For more than a decade, there is no other time in the past the chance of signing a peace agreement between the MILF and government than now after they signed the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles last April 24 in Kuala Lumpur. This document provides not only direction, but also in clearer terms how the proposed Moro self-governing entity is to be formatted. The remaining task of the parties is only to determine the other remaining decision points such as on territory, normalization including transitional justice, basic law, etc. and flesh them out into signing form.
What are the issues settled by this agreement, which were never committed by the parties in writing especially by government? Of course, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) had touched on some of them, but the fact that this document was not formally signed, the binding effects were more questioned than their acceptance. The parties may have succeeded to reframe the consensus points in the MOA-AD later but the truth is they never moved the parties into the concrete world of really pushing forward. Most if not all of the reframed formulations were cast in constructive ambiguity to provide them more leeway in the interpretation. This explains why almost two years into the Aquino administration there were more shadow boxing rather than real slugfest in the negotiating table.
The GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles settled Moro identity as Moro or Bangsamoro, although they are still Filipinos by citizenship; the ARMM will be replaced by a higher form of self-governing entity; negotiation is based on agreed documents; the form of government is ministerial; provides for a transition mechanism or arrangement; allocates powers to the central authority, state government, and there are powers they jointly exercised; wealth-sharing arrangement; strengthening of the Shariah Courts, which have exclusive application to Muslims; provides both individual and collective rights of the citizens, in addition to those rights already enjoyed by them; and third party monitoring to ensure the implementation of the agreement.
From now on and with sincerity, the parties can move forward with much ease. It is no-no for any party to deviate from this template, lest it will be object of ridicule, blame, or curse.
Thus, if the Aquino administration, especially the president, is really committed and has the political will, now is the time to conclude this peace negotiation. He has to call on all his dedication, sincerity, goodwill --- and statesmanship like what his father and mother did --- to settle the Moro Question and stop the “killing fields” in Mindanao in order for his administration and the country to strengthen the home front in the heels of the uncertainty in the Scarborough Shoal.
It is true that all the issues in the current negotiation are tough, but to the MILF the most difficult in this point of time is the transition arrangement. This is the engine that would lead to the real empowerment of the Moros in general. The MILF is only asking for a small favor from the government: to lead it in the transition in order to provide direction. In the regular phase, it will be free for all, because those who will lead the new Moro entity will be determined by elections. Whichever party wins the most seats in the assembly will form the government, because this is how a ministerial form of government is run.
To reiterate, it is our hope President Aquino would zero-in on the issue of transition arrangement. To us, an early consensus on this will pave the way forward for the current talks. We also hope that all friends of the peace process, especially the international community, will exert proper efforts to make this happen. This is the time to act together. Opportunity rarely knocks in negotiations.