Dialogue Mindanaw: “lack of awareness and understanding of issues” in GRP-MILF peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 June) – “Lack of awareness and understanding” of the issues in the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is the reason why “people could not make informed choices and are confused about th e issues,” the results of the poll survey conducted during the Dialogue Mindanaw, showed.

Musa Sanguila, Regional Management Team coordinator for Lanao, who presented the poll survey results at the Peace Forum for Sustained Partnership at the Grand Regal Hotel here on Friday, concluded by saying, “if there is one imperative arising from the results, it is the need for a comprehensive communication program that would make people understand the issues and the implications in order for them to make informed, responsible decisions.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) initiated the “reflective dialogues” in 13 areas in the country, nine of them in Mindanao. Some 3,769 participants from various sectors and religions, participated in the dialogues.

Dialogue Mindanaw involved three steps: information-sharing on the issues in the peace talks by representatives of the government and the MILF, small group discussions where participants are divided into 30 groups at ten members each, for them to reflect on these four questions:

-What do you feel about the current GRP-MILF talks?
-What issues in the GRP-MILF peace talks are clear to you? What are not clear?
-Which issue in the GRP-MILF peace talks do you think is most important? What should be done to address it?
-What other issues related to the GRP-MILF Peace Talks should also be considered? How should these issues be handled?

The third step is the poll survey which is done after the sharing.

The dialogues, held in February and March, brought participants in neighboring towns to Jolo, Sulu; Davao City, Zamboanga City, Bacolod City, Cotabato City, Koronadal City, Cagayan de Oro, Caraga region, Southern Palawan, Northern Luzon and Lanao.

Question 1: While some participants are “happy and hopeful” about the GRP-MILF talks as it would “successfully lead to the signing of a peace agreement which will result to a cessation of hostilities and peace and development in their communities,” others are “worried, anxious and doubtful.”

Worried about an MILF-led governance, anxious about the peace talks being used as justification to amend the Constitution for political interests, and doubtful about the integrity of the negotiations due to “lack of transparency, lack of information, holding the talks in Malaysia and the composition of the panel.”

Other participants said they felt “frustrated, disappointed and cynical,” another set says they’re “confused and ‘do not know;” while others are “apathetic and indifferent.”

Question 2: Participants listed the following as both clear and unclear to them: Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain, including the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain; Bangsamoro Identity; Governance, Revenue-Sharing, Sharing on Natural Resources, Conduct of Peace Talks, Constitutional Change and Indigenous Peoples Lumads, indigenous governance and sharing of resources.

Question 3: The most frequently cited issues are Bangsamoro Homeland/Ancestral Domain, Governance, Bangsamoro Identitiy, Resources, Conduct of the Peace Negotiations, Concerns over the Indigenous Peoples/Lumads and MNLF-MILF relations.

Question 4: Other issues participants want tackled in the talks are human security/peace and Order; Human rights violations: Internal Displacement, Discrimination against Muslims, Social and Economic Development of Mindanao; Understanding and Appreciation of Mindanao’s Culgture; Eucation and Other Social Services, Interfaith Dialogue; implementation of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement; Peace Constituency-Building, and Fostering the Culture of Peace; Role of Media, Land Tenure, Women’s Agenda and Environment.

“Bangsamoro people”

Eight questions were asked during the poll survey, the first of which was the people’s understanding of the term “Bangsamoro people.”

Four choices of answer were given: all native inhabitants of Mindanao at the time of conquest. This was the favoured answer of TawiTawi – 62%; Cotabato- 47%; Lanao-40%; Palawan- 39%; and Sulu 35%

Participants in other dialogue sites chose the second and fourth alternatives: Bangsamoros are believers of Islam; and inhabitants of ARMM and neighboring communities who agree to be part of Bangsamoro.

Constituional Amendments

Amending the Constitution has been forwarded as a way forward in the GRP-MILF peace talks as the present Constitution limits the choices for proposed solutions.

Proponents of amending the Constitution to solve the Bangsamoro problem argued that it is necessary to “respond to the call for structural change such as expansion of the ARMM, management and sharing of resources, and governance.”

Areas where participants favour Constitutional amendments are: TawiTawi – 72% ; Sulu -65%; Bacolod- 55%; Manila- 54%; and Cotabato- 53%.

Those not in favor and/or have doubts and have asked for the possibility of looking for other options are participants from: Butuan – 59%; CDO – 54%; Koronadal – 51%; Zamboanga – 51%; and Baguio – 49%.

Expanding ARMM

Participants were also asked if they favor the expansion of the ARMM.

Areas where participants favor expanding the ARMM are TawiTawi – 79%, Sulu – 60%, Iligan -48% and Cotabato- 48%. Palawan which is included in the MOA-AD registered a yes of only 31%.

Participants in the other dialogue sites said no to expansion. These are Butuan – 69%, Zamboanga – 67%; Bacolod -65%; Cagayan de Oro – 62%; Baguio – 65%; Davao – 57%; and Palawan – 50%.

ARMM and National Government

What is the appropriate relationship between the ARMM and the National Government?
Participants in the dialogue sites of Butuan, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Davao prefer to retain the present ARMM structure.

Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Bacolod, Koronodal, Cotabato, and Sulu favor a federal state while Manila and Davao participants have approximately the same percentage on the choice between present ARMM structure and federal state.

Coastal Waters?

How should the coastal waters be managed?

Results show that those who favor “ARMM to have sole control within 15kms and joint management beyond 15 kms are the following: Tawi-Tawi (48%), Manila (48%) Sulu (47%) Iligan (43%) Puerto Princesa (36%) and Zamboanga (35%).”

Those who favor “ARMM to have only administrative authority within 15 kms from the coastlines” are Butuan (39%), Baguio (37%) , Koronodal (38%), and Davao (42%) while Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Cotabato registered an almost equal opinion on the first and second item..

Sharing

The current form of sharing on revenues from natural resources is as follows: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at 35% , Province at 35%; and National Government at 30%.

The MILF proposes a 75%-25% sharing between the Bangsamoro and National Government.
Respondents from the following dialogue sites favor the 75-25 % sharing: Tawi-Tawi – 56%; Sulu– 42%; Bacolod – 38%, Iligan – 40%; Manila – 34%.

Respondents from Butuan (28%) prefer a 60-40% sharing in favor of the Bangsamoro while those who favor a 50-50% sharing are Zamboanga and Davao.

Strategic Minerals

All regions favoured the joint management by the autonomous regional government and National Government with Baguio (84%) registering the highest percentage followed by Tawi-Tawi (80%) Bacolod, (78%), Manila (71%)

But Zamboanga (25%) Cagayan de Oro (21%) and Davao (20%) prefer ‘sole control by the National Government” while participants in Butuan, Puerto Princesa, Koronadal,. Cotabato and Sulu, registered 20% respondents who answered ‘I do not know’ and ‘no answer’.

Confidence in peace peace talks

The last question measures the level of confidence on the GRP-MILF peace negotiation.

Only two regions are optimistic: Tawi-Tawi which is “very confident (59%) followed by Butuan at 41%.

Areas where participants are “somewhat confident” are Bacolod ( 60%), Baguio (50%), Cotabato (49%), Iligan (48%) Koronadal (46%), and Davao (45%).

Conclusions

Poll survey results show there is lack of consensus on all issues except on the joint management of natural resources where all regions favored the joint management by the ARMM Regional Government and National Government.

There is a lack of awareness and understanding of the issues in the GRP-MILF Peace Talks.
Because of this, people could not make informed choices and are confused about the issues.

Delay in announcing results

The Dialogue Mindanaw results were not immediately announced.

Abaya said they waited for the election fever to subside before going on a roadshow.
The results have not been presented to the MILF.

Abdulbasit Benito of the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace asked if the results have been presented to the MILF but Abaya replied, “di pa naibibigay sa MILF. We’re hoping the people we are inviting will be the ones to bring this to MI but if MI is interested in listening to us, we can present to them.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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