Advocacy Mindanow: Tokyo meeting— again PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 August 2011 13:21

TRANSPARENCY? — Although the best course of action by us  who were not directly involved in that Tokyo meeting  with the MILF, and hence  not privy to what really transpired, is to allow things to  settle down first and let the next steps unfold,   I am tempted however to mention some points, with everyone’s indulgence.
First of all , let’s not demand or ask  the President  to disclose publicly what had been discussed behind closed doors. For one party to make public the details of the meeting that had been previously and mutually agreed as confidential is  a total breach of decency. To claim transparency as a reason is stretching it a bit too far.

Come on guys!  Negotiations as a process and while in progress are not intended to be that transparent. Yes, the stakeholders have the right to demand that they should be informed  of some  parameters, but while that negotiation is still in progress it is best that  the negotiators of both sides be allowed the necessary leeway to  do their own thing, with the least kibitzers getting in the way. Getting the job done alone is difficult in itself. The least we can do to help is to hold our peace when things go rough. Trust that at the end of the day, any settlement will be for a higher objective, irrespective of whether some will be unhappy with the results. There are political costs no doubt.
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NOT EASY —Let us not forget this: rebel groups have grievances and demands that are not easy to grant. In fact, that’s the very reason why they have taken up arms. Although we should not give premium to getting or giving in to demands at the point of the gun, that is the very essence of their armed struggle. Government and the mainstream must take the high moral ground and must be ready to give concessions for a higher cause of peace. We should not quibble about the ghosts or phantoms that usually  haunt us during negotiations  like issues of status of belligerency, parity  or the like. Let the scholars and academicians tackle them.
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NO SECRET DEAL! —To even speculate that there was a “secret deal” cut in that  Tokyo meeting is preposterous. There was NONE! Those who say otherwise do not understand the nature of the issues that are on the table. Let me simply say this: the unresolved issues had been there for so long a time  and so complicated that even a presidential intervention (for 2 hours) would  not resolve them.

Take it from me. Fact is:  there was no deal. There were no agreements.  There were no consensus points forged. There was no giving  or taking of concessions.  At best, there was a tacit understanding that both parties will work for a final settlement. For sure, it provided an occasion for  clarification of issues. Or an opportunity to clarify or  validate positions. For the President, it was also a “getting to know you” event. And so it was also for MILF’s Al Haj Murad.  The two had never met before and connecting personally would be helpful in the future.  Who knows, a simple  phone call  at some later stage of the negotiations between the two  may work wonders. We can never tell!
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“NEW KID IN THE BLOCK”—I would imagine the President being briefed by his officials about the MILF pending issues and being new in the game, we should expect that he wanted to validate for himself those sticky points by hearing them directly  from Kagi Murad no less. Or checking out directly from the MILF  the bottom line issues that needed resolution.  Let us not forget that President Aquino cannot be compared with former Presidents FVR or GMA who had previous dealings with the MILF or had previous exposure  with the rudiments of the peace process and the issues pending. President Aquino is a new kid in the block, so to speak. He wanted to personally  “make pulso”  as we say it in local lingo.  Although it was a gamble for the presidency for him to do the unexpected and the unconventional,  events later will tell us whether it paid off or it was a mistake. But that was his judgment call and let’s leave it at that.
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MILF: NO DEAL — Listen closely also  to what the MILF is saying. They telegraphed in  their public  statements that indeed there was no deal “cut” in that meeting.  They simply said that they left the meeting with a feeling that there was sincerity on the part of the President. But the issues remained unresolved. To them, Pnoy was an unknown entity – and vice versa. For sure that meeting brought the relationship  to the next level.  Moreover, for the president to take  a gamble on meeting with them in an unusual way which   somehow  put at risk  the presidency  is something the MILF   recognizes and appreciates. For that alone, there was tremendous goodwill generated.
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“DREAM”COMPLAN PLAN —But here’s the best part.  After the country woke up to discover that the meeting indeed took place,   the bottom line issues  are  now up front and subject of lively discussions and debate.   They now dominate the media and public discourse. Everybody is now talking  about the issues of a “substate” or secession or bangsamoro aspiration, self determination, constitutional amendments, etc. Wow, this was my “complan dream” before.  If I were the negotiator now, I would rejoice over the communications plan that has suddenly been in place. No less than the President, intentionally or otherwise, launched a complan that will put on stream the critical stakeholders in the loop. Distilling and percolating the break-away points in the peace talks, discussing the pros and cons, may lead to some win-win solutions or consensus points on critical issues.  This is what peace process is all about!
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BIG PROBLEM — But there’s a BIG  problem in all this:  high expectations generated by that unusual Tokyo meeting  must be met on both sides.  For the President, he must see to it that  any agreement forged later on hues closely to what the stakeholders and the constitutional  laws demand. For Kagi Murad, he must deliver the  dreamed “substate” to the bangsamoro people who must have all been mesmerized by that  presidential  gesture.

Anything short of these will  be interpreted as a “sell-out”.  Anything short will  not be acceptable to their respective constituencies. How to manage these divergent and high  expectations is what the President and Kagi Murad  must now attend to. More difficult is how to bridge the wide gaps that are now so  clear for  all to see. No doubt,  both the two leaders    have a big price to pay for that meeting. The consequences are heavy and grave. Not only for both of them but for all of us as well.  (jessdureza@gmail.com. )