The aim of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation, as set as early as 1997, has been to solve the Moro Problem, later recoined, nay corrected, as the Moro Question. The truth is that the Moros are not the problem; they are the ones under siege in their homeland. The problem is not administrative, as approached by the Americans during their occupation of Mindanao. It is political, because it is sovereignty-based. It is anchored on the collective right of people to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. In its historical antecedent, the Moros had been the lord of Mindanao even before Spain set its foot in the Philippines in 1521.
Solving the Moro Question, therefore, could only take two forms namely: independence or real autonomy. There is no third option, say integration. Instead of improving their lives, the Moros suffered humiliatingly under the choking unitary system of government pursued in the Philippines. More importantly, integration has never been or will ever be an option of the MILF.
The GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a template for real self-rule for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao. It is a solid document, short of the ideal option providing for an independent state.
Of course, it is not a perfect agreement, especially for those who wish for a better one, as well as for the cynics and those who criticize for the sake of criticizing. But for those who have been in the negotiation since 1997, especially negotiators of the MILF, the agreement is the best. There could never be another like it, because so much “blood, sweat, and tears” had been invested in it and there would have been no time in the past and perhaps in the future that such Agreement will ever be possible. The two parties have given their best --- and worst? --- and for them this is the best compromise. Pushing them for more concessions is like pushing them to go to war.
As a consequence of the signing of this Agreement, a new engagement between the MILF and the GPH will emerge. If in the past, their relationship had been characterized by mistrust, animosity, and confrontation, this time it will gradually undergo dramatic changes for a more collaborative approach. The progress might not be too fast because it is tied up with how they comply with the provisions of their Agreement and how they settle the remaining issues which will be contained in annexes. What is more important, however, is that negotiation does not end here; it will continue even after the full implementation of this Agreement and full normalization in Mindanao is attained. This is the essence and beauty of an asymmetrical relationship between the mother state and the sub-entity; it is dynamic and living.
Indeed, the signing of the Agreement is a big bold step towards the settlement of the Moro Question in Mindanao. We salute the GPH and MILF for their boldness and decisiveness in forging the peace pact. We salute President Benigno Aquino III, MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak for their commitment and dedication for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Mindanao. There is no other pragmatic and civilized way to do it but for the parties to engage each other in the negotiating table, instead of confronting each other on the battlefield.