The negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not end with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Manila last October 15. Aside from the three annexes, power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and normalization, there are still other issues that have to be settled by the parties. In this regard, it is not very healthy for either the GPH or MILF to annotate or interpret any provision of the Agreement unilaterally. Not only that this takes the nature of a negotiation --- in the media --- but it invites response from the other party, which might result in hardening of their respective positions. This early, we are appealing to the parties directly involved in the negotiation from yielding to such temptation, because this will not be good for the peace process and for everybody after that highly-acclaimed signing ceremony in Manila.
To date, among the issues that are highly contentious, are decommissioning of MILF weapons, government troops gradual redeployment, and policing. The parties will discuss these during their forthcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur next month. While we are very optimistic that they will get past these issues and forge an agreement, because they have no other option except to agree, but the seriousness of the issues to the parties are really real. It is not imagined or just a perception; it is in the heart of the conflict from the very start. Had not Moros suffered bloodily from the hands of state security forces and their allies, there would have been no sovereignty-based conflict in Mindanao, at least it will not start as early as the 70s. For the government, national security has always been at stake and for the Bangsamoro individual and collective security is central to the discussion. In all these, the element of trust is very important, which is not yet fully in place. This will only take root gradually as the parties faithfully and effectively comply with their parts of the political package.
Perhaps, the starting point of developing this trust factor will commence on how the parties handle the three issues above, taking into sincere considerations the legitimate concerns of both parties. Never mind, the legal niceties, because accommodation of the proposed Basic Law into the Constitution, is part of the bargain; in fact, it is one of the responsibilities of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
As far as we are concerned, viewing all these pending issues before us will lead to a situation which calls for more partnership and cooperation between the parties. There is no shortcut approach to achieving genuine normalization in our midst, except through the gradual and incremental process, most of which if not all, are done or pursued in other conflict models in the world. The result is many succeeded, others initially failed, and still others are underway. In the end, as part of the equation, policing anchors on the basic principle that people should police themselves, and not by those who are strangers to the area whose interests are not intertwined with those whom they intend to serve; and similarly, the central state armed forces focusing on national and external security matters.