Under a so-called “gentle man’s agreement,” for the sake of peace that has long been dreamt of, the MILF agreed not to talk about “independence” as a demand in the negotiations though not necessarily abandoning it. The GRP, then, agreed not to use its constitution as a parameter in dealing with issues in the negotiating table.
In retrospect, during the negotiation between the GRP and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the government was actually trying to influence the MILF to sit with them and be part of the process. But the MILF registered its “wait-and-see” position instead. After the signing of the Final Peace Accord (FPA) of 1996, the MILF proceeded walking down the street to continue its search for a just, viable and acceptable solution to the Bangsamoro problem as it has seen the FPA being clothed by the constitution.
When impasse took place (that has shaken the entire peace process) in the peace negotiation between the GRP and MILF last September 2006 because of the issue of the constitution, the MILF again issued an official statement informing the government that “the GRP-MILF peace process is passing through a turbulent area.” It was an expression of strong protest against the use of the constitution as bound of the process.
These MILF gestures are already enough information for the government to get “out of the room” if it is really negotiating the MILF with candor aiming at finding a lasting political solution to the Mindanao conflict.
The BM people and other stakeholders of Mindanao believe that if only the government is having political will and sincere enough in its deal with the revolutionary fronts in Mindanao, it can really find ways to once and for all address the problem not necessarily violating the constitution taking into consideration the MILF has already practically reduced its territorial demand and it is now open for new formula.
In this case, there must be an agreement that will make some changes in the constitution not the constitution that is going to shape the agreement because the MILF, as revolutionary, is operating outside the Philippine laws. We hope that the two parties now in talk would never place in oblivion that any political settlement that may be arrived at will affect the future of more than 10-million Bangsamoro people and native inhabitants.
Numerous interim peace agreements, since 1997 to date, were painstakingly entered into by and between the GRP and MILF which offered bright hope to the impoverished and oppressed BM people. However it somehow turns to a bitter frustration if the government continues to be heartless, deaf and blind.
The BM people can’t be blamed if they resort to other means as they find themselves hopeless under this government and they never felt secured.
The MILF peace panel did not attend the 15th exploratory talks scheduled from December 15- 17, 2007 after knowing the government is going to present a totally unacceptable draft on Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) as it reneges from the consensus points on the four strands of ancestral domain. It is also in the government proposal that the “constitutional process” shall be the mode for the implementation of the agreement.
This again gives frustrating information and adds dim hope to the BM people and other peace advocates and perhaps even to the third party facilitator.
The United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc. (UNYPAD) has been worried by the statement issued by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal that “this ugly turn of event in the peace process is taxing the patience of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people.” The UNYPAD thinks of the possibility of war that may be resorted to and break out anytime if this baneful attitude of the government that continuously negates the BM’s Right to Self Determination remains unabated.
The UNYPAD is appealing to President GMA to respect, recognize and abide by the interim agreements entered into by and between the peace negotiating panels of the GRP and the MILF as withdrawal from it will sink further the government spitefully into the degradation of its moral image and political credibility.
The UNYPAD believes that this is now the time that the government “being democratic state” will decide and use its political will by proposing a political solution based on what the BM people want in order to demonstrate to the world its sincerity and seriousness in the peace process.
The government, being responsible to her people, should always look into and consider the plight of the people who are continuously languishing in the evacuation centers as well as those not dislocated but impoverished due to government negligence to provide basic services.
These people are awaiting the peace panels of both the GRP and MILF to bring back to them good news that will transform their woeful state of life they have been living in for long time into socially, economically and politically progressive and prosperous life free from oppression and injustices.
RAHIB L. KUDTO
United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc (UNYPAD)