GPH, MILF discuss substantive issues at 26th exploratory talks in Malaysia PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 March 2012 14:17

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front discussed in earnest substantive issues, including power sharing on governance and wealth sharing, at the 26th round of formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur that ended Wednesday.

A joint statement, released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said the two parties approved the request of the Office of the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to sit as observer in the GPH-MILF peace talks.

The joint statement was signed by Marvic Leonen, GPH peace panel chair; Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF peace panel; and Tengku Dato’ AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator.

Both parties signed the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the consultants who will be part of their respective delegations.

They agreed to meet again in April 2012 for the 27th exploratory talks.

During the 26th exploratory talks, Leonen cited the need for both the Philippine government and the MILF to be patient in understanding the possibilities that lie ahead to find a genuine and lasting solution to resolve peacefully the long-drawn Mindanao conflict.

“The welfare of our people is at the core of these negotiations,” Leonen said in a statement during the opening of the formal exploratory talks Monday.

“All of us know that the heart of what we are discussing in this negotiating table is not what government can assert or what the MILF can gain. It is, first and foremost, what we can really get for our people, their communities and their future.” Leonen said.

“Let us stay focused, be patient so that we can have greater understanding of the possibilities that still lie ahead of us,” Leonen said.

Leonen said that the frame of these discussions at this very difficult stage of the negotiations should always take into consideration “our ideas of democracy, viability and mandates for the representation of those who will temporarily lead the forms of governance that the both panels will agree upon.

“Democracy is, of course, a loaded term,” he said, “but, it is the very reason why we have always maintained that the end of these discussions should always result in real and genuine representation for the Bangsamoro.”

Leonen said that the Philippines was a democratic and republican state where there were openings to improve on the unitary system with constitutional provisions that allow for flexible autonomy to happen. “Autonomy, even as enshrined in present laws, should however never be a reason to entrench any form of authoritarianism,” Leonen said, adding that “neither should it be used to justify lack of good and effective governance.”

“Indeed, if we are truly to abide by its spirit: autonomy already acknowledges historical and cultural differences while at the same time a faith that the peoples that claim it can also be truly heard and hold their leaders accountable.,” he said.

Leonen also said that the government that is installed must work, must be accountable and effective, saying it must have the mandate of the governed, must be tolerant “otherwise, we repeat the sins of our history: even that part of our history where we sought accommodations in order to sue for peace.”

At the same time, Leonen said “we should all acknowledge the weaknesses in our realities.”

“In the end, what we need are leaders who can stand the crucible of people’s scrutiny. In their selection and in their governance, there always has to be accountability. Anything less than these, will only postpone the reckoning. Anything less than this will not bring about lasting peace,” he said.

Leonen said all these were now being addressed by government with some leaders within the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM}.
“To a certain extent, we need to acknowledge the progresses that have already been made. After all, the present government cannot renege to performing as government the best way it can, guided by the values already found within its own legal order,” he said. He also said that in time, “given the sincerity, capability and resources and the support of many peoples for these reform agenda, communities will be able to feel that their lives have changed and that they have more control of what happens to them.”

But the value added of these negotiations is to bring on board more of your aspirations and solutions that you brought with you as a movement,” he said.
Leonen said these negotiations should not be for the purpose of supplanting the good that had already been achieved.

The government peace panel chair said that “we are approaching what would seem to be a stalemate in our ideas for transition as well as in our ideas of how to make permanent the solutions that work for our peoples.”

He invited his counterparts to take a step back with us.

“Perhaps, by examining the reasons why we insist on our various positions we can see ways forward. Perhaps if both our teams can temporarily suspend judgment so that we can candidly evaluate our reasons and standpoints, see their political viability. Perhaps, we can both keep an open mind, we could convince ourselves that there are goals more appropriate rather than sticking to our encrusted positions,” Leonen said.

“The timelines that we have imagined presupposes the political and legal possibilities that are present within the first half of this administration. Should we fail to meet these timelines, these negotiations will continue but we would have to seriously re-craft the proposals that we now already have on the table.”

However, Leonen said that time has not yet come, and “we are still in the midst of exploring the many opportunities that an agreement within the first half of this year can bring.”

He said there is a need to “redouble our efforts, understand the reasons for our positions, bring them carefully and accurately to our principals and constituents, spark the needed public debate and then participate with our principals to come out with difficult decisions.”

Members of the International Contact Group, the Malaysian facilitator attended the exploratory talks.