GRP, MILF clash in drafts (1): The Agreed Guidelines

By Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews

(The series is an analysis of the draft peace pacts exchanged between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels on January 27, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The MILF did not show up for discussion the next day claiming the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] presented nothing new, that it offered “enhanced autonomy” again, an offer rejected in 2000 and 2003.

The two panels met again on March 4 in Kuala Lumpur for a Q and A session on the MILF’s draft Declaration of Principles on Interim Governance Arrangements, an 11-page extract from its proposed Comprehensive Compact. The GRP peace panel vowed to submit its counter-proposal but as of March 18, panel chair Rafael Seguis told MindaNews he has not submitted it because “I have to clear with the National Security Cabinet Group.”

Dialogue Mindanaw, a series of consultations organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), is supposed to “engage the people by informing them about the issues being discussed in the GRP-MILF peace talks, and by securing their honest feedback on these issues”

OPAPP Secretary Annabelle Abaya announced before Mindanao’s state university presidents who attended a peacebuilding conference in Penang, Malaysia in January that the Dialogue Mindanaw consultations will be specific as to the issues the government and MILF peace panels will be discussing at the negotiating table.

“The idea is to get back to the people on the issues they (panels) are discussing. What do they want?“ Abaya said.

But issues like “state-sub-state relationship” which was allegedly part of the proposal of the MILF in late January, has not been discussed in the consultations.

MindaNews’ Patricio P. Diaz got hold of copies of the draft peace agreements exchanged on January 27 from sources who asked not to be named.

This series is intended to help the readers understand the drafts and the issues being resolved now. Prof. Rudy Rodil has also written a separate commentary — MindaNews editor)

I. The Agreed Guidelines

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – From the various reports of the stalled peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the inference is: The peace process to arrive at a political solution to the Mindanao Problem is not in a state of impasse; rather, it is in a state of by-pass: the MILF is resisting and the GRP is insisting on.

This interesting, yet intriguing, twist in the Kuala Lumpur negotiation the GRP and the MILF drafts of agreements tell, the media reports notwithstanding.

[Author’s Note: Incidentally and presumably, in response to my latest three-part COMMENT: “Peace Pact Still Possible?”, posted in MindaNews February 16, 20, 21 and 22, sources who asked not to be named sent copies of the GRP and MILF Drafts]

Moral Issue

The present stalled negotiation raises the moral issue of sincerity and honesty. The two Parties – GRP and MILF – have agreed to follow the talks agenda. On reading the Drafts, it is to be wondered: How sincere and honest are they to their agreements?

A year after the Supreme Court restrained the Government from signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) and later declared it unconstitutional, the two Parties “re-established official contact” on July 29, 2009 and issued the four-point “Joint Statement” to do so. This is a key reference of the resumed peace talks.

Joint Statement acknowledged the following:

1. Mutual effort to sustain the Government’s Suspension of Military Offensives (SOMO) and the MILF’s Suspension of Military Actions (SOMA).

2. Acknowledgment of MOA-AD as an unsigned and yet initialed document, and commitment by both parties to reframe the consensus points with the end in view of moving towards the comprehensive compact to bring about a negotiated political settlement;

3. Work for a framework agreement on the establishment of a mechanism on the protection of non-combatants in armed conflict;

4. Work for a framework agreement on the establishment of International Contact Group (ICG) of groups of states and non-state organizations to accompany and mobilize international support for the peace process.

What does Item 2 imply? Since the MILF never abandoned the MOA-AD, the acknowledgment of it as an “initialed document” was solely that of the GRP after having disowned it publicly and before the Supreme Court.

The GRP and the MILF, in committing “to reframe the consensus points with the end in view of moving towards the comprehensive compact to bring about a negotiated political settlement”, agreed to re-start the talks from where they had stopped – the initialed MOA-AD. That is a defining statement.

In so agreeing, the MILF acknowledged the Decision of the Supreme Court and, by extension, the 1987 Constitution. However, the Court ruling should be noted well:

Its final resolution reads: “The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 is declared CONTRARY TO LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION.”

Paragraph 4 of the Summary of the Supreme Court’s October 14, 2008 Decision reads: “The MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001. Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.”

What are to be noted well?

First, the Court declared unconstitutional only the MOA, not the AD as an aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001.

Second, the Court recognized the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 and the series of agreements already done to carry it out. The Court acknowledged the MOA-AD as a significant part of that series.

Third, the Court restrained the Government from signing the MOA-AD; however, on recognizing its significance to the GRP-MILF peace negotiation, it recommended three options to save the peace process: (1) renegotiate it; (2) draft a new one with similar provisions; or, (3) draft another with significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the unconstitutional MOA-AD.

Item 2 of the four-item agreement of the July 29, 2009 Statement is consonant with these options.

On December 9, 2009, the GRP and MILF agreed to cut short the negotiation by exchanging draft agreements drawn up following a seven-item guideline: (1) Identity and citizenship; (2) Government and structure; (3) Security arrangement; (4) Wealth-sharing, natural resources and property rights; (5) Restorative justice and reconciliation; (6) Implementation arrangement; (7) Independent monitoring.

The seven-item specific guideline, another key reference of the resumed peace talk, is consonant with Item 2 of the July 29 Statement and the final ruling of the Supreme Court on the MOA-AD. To reiterate the moral issue: Do the GRP and MILF draft agreements adhere to their agreed guideline? The drafts will tell how sincere and honest the Parties are.

Restatement

The Supreme Court decision recommends three options to revive the negotiations on the Ancestral Domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of June 2001.

The GRP-MILF Joint Statement of July 29, 2009 is a general agreement to reframe the consensus points of the MOA-AD to re-start the peace talks and move it toward the Comprehensive Compact.

The December 9, 2009 Seven-Item guideline sets the details of the Joint Statement as reference of the two Parties in drafting their Peace Agreement Proposal to shorten the negotiation to five months or less.