Peace talks deadlock is good!

The on-going media blast coming from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) saying some of its ground commanders and armed followers are now “frustrated and angry” at what is taking place in the peace negotiations, should not be a surprise to all. TO ME, THIS IS TOTALLY EXPECTED. AND SERVING A GOOD PURPOSE.

I have some POSITIVE readings on this latest media BROUHAHA.

ONE: the public will again be reminded that peace negotiations are not easy and a walk in the park. Let’s not forget: a generational issue, like the Bangsamoro right to self-determination, is being tackled and there are no magic wands to solve them that quick and easy. The “annexes” are still being worked out. Remember what I said before: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL”.

TWO: a good reminder too that peace making and peace-building are a CONTINUING PROCESS. The fact that peace talks spanned several presidents is proof of this. Getting it done before 2016 is the best-case scenario. But if not done, the next administration can build on the building blocks already in place. RE-INVENTING it every time a new administration comes is NOT the way to go.

THREE: it’s a reality check that government cannot just easily impose its existing legal and constitutional framework on the rebel group that took up arms precisely because they cannot get concessions within the existing regime of rules. I repeat my earlier incantation: we have to open up the Philippine constitution for this.

FOUR, the MILF to also accept the reality that government, although keen on giving concessions, must also strike a happy balance with the other sectors of the country. Other non-rebel stakeholders also expect equitable attention.

FIVE, the MILF may just be doing a “pressure tactic” short of resorting to violence, which is well and good. Also, this may serve as an opportunity for the MILF to re-solidify and re-group its splintered ranks that the recent elections caused.

FINALLY, the “deadlock” IS THE BEST TIME TO DO ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN. It gives occasion for public discussions and debate and brings up to speed the stakeholders of both sides to an early exposure and understanding of what may be contained in the final peace agreement. This is the best advocacy opportunity so the public will not be taken for a surprise when the terms of the peace package is made public. Consequently, acceptance later of the comprehensive peace package may come as a matter of course. Remember, Congress will still have to approve this and this is not easy given that the proposed law will expectedly erode or undermine the traditional political power base of those in power. Then, a “yes” vote in a plebiscite is still needed to finally entrench it.

Media is helping. But it must avoid the usual temptation to sensationalize. Peace issues must be handled with great sensitivity. We also know that negotiating publicly in the media is not the way to go. Somehow the formal talks and negotiations will have to return back to deliberative quietude behind closed doors.

So, let’s all relax, pipe down, and patiently wait for some new breakthroughs. IF BOTH SIDES ARE SINCERE IN FORGING PEACE, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY. This is what peace negotiation is all about!
(Lawyer Jesus G. Dureza is the former Chairman of the government panel in talks with the MILF and former Presidential Peace Adviser. He is the new President-Chairman of the Philippine Press Institute, an umbrella group for provincial and national newspapers in the country.)