Here now starts the real negotiation after the Government submitted their proposed solution to the Bangsamoro problem. Don’t know the content though I did try to do a guess work, but at least by now it is being made clear to the MILF how does the Government see the Mindanao conflict. My guess was right that the MILF will be disappointed by the Government’s proposal. Pnoy is not ready to grant nor talk about the sub-state yet.
The MILF was expecting the Government to comment at least on what are negotiables or non-negotiables on their Comprehensive Compact. To their dismay, the GPH turned down their paper and presented a new one. The GPH did not accept the Compact as a working paper where they could start the negotiation.
We should put into consideration that the Panel composition of the GPH and their Principal are new. On the other hand, the MILF panel has been there for a long time negotiating with the GPH. The GPH, still my guess, did not even touch the Ancestral Domain issue which is very contentious and sensitive especially to those who don’t see the conflict from a historical point of view.
Why the MILF was disappointed? This is how I understand it. The Government has been negotiating with the Bangsamoro armed groups since 1972 with the Misuari-led MNLF. In 1977, Hashim Salamat with a group of leaders parted with the MNLF, then formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with a main goal of creating an Islamic independent state of Mindanao.
In 1996 the GPH and MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement. It was perceived by many as the solution to the Mindanao conflict. But for many reasons, it failed.
In 1997, the GPH started another negotiation this time with the MILF led by Hashim Salamat. The MILF sees the conflict as a political problem, not an economic. They are fighting for their struggle to right to self-determination or self-rule. The GPH saw it differently then. It’s partly political and also economic. They believe that if the lives of the Muslim Filipinos are improved, there would be no more conflict. If there will be no more poor in the ARMM, then there will be nobody who will raise the issue of independence or to separate from the Philippines.
In the negotiation, it reached to a point that the GPH saw it that way that is a political problem. The restoration of the Moro’s right to self-determination was recognized, and they even signed consensus points of discussion in the year 2005 which includes the ancestral domain.
That means in the side of the MILF, it’s a step closer to their perceived solution of the problem. The GPH at last recognized that mere economic development in the region would not solve the problem. There should be a negotiated political settlement: a substate concept, power sharing, wealth sharing, and self-governance short of independence.
Then enters MOA-AD which was very controversial in the year 2008. The SC ruled it as unconstitutional.
If we are in the ladder of twenty steps, the MILF sees it that we are in the middle perhaps with the Comprehensive Compact proposal. Now with the GPH proposal presented, they see it that we are going back to the first step of the ladder. From the beginning once again. It seems like they’re saying, we already talked about the Ancestral Domain with the GPH of the previous administration, now you don’t want to talk about it? That’s the reason of this disappointment, I guess. In my mind, they were thinking that “it will not work”. We’ve been there before—the economic package, the autonomy. But it didn’t work. Let’s talk about the Compact, because this will end the war.
With our biases toward the MILF, we judge them easily without considering the merit of their proposal and how they see the problem. We should try to see the Mindanao conflict from their lens, and then we could start arguing with them.
I believe that as much as we want, the MILF doesn’t want to engage to another war again. They consider the Comprehensive Compact as the key to a just and lasting peace.
The Government also doesn’t want another war. They consider their 3-n-1 proposal as the key.
Two Groups. Two perceived keys. Now both sides need to be patient.
The best thing that happened on the August 22-24 exploratory talks is this: the Government unveiled its thoughts.
From there starts the real negotiation.
God bless Mindanao.