Atty. Zainudin S. Malang, IMRI, LL.M.
Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy (0928-5000-432)
For the past few years, negotiations between the GRP and the MILF panels have been wracked by instability and uncertainty. Particularly in the past few months, frustrations over delays and backtracking on previously agreed upon consensus on ancestral domain has led to numerous outbreaks of fighting and threatened a complete collapse of the peace talks. The sense of civil society in the conflict affected areas of Mindanao was that resumption of widespread hostilities was a certainty. Confidence in the peace process was almost nil.
Therefore, the successful executive meeting between the GRP and MILF panels in Kuala Lumpur could not have come at a better time. It came when there was a desperate need to revive people¢s confidence. It is no less than dramatic. Additionally, the announcement of the government of Japan of doubling its representation in the international body that is tasked with monitoring the agreements on cessation of hostilities (IMT) is an indication of renewed confidence in the negotiations. Ditto for the reported efforts to unify the MILF and the MNLF, at least in negotiating position if not organizationally.
However, though the success of the GRP and MILF panels in their recent executive meeting is very much welcome and appreciated by civil society, the contentious issues on ancestral domain is only the latest hurdle to be overcome by the panels. There still remain the last but equally contentious issues on political relations between Manila and the envisioned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
It also remains to be seen whether conservative forces in the national government as well as powerful politico-economic oligarch families in Mindanao and elsewhere will temper their opposition to the peace process and respond to the people¢s demand for a peaceful and negotiated solution to legitimate Moro grievances.
Thus, continued vigilance of stakeholders will be a main factor in determining whether the now revitalized negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will lead to a successful comprehensive peace compact in the near future.