Updates Per Peace Table

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Closing Statement of GPH Panel Chair Dean Marvic Leonen on the 27th Formal Exploratory Talks

Bismillahir rahmanir raheem. Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.

Today, we signed the document containing the decision points on principles with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This marks a significant and concrete step forward by both Parties in their discussions of substantive issues in these negotiations.

For the GPH, this document is a preliminary listing of common points, which the Parties have mutually identified, coming from their respective initial positions: the MILF, from their February 2011 Revised Comprehensive Compact, and the GPH, from its 3-for-1 August 2011 proposal.

Those who choose to be cynical of the objective to attain peace in Mindanao by peaceful means have indeed freely remarked that the ongoing peace talks have not achieved much, especially with respect to the substantive issues at the core of the negotiations. Today, we dispel this cynicism. We have collatedour points of mutual understanding, which have, indeed, significantly inspired both the substance and direction of our discussions. Therefore, this document, too, is an insight to the breadth and scope of issues encompassed by our discussions.

As a preliminary listing, this document is not an exclusive statement of all common points which the Parties may already share, or which the Parties may find consensus on in the future. Nor is it intended as a detailed and precise statement of agreements. 

Rather, it should be read as a memorandum for the Parties of the general directions of the substantive negotiations, described in broad strokes, generous enough to allow the Parties the necessary space to navigate the details and context in a comprehensive final agreement.

Through this document, the Parties have taken the effort to articulate in language mutually acceptable to them, the current extent of their consensus in the course of their long, difficult and productive discussions on the substantive issues. It is a document evolved by the Parties in their common attempt to check what they have achieved throughout the history of these peace talks, and to lay down their ostensible points of agreement or “common points”. The Parties agreed to put these points in writing to fix their positions in the current stage of the negotiations, both recognizing that doing so can also help clarify various outstanding issues and more detailed questions that the Parties still need to explore.

In July 2010, when this Panel was constituted by orders of the President to act as his emissary in the peace negotiations with the MILF, among his instructions to the Panel were 1) to consider the Government’s ability to deliver, politically, economically and socially, commitments made and signed at the negotiating table and 2) to continue sincere and open dialogues not only with the MILF, but also with all sectors affected by the negotiating process. 

As far as the GPH is concerned, these common points are commitments that can be properly accommodated by our current legal and political realities. More importantly, for the GPH, having these common points in writing and making it public are part of its sincere commitment to maintain transparency in these talks, as far as practicable, and to continue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors. 

Moreover, the Bangsamoro question is one that is properly posed not just to the National Government, but quite importantly, as well, to the national public. Negotiations after all are about problem solving, and this document is an invitation for the public to take part in this process. For the GPH, engaging the public in this way is not only crucial for pragmatic and comprehensive discussions of the substantive issues, but also necessary for ensuring a final peace agreement in the future, which is both legitimate and politically viable.The June 2010 Declaration of Continuity signed by the GPH and the MILF, as clarified in the statement of then GPH Chair Rafael Seguis, inspires the position of this Government in its steadfast commitment to maintain the continuity of negotiations embodied in agreed documents.  The GPH recognizes that the “status quo is not acceptable,” and thus continues to pursue reforms in this respect.

This listing also addresses and settles a number of questions that have been raised about the Mindanao peace process: It is clear that what the Parties are discussing are the parameters of meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro people, under a new autonomous political entity that can replace the current ARMM created under Republic Act No. 9054. The autonomous political entity envisioned is a secular political unit, existing within the Republic of the Philippines, located within its territory and subject to its sovereignty as a State.

The government of this autonomous political entity shall also ensure guarantees of human rights and liberties for its inhabitants, such as religious freedom, the right of women to meaningful political participation, and freedom from ethnic, religious or sectarian harassment, in addition to rights alreadyenjoyed. 

However, it is reasonably expected that the lists contained in this document, such as those of human rights guarantees and the powers reserved in the National Government, cannot be deemed to be exclusive, and does not preclude further points which may be agreed on as the Parties continue to negotiate.

This document is not the final peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. With the signing this document, indeed, comes the mutual recognition of the Parties that there are various outstanding issues that still require further or more detailed discussions between the Panels and more difficult decisions for their Principals, such as issues pertaining to the geographic scope of the autonomous political entity, power sharing and wealth sharing between the entity and the National Government, mechanisms for implementation of the agreement and the contours of a transition and normalization process, which will include details on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Such outstanding issues, as well as the points contained in this document, will be contextualized in the final agreement.

The GPH Panel, as is our principal, His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, remains sincerely committed to working towards a negotiated comprehensive political settlement with the MILF to address the Bansgamoro question. Today, we move forward with a healthy amount of optimism tempered by prudence, recognizing the need now, more than ever, to be guided by lessons from the past and the needs of our people on the ground.

We look forward to the coming weeks of more thorough (perhaps, more difficult) conversations with the MILF and various affected sectors, with the understanding that only through peaceful and candid dialogues, open and public consultations and continuous reflections can a sincere, effective and acceptable solution be arrived at.

Shukran and wassalam.