COMMENT: On ‘GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles’

(2. The Key Points Analyzed)

 GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 April) — More than on statements of Government and MILF panel chairmen and members during and after the 27th exploratory talks, what will eventually happen under the “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles” hinges on three propositions: (1) what the document intends to happen; (2) what Government wants to happen under the document; and, (3) what MILF wants to happen under the document

If the three converge, the agreement beckons; if they diverge, the agreement hangs.

 

New Political Entity

 

Key Point 2 states the intention of the document: create “a new autonomous political entity” to bridge the “heaven and earth” gap between the asymmetrical state-sub-state political settlement MILF demands in its Draft Peace Agreement 2011 and the reformed ARMM Government offers under its “3 for 1 Formula”. As “new” denotes, the political entity to be created will have more autonomy than ARMM — MILF’s basic demand.

 

This will fully satisfy MILF if the autonomy of the new political entity is essentially what it is asking for.  The difference between the “autonomy” MILF has been demanding and what Government can grant is the difference in their perception of “the status quo” that “is unacceptable”.  In a Sun-Star report (April 26), Leonen was quoted referring to that as the “the status quo at the ARMM”. To MILF, that status quo spans time to circa 1900, with the repeated offer of ARMM as political settlement (during the 15-year old talks) being the especial status quo.

 

Key Point 3 states how the document intends to create the “new autonomous political entity”: continue the “negotiations in the context of agreed documents” meaning, agreed by Government and MILF. This means the “agreed documents” are the terms of reference. Simply understood, the GRP-MILF (old) agreements from 1997 to June 3, 2010 will be the principal terms of reference; there are no GPH-MILF (new) agreements yet, except this “Decision Points on Principles”.

 

In his opening statement, Iqbal said: “The basic principles and frameworks and the essential elements of the future Moro entity have been settled and agreed by the parties in many past documents”.

 

Then he enumerated: “The General Framework of Intent Between the GRP and the MILF (August 27, 1998), Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks (March 24, 2001), Tripoli Agreement of 2001 (June 22, 2001), Consensus Points on the Strand of Concept, Territory, Resources, and Governance at TWG level (April 20, 2005), Consensus Points on the Strand on Governance of the Ancestral Domain (September 16, 2005), Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiation between the GPH and the MILF (June 3, 2010).” 

 

Leonen stated in his post-signing statement: “The June 2010 Declaration of Continuity signed by the GPH[GRP] and the MILF, as clarified in the statement of then GPH[GRP] Chair Rafael Seguis, inspires the position of this Government in its steadfast commitment to maintain the continuity of negotiations embodied in agreed documents.” By this, he acknowledged the past documents and, consequently, the intent of “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles”.

 

Key Point 1 is the rationale in creating the “new political entity”: to “recognize Bangsamoro identity and the legitimate grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people”. This is elucidated in the first six consensus points in “Concepts and Principles” of the MOA-AD. This is embodied in the “Preamble” and in Article 2 of the “MILF Draft Agreement 2011” (MDA 2011).

 

Features of New Entity

 

In the seven other key points, the intention of the document is clear.

 

In Key Point 4, “the autonomous political entity shall have a ministerial form of government”.  This is particularly spelled out in Sections 4 to 9 of Article VI of MDA 2011 and Section 10(3) of its Annex 1.

 

In Key Point 5, there is “the need for a transition period and the institution of transitional mechanisms”. This is provided in Articles III, IV and V of MDA 2011.

 

In Key Point 6, the new political entity will have “power-sharing and wealth-sharing” rights with the national government. This is provided in Article VII and XIV of MDA 2011 and its Annexes 1 and 3.

 

In Key Point 7, the new political entity shall be able “to create its own sources of revenue” and “to have a just share in the revenues generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural resources”. There are provisions of this in Article XV of MDA 2011 and its Annex 3.

 

In Key Point 8, the new political entity must have strong Shari’ah courts with “their jurisdiction over cases” expanded; it “shall also have competence over the Shari’ah justice system”. This is provided in Article XI of MDA 2011 and its annex.

 

In Key Point 9, the new political entity will have “(third party) monitoring and evaluation mechanisms”. This is in reference to Consensus 3 of Governance in MOA-AD and a revision of Section 4e of Article V of MDA 2011.

 

In Key Point 10, “all citizens residing in the new political entity” are guaranteed their “basic rights”. Twelve such rights are enumerated for them to enjoy in “addition to basic rights already enjoyed”. Ten of 12 rights enumerated are provided in Section 2 of Article X of MDA 2011. The two in Key Point 10 not included in Section 2 are “(c) Right to privacy” and “(d) Right to freedom of speech”.

 

For the Moment

 

Here is an important note: The document reveals that in reframing the MOA-AD and in revising MDA 2011, MILF might have changed radically the format and language but not the basic contents. Leonen said the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles contains “common points” of the revised MILF Draft Agreement 2011 and the GPH “3 for 1 Formula”; yet, the key points are in MOA-AD and in the original MDA 2011. In fact, the basic rights as worded in MDA 2011 are unchanged or slightly revised in Key Point 10.

 

There are consensus points in MOA-AD and provisions in MDA 2011 basic to MILF’s asymmetrical state-sub-state proposal for political settlement that are not in the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles.  Has MILF agreed not to include these anymore in the negotiation? The document states: “This preliminary list does not contain all points so far agreed upon and does not preclude future agreements on other key points.”

 

With the exception of two, all the key points of the document are the demands of MILF. As noted above, when Leonen acknowledged the June 3, 2010 Declaration of Continuity, it appeared that he acknowledged the past GRP-MILF (old) agreements that by Key Point 3 will be the reference point “in the continuity of negotiations”. Does this mean that the Parties have now fully joined hands to push the peace cart to a final agreement soon to be signed and implemented?

 

“Hinay-hinay”, a Bisaya saying cautions.  In English, “Go slow” or “Don’t rush”.

 

The document is of points agreed on principles.  Translating the principles to concrete agreement can spawn differences.  Bringing up “other key points” can open contentious differences. The pre-signing and post-signing statements of the chief negotiators and other key Government and MILF officials may reveal differences outright, between the lines or behind the lines.

 

What do they really want to happen under the document?

 

(To Be Continued)

  

(“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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