The peace process between the Government and the MILF is facing challenging times. From the heavenly euphoria of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the negotiators are back on the ground and working out the details of the Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing and Normalization Annexes. That the Annexes have yet be signed means one thing: the present drafts of the Annexes, despite being initialed by the negotiators, are not yet fully acceptable to the President. The President is not comfortable with the present formulations. The negotiators need to continue working on the drafts. The approval of the Annexes is ultimately the President’s decision. It is not the call of the peace advisers, not of the negotiators, not of the members of the Cabinet. It is the President’s alone.
President Aquino has invested so much in the GPH-MILF peace process – reputation, political capital, time, energy, funds, and resources – that he naturally will not let this opportunity go to waste unnecessarily. However, despite all of these “investments”, he will not approve the Annexes if, in his perception, doing so will not bring the desired outcomes.
So what are the possible factors that President Aquino will consider before he gives the final approval to the Annexes? I have no special insight into the decision-making style of the President so this is purely guesswork on my part. I am trying to divine the President Aquino’s “calculations” based on what I have heard and read. My guess is that the following 10 factors will weigh heavily in the President’s mind when he makes a decision on the draft Annexes:
1. Whether or not the Annexes are crafted in such a manner that the possible legal and constitutional challenges are not too formidable to overcome and efforts to surpass those challenges will not be be too costly or difficult (e.g. ministerial form of government, the concept of “territory”, 75-25% wealth sharing on natural resources, etc.)
2. Whether or not the opposition to the FAB and the Annexes, both within his administration and outside, can damage him politically;
3. Whether or not the political machineries (Team PNoy coalition, Liberal Party, Congress, LGUs, other alliances and coalitions) will support him and whether they are capable of providing adequate support and defense;
4. Whether or not his approval of the Annexes will undermine the stability of government (e.g. threats from parts of the security sector that profits from the war economy, the government’s capability to secure the national territory and conduct CIQS operations in the Sulu seas, etc.);
5. Whether or not the Annexes depart too radically from the conventional administrative or political practice (e.g. Regalian Doctrine, the concept of local governments, national government assistance to local governments, etc.)
6. Whether or not the social or political upheavals that will be triggered by the approval of the Annexes would be worthwhile vis-a-vis the benefits;
7. Whether or not the approval of the Annexes would foster unrealistic expectations among certain interest groups which will lead to further disappointment, alienation and distrust, thus undermining other initiatives in the future;
8. Whether or not the Annexes may damage the economy (e.g. less revenues, less taxes to be collected, lack of accountability in the use of block grants, lack of control over strategic minerals, etc.);
9. Whether or not, because of the election of new and reform-oriented leaders in the ARMM and massive development programs like Sajahatra, the goals of the peace negotiations can now be achieved without necessarily agreeing to the Annexes;
10. Whether or not there are other issues or crises more compelling than the GPH-MILF peace process such that the approval of the Annexes can be shelved in the meantime;
These are the possible factors in the President’s mind and the government negotiators (and to some extent, the MILF negotiators) need to address these “factors” if they want the Annexes to be approved soon. Answers to the 10 factors will determine whether the peace process will proceed to the next stage or will it be stalled in the negotiation of the Annexes.