Sunday, June 17, 2012

The core issue in peace talks

From the Website of MILF

The core issue in peace talks

(June 8-15)
The Government of the Philippines (GPH) can talk of everything, say pouring billions of pesos to Moro areas, appointing Moros to the COMELEC, Court of Appeal, or even to the Supreme Court, creating offices after offices, etc., but it is just kidding so seriously. All these efforts are not bad per se, but they won’t solve anything. The real issue in the current peace negotiation is how to solve the Moro Question, which is a sovereignty-based conflict. The core is empowering Moros to run their own affairs in a state-substate asymmetrical relationship. It is about the power to decide what they want for themselves, their choice of identity, and to have a clear share of the pie.  The days that Manila decides everything for them must be severed now if we are really to end this whole mess in Mindanao.
In this empowerment or entrenchment process, the role of the MILF is very brief and tentative.  We just want to be in the “driver’s seat” during the transition period. If people (not the spoilers) do not want this term because it carries the stigma of bossism, authoritarianism, if not outright dictatorship, then we can use other terms provided the MILF is the chief “shepherd”. In the end, those who will run the new Moro political entity will be determined in a fair and free election, not the current system in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where the governor, vice governor, and members of the legislative assembly are anointed and made to win by Manila. This is the reason why the power over election should be put as concurrent jurisdiction of the central government and the substate. The election playing field must be leveled, not the exclusive domain of the bully, moneyed, and actors.

If the government wants to fast track this negotiation, the MILF reiterates its stand that both sides take the position of fashioning out a substate for the Moros. Once the government agrees to this idea, which obviously can be assumed, then perhaps the creation of technical committees can help fast track the process.  Under the stewardship of the peace panels, experts on various fields of knowledge should be invited to these committees.

Moreover, the parties must not be dragged into discussion of other issues, like putting marker or monument to spots where major bloody battles or massacres took place. Of course, these are part of the whole political settlement, but they can take the back seat for the moment. Surely, the MILF will never agree to sign an agreement with the government that will forget those who suffered or fall from the excesses of the state, in the guise of exercising the monopoly of coercive powers.