What’s next for the GPH-MILF peace process?

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been engaged in peace negotiations since 1997. These negotiations are facilitated by the Government of Malaysia with the assistance of an International Contact Group (ICG) composed of the United Kingdom, Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and international NGOs – the Community of Sant Egidio, Conciliation Resources, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Muhammadiyah. Security on the ground is monitored by the International Monitoring Team (IMT). The architecture is elaborate and covers almost all aspects of the peace process. On the GPH side, the peace process is managed and led by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The coming in of the new administration of Davao Mayor (soon President) Rodrigo R. Duterte ushers in change and uncertainty. Without assessing the soundness or not of the scenarios (that would be the subject of another paper), what are the possible scenarios for the GPH-MILF peace process? What are the possibilities?

SCENARIO 1: CONTINUE THE PRESENT TRAJECTORY – PASS THE BBL

Option 1

The incoming Duterte administration can just to continue the present trajectory. This would mean honoring the commitments entered into by the past administrations, especially those entered into by the Aquino administration. This would mean following to the letter the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). This would also mean the refiling of a new version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress. Under this scenario, the present architecture – third party facilitator, ICG, IMT, etc. will continue.

SCENARIO 2: NO MORE SEPARATE BBL. TACK THE BBL ON THE EFFORTS TO FEDERALIZE THE PHILIPPINES.

Option 2

Under this scenario, government will continue the peace process with the MILF and even honor the essence of the CAB ┬ábut will not anymore pass a separate BBL. The government will propose that the MILF agree to subsume the CAB and all other agreements under the overall, national effort to shift the present form of government to federalism. This scenario has been articulated by incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives and key ally of Mayor Duterte, Pantaleon Alvarez. According to Alvarez, this option will render the CAB/BBL moot and bring everything back to “square one”.

SCENARIO 3. AN ENTIRELY NEW BANGSAMORO PROCESS

Option 4

Under this scenario, President Duterte will propose a new Bangsamoro process and do away with old architecture that has been around for more than 18 years. ┬áThe “new” process may include these features:

1. Instead of a third party facilitator, direct negotiations with the Office of the President;
2. Instead of only dealing with the MILF, open the process to other Bangsamoro stakeholders;
3. Instead of international Monitoring Team (IMT), joint security teams;
4. Instead of International Contact Group (ICG), domestic supporters;
5. Instead of negotiations, focus on implementation;
6. Instead of BBL for the Bangsamoro, federalize the country;
7. Instead of OPAPP managing peace process, Office of the President directly.

SCENARIO 4. CONSULTATIONS

Option 3

The last scenario is actually a not a real scenario. This is the scenario for buying time to consider which among the above scenarios will be implemented. Under this scenario, President Duterte will order comprehensive consultations of key people to determine the right approach. This will also allow time for some back-channeling, behind the scene negotiations. Consultations per se is good. The more important thing would be the scope that is subject to consultations. Are they matters about whether or not government should honor the signed agreements like the CAB? Or are they matters about procedure and implementation of signed agreements? But this would definitely take time and the question is whether the parties have the luxury of time.

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