COMMENT: ‘Honestly Different’: IV. MILF Response (Continuation 2: Imperatives)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 October) – In reiterating their objections to “GPH ‘1 for 3’ Solution” and their imperatives, MILF wants to steer the peace negotiation back to the course they had set with the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations. The negotiations stopped at the point where Government had agreed to the sub-state as the form of self-governance as the core of political settlement. They expect negotiations to continue from there.

The Sub-State

MILF have extensively discussed the sub-state in media and other forums. In their draft proposals – original and revised — they have defined what “sub-state” is and elaborated the government to be built on it. The revised draft they have submitted to the Leonen Panel can be downloaded from Luwaran.

Senior peace panel member Datu Michael O. Mastura has spoken and written much about it – the latest, three articles in response to adverse criticisms from national media opinion writers with reference to “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”. Two articles, Sub-state, a Solvent Political Option and Grounding the Sub-state Differently, were published in MindaNews, August 20 and September 5, 2011; the third, Watching Over a Republican State and the Sub-state Differently, in Luwaran, September 10, 2011.

But nagging questions persist; although like broken records, MILF have to answer them repetitiously. Simply defined, the Bangsamoro sub-state “is a territorial unit comprising [the Bangsamoro] ancestral domain for asymmetrical compact of free association” [Section 2, Article II of GRP-MILF Comprehensive Compact on Interim Governance].

The Aquino peace negotiators have said the Bangsamoro sub-state is too contentious and divisive to be viable. Instead, in the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”, MILF is being offered partnership with Government and civil society organizations in reforming ARMM as the Bangsamoro autonomy. MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim explained in his conferences with national and international media in his headquarters in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao their rejection of the government proposal.

 

In an exclusive interview, Murad repeated to Korina Sanchez of ABS-CBN the MILF position that the sub-state is the aspiration of the Moros. “In our continuing massive consultations, a sub-state for the Bangsamoro people as a political settlement of the Bangsamoro struggle to regain self-governance and right to self-determination is acceptable to our people as an alternative to independence,” [Luwaran, September 3, 2011]. He clarified that the sub-state “is a smaller state under the Philippine State”.

 

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF negotiating panel secretariat, explained to Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad “that a sub-state is actually a federal system” which, however, the MILF cannot call a federal state “since the Philippines is a unitary state and that all regional areas in this country, except the Cebuano in the Visayas, do not want to adopt the federal system” thus compelling the Moros “to ask for an asymmetrical arrangement with the national government” calling it “sub-state”. [Luwaran, August 14, 2011]

He appealed to the Christian majority to “respect and support our demand for a sub-state. “We want to run our own affairs, with defined relations with the central government. We want to decide our own destiny. We want to be on our feet.” He griped, “All the past decades from 1935, the national government … has caused untold miseries to our people. We have no future in a choking system that does not really care for the interests of the minority and the marginalized.”

Murad and Mantawil were only reiterating the many times in the past MILF had espoused vehemently “sub-state” as the imperative in their proposed political settlement.

 

Continuity

 

Another imperative is “continuity” – continuity of the negotiation as agreed in the GRP-MILF Declaration of Continuity. From MILF statements, it can be gleaned that they consider adherence to the Declaration as one test of sincerity.

 

At his press conference early last month (September), Murad challenged Government “to respect all past agreements we already have signed” in the past 14 years if “they really want the peace process to move forward”; otherwise, “the 14-year peace process will go back to square one” [MindaNews, September 7, 2011: Respect past agreement, MILF urges gov’t].

 

Obviously considering the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” as a breach of “Continuity” — for ostensibly being intended to be the negotiation working draft Murad told MindaNews last September 5: “We will not agree that that (GPH proposal)will be the working draft because it does not reflect the past agreement which is very important in moving forward. We will not agree that we will start from scratch again.” [MindaNews, Sept. 8, 2011: MILF chair to GPH: “let us be partners, no adversaries in solving contentious issues”]

 

Murad stated in Luwaran last September 2 MILF’s principled position “… that there must be a continuity of the process because negotiation is between the MILF and the government and not between personalities or particular administration.  We are negotiating with the government of the Philippines.  Whatever were agreed upon by the two parties are binding to the MILF and the government.  We cannot allow that when there is a new administration then we will start again from scratch.”  

 

Luwaran, in its editorial, Commonly felt betrayal (October 1-7), echoed Murad and, with a ting of irony, portrayed Government as a paradox – that, perhaps, while  “…not betraying the MILF … is …  despite the need to fast-track the GPH-MILF peace negotiation …  is not pursuing a continuity approach to the negotiation; and … is pursuing a position practically from scratch.”

 

The editorial branded “the Aquino dispensation” as “not very serious in this negotiation” by not following “the principle of continuity, as stipulated in the GPH-MILF Declaration of Continuity on June 3, 2010, in drafting the comprehensive compact” — that which Murad expounded above.

 

Luwaran had basically the same message in its September 15 -21 editorial, The correct way forward contending that the “only way forward” is following the guidelines set in the Declaration of Continuity and wondering why the Aquino III government is not taking the “correct and shortest way forward”  if it “wants to fast-track the negotiation”.

 

Iqbal had lack of continuity as the fifth reason for recommending the rejection of the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” – that: “Practically, the GPH draft derogated all signed agreements or documents including the historic Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.”

 

Luwaran of August 24 reported Mastura stressing, “We cannot afford to start all over again because continuity is a crucial element of the peace process combined with problem-solving approach. The immediate task of the parties is to build on what they have agreed already and not to engage in ikut and ikut (running around the bush). This Luwaran said also expressed the mood of Hajji Abdula Camlian, Maulana Alonto and IP Antonio Kinoc, the other MILF peace negotiators.

 

Partnership

 

In the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” is the Aquino III government’s invitation to MILF to a partnership in solving the Bangsamoro Problem. This is its option to fast-track the peace process in pursuit of the Aquino-Murad understanding in Tokyo.

 

In rejecting the proposal, MILF tells Government that what the “Solution” is offering is not the proper partnership. On the contrary, the option will de-track or derail the peace process already on track.

 

As reported in MindaNews of September 8 (MILF chair to GRP: “let us be partners, not adversaries in solving contentions issues”), Murad sees the Aquino III government as avoiding “contentious and divisive issues such as amending the Constitution” and is challenging it to address these problems together with the MILF.

 

His admonition:

First: “If you run away from the real issue of the problem, wala tayong magagawa (we cannot do anything). So we tackle this and find a way na itong mga (that these) divisive provision na sinasabi (perceived), we can discuss this [as to] how can we come up with a solution na hindi masyadong maging (that would not be most) divisive at saka hindi masyado maging (and not most) contentious. So that’s what we can do, we can start with that rather than run away from it,”

 

Second: The peace process can be fast-tracked if the two parties will not tackle anymore problems that had been previously resolved and instead concentrate on those issues that are still unresolved — comprising only about “30 to 40%” of the Bangsamoro Problem.

 

Third: The two panels should work as partners — jointly or individually — in explaining to Congress and local officials that in the position of the MILF there is nothing to fear that they will lose their political powers. Many of those opposing the MILF position have no basis for their opposition.

 

In their concerted espousal of the “state – sub-state” formula of political settlement – with Bangsamoro Sub-State still an integral part of Philippine State in asymmetrical status – MILF leaders are presenting what they consider the highest and most respectable form of partnership. Unfortunately, they cannot make the Aquino III peace team see what they see.

 

Sincerity

 

Two editorials of Luwaran project into the cyberspace “GPH “3 for 1’ Solution”:

Asks the September 8-15 editorial, ‘Killing me softly approach’: “What is this formula (referring to the ‘Solution’) and how does it work?”

 

The answer: “Simply put: the government would negotiate and sign a peace agreement with the rebel organization; create an ad hoc agency through an executive order, provide funding for operation, entice the rebel leaders to accept and run it — and to enjoy it — and finally make a grand promise that the necessary amendments to the constitution would come at some time in the future.” This refers to how the Ramos government negotiated the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with MNLF.

 

The consequence to the Moros: “Thereafter, after entering the government, they were at the mercy or tyranny of the state. Like a moth that strayed into a cobweb, death came to it slowly and slowly.” This refers to what has befallen MNLF; they foresee the same to happen should MILF accept the “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution”.

 

In its September 15-21 editorial, The correct way forward, Luwaran wrote deriding the “Solutions”: “No matter how the draft of the government is glamourized by resorting to excessive word play, the MILF is not naïve. We can clearly distinguish chaff from the grain. The proposal is worse than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD).”

 

These reflect the responses of Moro professionals and less heralded leaders supportive of the MILF quest for a Bangsamoro sub-state. They deride “GPH ‘3 for 1’ Solution” as a deception and equate the political settlement it offers to ARMM that they consider bogus autonomy.

(Next: Proposal to Move On)

 

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