MILF proposal is designed to keep the country intact, not dismembered


The MILF proposal is designed to make sure that the country is not dismembered. Its purpose is to make sure that national integrity and national territory is preserved. This is the clear common ground of both the Philippine Government and the MILF.

But we do miss the obvious. We miss the things right in front of our very noses. Why? Perhaps because precisely it is how our minds are designed. We are constantly on the look out for what is complex. We are enamored by complex solutions and the more complex articulation of these complex solutions. If a solution is too obvious, our minds dismiss it right away as way too simple to be of any value. If it is too obvious, it must not be that important or effective.

Why do miss the point that the MILF proposal seeks to preserve the national integrity and territory of the Philippines? Because the MILF use big, threatening words that immediately strike fear and anxiety in the hearts and minds of the super majority and which, in turn, is stoked and fanned by individuals and organizations that profit from the conflict in Mindanao. The word “substate”, for example, is a word that sounds like “state” and triggers fear of Muslim domination and rule. Judging by the reaction of people to the proposal, everyone has a strong opinion on it. My question: how many of the political pundits, commentators, op-ed writers, radio talk show hosts, politicians, government officials, “twitter” revolutionaries and the population at large have seen or read the details of this so-called “substate” proposal? None. Zero. Nil. Why? Because only the GPH negotiating panel has seen it. Yet despite the clear ignorance, many people have strong opinions on it.

Clearly, both the GPH and MILF panels need to rethink this policy of confidentiality. Why keep the initial documents (GPH’s “3+1” and MILF’s “substate” proposals) secret when it would benefit the negotiations if these were made public. If the parties continue to deprive the public of information about what these proposals really contain, the prejudices and the biases of the people will supply the details.

Lastly, negotiations they say is all about “trade-off” – you give up something valuable, important, an advantage, something that you possess dearly and the giving up of which diminishes you – all for a higher purpose. The MILF, based on their proposal, gave up its demand for independence and seeks a solution that corrects the imbalance of the political relationship between the Filipino and the Bangsamoro under one Philippine citizenship, one Philippine flag and one Philippine territory. They are seeking the exercise of genuine self-determination within the context of one Philippines. Giving up the demand for independence is risky for any revolutionary secessionist group as the demand for independence is a source of power, myth and mobilization. Such decision opens the organization to internal splits and thus weakens it in the long run.

What is not clear to me however in this initial exchange is what the Philippine Government, in its “3+1” proposal, gave up?

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