Updates Per Peace Table

milf

Meaningful autonomy is collective, democratic - Leonen

Kuala Lumpur, May 29 – Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen underlined that “meaningful autonomy,” which the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been eyeing to achieve for the Bangsamoro people, is “collective” and “democratic."

“Meaningful autonomy is and has always been a collective effort of all Moros with the various other identities represented by the national government complementing their roles,” he stated in his opening statement today during the 28th formal exploratory talks that started on Monday in this city. The peace negotiations between the two panels officially started today, after yesterday’s executive session with only the Malaysian facilitator present.

He added that given this, meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro is also a “democratic autonomy.”

The GPH and the MILF have embarked on the substantive agenda, such as wealth and power sharing between the national government and the envisioned new autonomous political entity (NPE), following the signing of the Decision Points on Principles during their last round of negotiations in April.

In the decision points, both sides have agreed to create an autonomous area with a democratic arrangement replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Sharing his insights from the recent consultations with various sectors in preparation for this round of talks, Leonen said that many of those they have consulted fear whether “the government, in saying that the status quo is unacceptable, is ready to marginalize the many other efforts done in the past and still continuing in the present in order to sign a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)."

Allaying such fears, he stated that “any democratic arrangement, even within an autonomous area, always concedes tolerance."

“Negotiated political settlements with armed insurgencies therefore should be careful that we do not supplant, devalue or marginalize the efforts of the good souls who…worked valiantly to achieve the laudable aspirations of those who took arms,” he explained.

He also said that efforts of civil servants and some political leaders “who have painstakingly engaged in the many other different struggles needed to put some of the conditions for meaningful democratic autonomy in place” should not be forgotten.

Economic viability

Leonen also stressed that economic viability is necessary for political autonomy to succeed.

“There will always be a failure of political autonomy if the conditions for economic viability of the autonomous area are not given as much priority,” he stated.

The panel chair explained that for one, poverty distorts the people’s democratic choices as indigent voters tend to be enticed with the offer to purchase one’s vote without realizing how this can affect their livelihood opportunities.

“Provision of social services and economic development therefore plants the seed for good governance,” he stated.

Further, Leonen said that along with good governance, “economic development should enable the autonomous government to be less dependent on national fund transfers.”

“Less dependency on national fund transfers matters in the continuing negotiations for competence between the national and autonomous government,” the panel chair added.

He related that the government has been implementing various socio-economic projects that have been neglected in the past.

“I am certain that this will complement the political and legal adjustments that we can agree to in this negotiating table,” Leonen said. “When we sign a comprehensive peace agreement, the two components will then be in place to ensure that this time around we will have a meaningful and democratic autonomous government in place.”

As the GPH and the MILF continue to discuss substantive issues on the table, Leonen expressed hopes that both parties will come up with a peace agreement soon.

“We remain optimistic that the sincerity of both sides will pull us through what we expect would be difficult conversations ahead.”

Support to peace process

The five ARMM governors arrived in the Malaysian capital to provide full support to the on-going peace negotiations, citing the primacy of the peace process especially in Mindanao.

“We are here to provide support,” Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said. “There will always be one of us sitting there (referring to the room where the negotiations is taking place) as an observer.”

“We want to show everybody including the MILF that the five executives of the ARMM are one in supporting the peace efforts of the government with the MILF,” Tan added.

Joining Tan are Maguindanao Governor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar and Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali.

North Cotabato 1st District Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, chairman of the House Special Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation also joined the GPH contingent as a consultant of the peace panel.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation - Peace Committee in Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP) sent Ali Demirci, political officer of the office of the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo to observe the proceedings of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.