Misuari was given a chance but he failed
(Statement of GPH Peace Panel Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer on the Zamboanga crisis, Sept. 19, 2013)
The sufferings of the people of Zamboanga City have been at the backs of our minds since we met on Day One of the 40th Formal Exploratory Talks on September 10. We are relieved that after more than a week of mayhem resulting from the attacks of forces loyal to Moro National Liberation Front leader, Nur Misuari, the violence has dissipated and the tremendous task of rebuilding Zamboanga City can now begin.
We have always been aware that our problems in Mindanao are complex. We have said time and again that although we – the Government Negotiating Panel for Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- are talking to only one party among the many interested parties in Mindanao, we have consciously tried to ensure that both the processes and the outcomes will benefit all.
We have become a broken record saying that from the beginning, among the President’s orders, is that the peace talks with the MILF be inclusive.
This injunction is laid out in the October 7, 2010 Memorandum of Instruction issued by President Benigno Aquino III to the Peace Panel, then chaired by now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Marvic Leonen.
To summarize, the President’s instructions were for the negotiations to be guided by the following:
· The Philippine Constitution, inclusive of the flexibilities therein;
· Lessons learned from past negotiations;
· GPH’s ability to deliver its commitments; and
· Inclusiveness and transparency in order to restore public trust and confidence in the peace process.
Along this line, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process led by Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, have deliberately instituted parallel tracks to go side-by-side the negotiations with the MILF.
In the OIC-Government of the ARMM, several MNLF personalities were given positions both in the Regional Government and the Regional Legislative Assembly.
We organized various seminars where we sought to bring together the different constituencies of the MNLF and the MILF so that they could build bridges among themselves. Several of us panel members sat in the other review table for the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement.
The MNLF factions were invited to nominate people who can be appointed to the Transition Commission, the first major mechanism that emerged from the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. They declined but we ensured nonetheless that the Tausugs and other islanders, including those with affinity to the MNLF would get seats, along with the non-Muslims and the other indigenous peoples in this 15-member body.
We know that the MILF then were critical of these initiatives, but we believe now they have seen the wisdom in these efforts.
Those who have shot from the hips alleging that the Government has ignored the FPA and/or Misuari, employed the age-old tactic of divide-and-rule, and are naïve of the situation, regrettably spoke from ignorance.
They missed out on what was common sense to a lot of ordinary people: that Misuari had been given the chance to prove his worth as a leader of the ARMM but failed. They have forgotten that the FPA has been largely implemented with the creation of the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development, the amendments to the ARMM law, the integration of MNLF forces into the AFP and the PNP, and the introduction of various livelihood programs for MNLF base commands.
What now for our negotiations with the MILF?
The end goal of this negotiation is to produce a new set of government institutions that will fall under the rubric of a Bangamoro Government that is part and parcel of the Philippine Republic. To get there, we have to create mechanisms that will effectively implement the agreements and bring everyone on board every step of the way.
These new mechanisms and institutions must be truly representative of the diversity of the populace. They must be strong in order to be responsive not to the machinations of one group, but in order to serve the people better.
The new institutions must allow for all taking the path to peace to participate, and isolate those who continue to hold on to violence as the way of life or mode of politics. They must reward those who respect the rule of law, and punish those who transgress.
The process, moreover, must turn the weapons into ploughshares, and return the children, men and women of war to productive, civilian life.
As such, in our ongoing negotiations with our counterparts, we have stressed the need to reflect the principles of inclusivity and democracy in each and every aspect of the provisions we are putting down on paper.
Peace dividends, after all, are not spoils of war. They are meant for everyone, not booty that goes only to the negotiating parties.
In all honesty, the negotiations in the past few days have been difficult. We constantly tether between big ideals and realistic possibilities; between “ours” in the exclusive sense to “ours,” inclusive. But in doing so, we have been able to achieve better understanding across the table and to work out compromises.
The long time it is taking us to thresh out these details are necessary to ensure that the end results will bring about positive change and less conflicts. Not the other way around.
Please keep the faith with us in this process.