy. [2] However, it also introduces the idea that ecological and cultural diasporas as a result of unbridled exploitation of resources have effects far beyond political boundaries. [3] The proposal therefore includes a system of cooperation between the national and regional government to ensure sustainable futures.”


The [1] has long been the subject of discussion between the Government on one hand and the MNLF and MILF on the other. The [2] is among the issues raised by MILF pertaining to Ancestral Domain. The [3] is practical and realistic; however, since the Bangsamoro Sub-State cannot be granted under the present Constitution, “regional government” must only mean ARMM.


In No. 9:  “The proposal starts a discussion on the process of normalization. This includes weapons disposal, disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of combatants.  It also includes processes to achieve restorative justice.” This is the subject of Article XIII of the “Draft Agreement” that the MILF submitted last February.


In No. 10:  This is a statement of the Aquino III Government policy to actively involve all stakeholders through continuing consultations. “The proposal is founded on the belief that legal reforms do not by themselves bring about social change.  Rather, this proposal proceeds from the fundamental faith that no legal reform can take root without genuine public consensus.”


In No.11:  “[1] The proposal seeks to correct our historical narratives so that it truly acknowledges the struggles of all Filipinos including those with ascribed Bangsamoro identity. [2] It believes that the various struggles of each group of people within our State contribute to the latter’s strength. [3] The proposal seeks to entrench the retelling of our true historical narratives across all generations through existing mechanisms within the powers of government.”

This looks like an elucidation of [1] in No. 7; however, [1] it principally concerns “all Filipinos” with those “with ascribed Bangsamoro identity” only included. As the Moros have long complained about the injustice of history to them, [3] the proposal now says that “all Filipinos” have suffered this injustice, so the “true historical narratives” must be retold since [2] all people, by their struggles, have contributed to the strength of the State.

 To Recapitulate

Officially, the negotiation is between the Government and the MILF. Yet, there is no mention of “MILF” in the entire document; it must be alluded to in “Bangsamoro”.

The Bangsamoro Sub-State is alluded to in “contentious and divisive issues” in No. 4 as not the solution to the Moro problems. In Nos. 8, 9 and 11 and in one of three points in No. 7, there is a reference to MILF draft proposal but these are peripheral – not core – issues.

There are proposals of “political” and “legal” reforms in the “regional government”; however, all these obviously refer to ARMM to be done in “sustainable partnership” – an implicit invitation to the MILF to join.

It is understandable if the MILF negotiators were miffed on reading the “3 for 1” Solution. In 1997, at the start of the talks, the agreed talking point was “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem” – the MILF having the privilege to submit as the aggrieved party representing the Bangsamoro people. Their expectation was for the Government to tackle the Comprehensive Compact, the final stage of the negotiation as agreed in the June 22, 2001 Tripoli Agreement.

In proposing the “3 in 1” Solution, the Aquino III Government completely changed the negotiation scenario. Some points in the “Eleven Characteristics” will be clarified in the official and press statements of Leonen and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, member of the government negotiating panel.

(To Be Continued: Official Statements)