COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’ : IV. MILF Response (Continuation 1: Reiterations)

IV. MILF Response (Continuation 1: Reiterations)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 October) – Right in the morning after the historic meeting in Tokyo of President Aquino and Chairman Murad, Government and MILF issued official statements that showed in principle their understanding. The optimism for a peace agreement to be signed soon that the statements had generated turned out to be a misunderstanding of the understanding in principle.

Later Murad revealed the essence of his conversation with the President and Iqbal came up with key points of the Tokyo meeting reflecting the MILF position. These were meant to emphasize their objection to the President’s view of the Bangsamoro Problem as he had intimated to Murad and as embodied in the new negotiation agenda in the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”. Reiterating their long-held position, MILF confirmed their peace draft to be “honestly different” from that of Government.


No Meeting Point


Within two weeks after that regrettable August 22, the MILF had solidified their position. They refused meeting the Government panel in Kuala Lumpur on September 12 and 13 as Leonen had proposed to iron out their differences. They saw no meeting point in their GRP-MILF Comprehensive Compact on Interim Governance and the “GPH Honestly Different ‘3 for 1” Solution”; there was nothing to talk about. The MILF was blunt; the Government rationalized.  That made the two “honestly different” mentally.


Murad told reporters at his press conference in Darapanan, “… we feel that there is no point of discussion between the two panels,” citing their “positions [being] too wide apart” – the government’s draft not conforming with what they see “as a peaceful solution to the problem of Mindanao [, September 7]. Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, echoed Murad in his statement in Luwaran (August 29, 2009).

The decision to ignore the Leonen invitation to meet in Kuala Lumpur came after the initial meeting of the Central Committee on the government proposal; they agreed with their panel that “they saw no point of discussion” and “will make a consensus and collective decision on this as soon as possible”.

Media speculated: “MILF likely to reject GPH proposal.”  Murad, however, clarified, “We did not reject the government proposal” To Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, it was Government that rejected the MILF “proposal … submitted very early this year” explaining that if “the content of the government proposal had totally ignored the MILF proposal” that “only meant a rejection of its entirety” [Luwaran, September 2, 2011].

  Murad further clarified: “The negotiation is still on. There is no declaration by either party that the talks had already collapsed …” With confidence: “Even if we reject [their] proposal … the government can still make another proposal” – believing that like them Government believes negotiations to be “the most civilized, practical and the only way … to move forward the peace process” and solve the Bangsamoro Problem. [Luwaran, September 2, 2011]

Doables? Do them!

Even in their agreement, Government and MILF are “honestly different”. Not just quite – it’s a mind-boggling paradox.

MILF have posed no objection to “massive economic” development to uplift the lives of the Moros. This is doable, Government assures. Mantawil expressed MILF’s response: “Why do we have to negotiate for something doable; the Aquino administration can just implement them” [Luwaran, August 29, 2011] — reiterating Murad’s statement that government could actually deliver it without negotiating with MILF [MindaNews, September 7, 2011].

As the first component of “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”, Government is obviously negotiating not necessarily for MILF to agree to it but for MILF to become partner in the development program. Politically, partnership with MILF has significantly different impression than for Government doing it alone. Moreover, Government subtly wants MILF to agree that the Bangsamoro Problem is primarily an economic problem to co-opt the demand for a political solution.

MILF objects not to the aim to uplift the socioeconomic life of the Moros but to the denial of political settlement as the primary solution to the Bangsamoro Problem. Murad said, We are not anti-development. Development is very essential but it should come after political settlement because these investments will be wasted if war erupts again due to failure to forge a political settlement.” [Luwaran, September 3, 2011]

Murad and other MILF leaders have not directly responded to the third component of “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” – the cultural-historical acknowledgment and correction of errors in “historical narratives and … appreciation of different cultures borne out of the struggles of all Filipinos including those of Bangsamoro identity.” How the corrections will be done has not been fully explained – perhaps through the re-writing of Philippine history books.

It would be interesting to know how MILF would see the apparent – the “acknowledgment” and “correction” obviously considering only cultural-historical “slights” not “lethal blows”. Of the first, the Moro people appreciate very much the recognition of their heroes like Sultan Kudarat, their holy days and Shari’ah laws; of the second, they sorely await relief for injustices from unjust laws and policies that had deprived them of their lands – the second a more imperative doable than the first.

Tact Agitates

Government, as seen in Peace Panel Member Miriam Coronel-Ferrer’s commentary, is tactfully transforming MILF’s GRP-MILF Comprehensive Compact on Interim Governance as part of the GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution. [Commentary: A comprehensive package for autonomy.Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 29, 2911]:

First, the understanding: “While [Government] understands the visions 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.”

Second, the alternative: The alternative is the “transformative approach” by which, “most of the demands of MILF for self-governance” will be incorporated into “a new Organic Act” of ARMM and MILF will partner with Government and civil society organizations through the Bangsamoro Commission in reforming ARMM.

This — Government treading over the still most contentious issue — did not sit well with MILF. They must have been agitated. Murad, interviewed by Korina Sanchez of ABS-CBN [Luwaran, September 3, 2011], was forthright:

First: The MILF leadership sees the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” as not comprehensive but a framework for the integration of the Bangsamoro people – the truth of the GRP-MILF Final Peace Agreement of 1996.

Second: The Bangsamoro people will not accept a political settlement that is only for integration to the unitary political set-up of Philippine Government since integration is opposite to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination and self-governance. Integration coupled with massive development will not solve the problem.”

Third: MILF will not sign an agreement that will not solve the problem because even if “we signed an agreement that is beneficial to us but not acceptable to our people then the struggle will go on. We are nothing if the Bangsamoro people will not support us.”

Fourth:  An agreement that is not reflective of the real aspiration of the Bangsamoro people – the sub-state as the alternative to independence — is an exercise in futility.

Murad, the MILF negotiators and other MILF leaders have reiterated the imperatives of their negotiating position. – (To Be Continued: Imperatives)