GPH-NDFP peace talks

If available information about the ongoing GPH-NDFP peace talks is going to be the basis of projecting what is in store for this peace process, the best description we can say is that it is uneasy. For instance, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) wants all political prisoners released before any formal ceasefire is signed, while President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wants a formal ceasefire agreement in place before any further release. Clearly, there is a state of head-on collision of their respective positions.

Hard positions are normal in negotiation, because each side has to start with a position. From there the process inches forward with all the necessary bargaining, if – it is a big if – the two parties are really engaged in problem-solving exercise. If not, then the end of the road for the process is a matter of time.

Except for principles, everything is negotiable, resulting in both parties being happy over the result.  We cannot think of any other issue that is too difficult for the parties to handle.

Negotiation is resorted to by groups in conflict. Their motives vary. The successful deal is one that anchors on problem-solving mode. Others offer to negotiate for any of these reasons: to buy time, need to be pictured as peace-loving, to gain legitimacy, and a scheme to mobilize support, both domestic and international, including access to resources.

We do not say the NDFP’s position is wrong and the GPH’s is right or vice versa. It simply is not required of us to do the vetting. They perfectly fall within their own respective domain and competence. Each side knows best what it is doing.

Furthermore, in negotiation one cannot get all what it wants; neither the other party can. Negotiation is negotiation, not dictation. And dictation can only happen if the pushy party is too powerful impose its conditions.

In dealing with other revolutionary groups, we always uphold the basic principle of mutual respect. The fact that we have different ideologies and political as well as organizational lines speak, as a necessary consequence, of divergent methodologies, approaches, and tactics.

However, our experience is different. There were several occasions in the past where the MILF was criticized severely on the ways it dealt with the government, specifically on the issue of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  They commented that it contained provisions that short-changed the Bangsamoro people. We did not hit back and instead we appealed to them to respect the position of the MILF and not to evaluate us on the basis of their own perspective or policies.

The truth is that only Moros know best what is good for our people. If any entity including government still believes that outsider knows better, then they are guilty of perpetuating the old, arrogant, racist, and hated Whiteman’s burden policy that created evil colonial empires and enslaved millions of peoples worldwide.