In a negotiation, the parties start with core positions and from there they navigate the rough seas of negotiation with two things very clear in their minds: what they want and how to get to their destinations. Any negotiator who does not know or follow this cardinal rule will lose the battle and go home empty-handed, delegitimized, and checkmated.
In the current GPH-MILF peace negotiation, both parties know their game fully well and it is to their credit that they already agreed that the end game of this current exercise is to establish a new Bangsamoro political entity, aside from and in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The MILF already agreed to a state-substate asymmetrical arrangement and the government to change the status quo that is too lopsided against the Moros in Mindanao.
Having settled this issue, the main task of the parties is to fast track the negotiation. In Indonesia, former Vice President Yusuf Kalla had a quick deal with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) negotiators. During their initial meeting, he asked the GAM leaders: What is your position in this negotiation, independence or autonomy? If it is independence, then let us go home and let our guns speak, but if it is autonomy, then let us make it happen immediately. This is the reason why their negotiation took only six months. This is not happening in the current GPH-MILF negotiation. While the MILF argues on the framework of state-substate relationship, the government is still glued to their unitary setup of mind. Their main reference, if not their own concern, are existing laws passed by Congress. This mainly explains the snail-paced negotiation and why the talks are already in its 15th year with light at the end of the tunnel hardly visible. Or, perhaps it is not yet there.
It is time, the government to unpack their unitary mindset and delve into the realities of substate entities, because this is the way to settle the Moro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao and conclude the negotiation. Vestiges of the old order will not help this negotiation and it is a waste of time, energy, and resources. Besides, it can be interpreted as lack of interest, foresight, or sincerity.