Resumption of Peace Talks: Who Then Should Be the New Players?

Mindanao Peace or in Pieces?
By Antonio C. Abaya

[...] Now that President Arroyo has, correctly, disbanded the GRP peace panel headed by retired General Rodolfo Garcia, and has refused to continue negotiations with the MILF “at gunpoint,” the next logical step would be to appoint someone else as presidential adviser on the peace process, to replace retired General Hermogenes Esperon, who should be appointed ambassador to Myanmar.

The next peace adviser should not be another former military general and should be someone from Mindanao, either Christian or Muslim, either male or female. If President Arroyo is grooming former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson to replace Esperon, she should forget it. Singson is not from Mindanao and does not come with credible bona fides.

President Arroyo should choose from a short list prepared by concerned groups, to which I would nominate Adel Tamano, Irene Santiago, Amina Rasul and Margie Moran, aided by a battery of constitutional lawyers..

But President Arroyo should lay down the rules of the game, to which the new peace adviser and the new GRP peace panel must strictly adhere; otherwise, no go.

Chief among these rules should be the condition that any agreement must conform to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. In other words, no thinly disguised Trojan horses in which ChaCha dancers can hide and jump from at the first opportune moment, to perform their song-and-dance once they are inside Congress..

If President Arroyo can live with this limitation, she will convince one and all that she does not intend to stay in power beyond 2010. [...]

To get back to the stalled peace process, any resumption of these talks should not be held in Malaysia as Malaysia has a vested interest in the dismemberment of the Philippines. Malaysia has not forgotten and will never forget that President Ferdinand Marcos tried to launch an invasion to grab Sabah or North Borneo from the Malaysian Federation in the 1970s. For the Malaysians, the dismemberment of the Philippine Republic would be the sweetest revenge for such a hostile and unfriendly act.

If we must talk with Bangsamoro rebels abroad, let the venue be in Indonesia. Indonesia has its own problems with separatist movements (East Timor, Aceh, Irian Jaya, etc) and would not be hospitable to separatist movements in other, neighboring countries. [...]

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Both GRP and MILF need to have new sets of negotiators.

There will always be right people who have the heart for the job. Never rush the selection of the new members of the negotiating panel. Rather, let us all pray and wait and the Lord will stir the hearts of the people He has prepared for the task.

In due season things will fall in place to pave the way for the fruitfulness of a fair and lasting peace in the Land of Promise.