What will happen to the Bangsamoro peace infrastructure?

Political Strategy Shift

Solving the Bangsamoro Problem

The goal of the Bangsamoro peace process can be summed up as the establishment of a genuine autonomous government in Mindanao. The logic being that the establishment of a genuine autonomy will solve the decades long “Bangsamoro Problem” of insecurity, poverty, discrimination and historical injustice.

In his July 8, 2016 speech at the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fit’r celebration 2016 in Davao City, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte outlined his new political strategy for the implementation of signed peace agreements with the Bangsamoro. His new approach to solving the Bangsamoro Problem is federalism via charter change.

Under this new plan, there will be a constitutional convention in January 2017 and the new constitution will be ratified during the midterm elections in June 2019. Practically, this is a detour from the previous government’s strategy of passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). This federalism strategy would run for about 36 months (from now up to May 2019). This is the President Duterte’s Plan A. If this fails, he will push for the legislation of the BBL. BBL is his Plan B. Let us listen to his words:

“You might be surprised that there are only about three, four, or five Muslims who would be occupying a Cabinet position. Alam mo kasi, ganito ‘yan: We are trying to do a framework and if I succeed in convincing everybody in Mindanao, if I could convince my MILF brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN, there will be a reconfiguration of the territory and most of them will occupy the regional or state positions.

Mahirap na kasi na maumpisahan because I foresee that towards the end of the year, we’d be able to come up with the framework, kung paano gawin ang federalism. But, if the Filipino nation and a plebiscite would not want it, then I am ready to concede whatever is there in the BBL Law.

So, ‘yung mga kapatid kong MI, a promise is a promise. My word of honor is something which I value very much. Kaya ako pag nag-bitaw ng salita ‘yun na ‘yun at hindi ko na pinapalitan. So these are the things that we have to work in on our aspirations. I do not think that there will be another chance for the Mindanaoans to expect change kung… pag nawala ako. It might be for a long time again. Baka mahintay pa kung si Omar ‘yung anak ko maging Presidente na naman. And that is, he is devoted, devout Moro, Muslim. He goes to the… mosque to pray and I like it. I like religious people, especially my grand children.

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I might travel to Jolo. ‘Wag sana lang akong i-kidnap ng Abu Sayyaf. Wala naman akong perang maibigay sa kanila. Diretso putol na lang para — I have to go to Jolo to talk to Nur. And maybe I’ll order the military to just let him… just for a while for him to move around Mindanao to get a consensus amongst the followers of MN and we would be ready, simultaneous ang ating usapan sa MI.

But I said, I assure that if there is no federalism, kung ayaw talaga ng the rest of the country, well then I said what you give to the MI, must be given to MN kasi pareho lang e. I hope that we can have peace in the land. Others, marami akong plano sa ating bayan but I have to clean up. Nandyan si (inaudible) and the others. Even before the campaign, I was always stressing corruption must stop. Corruption must stop.

And this is as good as any other time, if I may just suggest to the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the media to refrain from, you know, mga ambush ambush pati patayan. Anyway, we are talking. Binigyan na nga tayo ng very good example ni Bro. Murad na in spite of the non-passage of the BBL, walang gumalaw. And Nur is also just having a stand down somewhere in Jolo.”

Several points can be gleaned from President Duterte’s speech:

  1. He is designing a federal framework for the whole country which will also include the Bangsamoro;
  2. In this framework, there will be a reconfiguration of territory in the Bangsamoro and this plan will include MILF/MNLF officials occupying regional posts.
  3. In his mind, it will be difficult to initiate the BBL simultaneously with federalism (which is really a constitutional convention). Thus, the BBL legislation must be put first on hold.
  4. If after the push for federalism, the Filipino people will still reject it, he will push for the BBL. Thus, federalism is Plan A.  BBL is Plan B.
  5. Pres. Duterte is asking the MILF to understand that he has not abandoned his promise to push for the BBL but that this has to wait until the results of the federalism push is known.

What will happen to the present Bangsamoro peace architecture?

The parties – GPH and MILF – since the start of formal negotiations have signed a lot of agreements, notable of which are the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which outline the substance and processes for the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomy. It creates an architecture that will serve as the delivery mechanisms for all the components of the signed peace agreements. The architecture looks like this:

Architecture

Source: OPAPP website

For obvious reasons, the architecture was designed for a scenario where the passage of the BBL was a key condition. The passage or non-passage of the BBL affects the architecture tremendously. Now that President Duterte proposes a detour, a change in direction, the question that needs to be answered is: What will happen present peace process architecture under the new strategy? 

Complicated peace infrastructure

GPH MILF Structure

The peace infrastructure between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is complicated and unstable. We need to make it simple and stable.

Not the parties’ fault. That the peace infrastructure is complicated and unstable is not the parties fault. This is because the architecture, as it were, grew in response to specific challenges and problems they encountered through the years. In local parlance, nanganak nang nanganak. The present architecture is the product of the parties responding to events as they happened and therefore, resulting in a complicated, unstable and less than effective architecture. Most of these bodies in the architecture are contained in signed agreements which makes it more difficult to change.

We have more knowledge and wisdom now. But now the parties have the advantage of hindsight. They know what works and what did not work. When they signed the agreements and created bits of the architecture here and there they had little knowledge and experience. But now they have more knowledge and more experience. They can improve on things. It would be a pity if the parties would let the decisions they made when they had less knowledge and experience determine and tie the success of the future. Decisions made with less information must give way to designs made with more information. A balanced fidelity to signed agreements and goal-centered effectiveness is required.

The fear, of course, is that to allow changes in architecture which are contained in signed agreements, even to make it more effective, opens the flood gates of possible changes in the substantive elements of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). For some parties in peace negotiations, especially the weaker ones, a signed agreement is an insurance policy, a form of security. It is also a clear win, a gain. It is a prized possession. This is especially true if the trust level is low.  It is this fear and distrust,  I suspect, that will make the next few months a hard and tough time for the parties.

Right for negotiations phase but not anymore sufficient for implementation. The present architecture was good for the negotiations phase and the fruit of the pudding is the CAB. The architecture enabled and buoyed the parties to come up with the peace accord. But I think that architecture needs to be fine tuned and simplified it were to achieve the goals of the new phase – implementation of the CAB. What is good for negotiations might not be effective for implementation. The good thing about this is that both the Government and the MILF agree that the era of negotiations is over and that they are now in the implementation phase.

Challenge. How to simplify a complex negotiations infrastructure into a simple yet effective implementation infrastructure? This is really the challenge. If you take look at the diagram above, you will see that the current infrastructure is unstable and will collapse if the wrong decision or move is made. A lot of thinking and calculations must be made on the part of government and the MILF. Some strategic questions to ponder are:

  1. What will be the role of the third party facilitator in the implementation phase?
  2. What kind of structure will be put in place to make sure that the partnership and close coordination of the GPH and MILF continues?
  3. What will happen to the negotiation panels?
  4. If there are no negotiation panels, how will the parties collaborate with each other?
  5. What will be the roles of international community in the implementation?
  6. What will happen to the International Contact Group?
  7. Will the International Monitoring Team (IMT) continue on the ground?
  8. What will be the role of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT)?
  9. How will this implementation be funded? Government funds? Foreign donor funds? Who will contribute? Who will manage?
  10. What parts of the architecture to keep? What not to keep?

 

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  but 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.  The “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.

MILF political party undergoes training on strategic thinking

The transformation of “insurgent” mindset to “political actor” mindset is a fundamental work in winning the peace. Every peace process requires not just agreements on structures and processes but also a strategic shift of the mind. Without a revolutionary change in mindset, peace cannot be sustained for war (or peace) starts in the mind.

“The participants acquired the strategic mechanisms to be employed to make a better plan towards achieving their organizational goals.

Lawyer Bong Montesa, CHD Country Director, handled the lectures and workshops. He introduced the TEC PISCO (Target, Expand, Contract, Purpose, Input, Strategies, Choices, Operations) approach.

He said that “the essence of power is politics and the essence of politics is power.”

“Many of us want change,” Montesa said and he cited the importance of having appropriate strategy to gain power.”

Source: UBJP SouthMin undergoes training on Strategic Thinking

ISIS Is Making Inroads in the Southern Philippines and the Implications for Asia Are Alarming | TIME

“One of those groups is the Abu Sayyaf militia, whose head Isnilon Hapilon — now styled Sheik Mujahid Abu Abdullah al-Filipini — has been appointed ISIS’s leader in the Philippines. Presently, the Philippine army is attempting to strike at the group’s jungle stronghold on the island of Basilan. In one of the bloodiest days for the armed forces in years, 18 soldiers were killed and over 50 wounded on April 9. ISIS claimed responsibility for the killings. Shortly after, Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Filipino hostages. (The group is also holding 10 Indonesians, two Canadians and a Norwegian captive.)

“It’s very likely that [Abu Sayyaf] will declare a satellite of the caliphate in the coming year,” says Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert at S. Rajaratnam School of Security Studies in Singapore. “Once that is done, it will be much more difficult to dismantle these groups.”

Already, up to 1,200 Southeast Asians have joined ISIS in the Middle East. Experts now worry that an ISIS stronghold in the southern Philippines will act as a regional lure, providing extremists from across Asia with a place to gain combat experience, before they set act to attack Asian targets or even targets further afield. The Jakarta attack in January that killed four civilians is just a taste of what could come, says Greg Barton, chair in global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Melbourne.”

Counter-terrorism operation in Philippines
LANAO DEL SUR, PHILIPPINES – MARCH 01 : Philippine army soldiers stage an counter-terrorism operation against Maute terrorists, allegedly supports and linked with Daesh in Butig town of Lanao Del Sur province of Mindanao Island, Philippines on March 01, 2016. The conflict form the Butig Town in Lanao del sur started last Febuary 20 when the militants attacked the 51st Infantry Battalion detachment in Barangay Tayabao. (Photo by Lito Boras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

via ISIS Is Making Inroads in the Southern Philippines and the Implications for Asia Are Alarming | TIME

10 Decisive Factors Affecting the Annexes to the FAB

imgresThe 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.

Did the GPH-MILF peace process peak too early?

Edward de Bono talks about the “peaking effect”:

“Athletes train hard for the Olympic Games. Their aim is to reach peak mental and physical condition during the Games. It is sometimes said of tennis players that they have peaked too early in the season and that their play has become tired and stale when the reached the Wimbledon. With politicians in ana election campaign the great fear is that they will peak too soon…American businessmen are very conscious of actresses, writers, football players and pop artists who are deemed to have peaked. An investment is worthwhile if someone is seen to be moving towards the peak because the potential is limitless. But if someone has already peaked then the investment is likely to be wasted because a second peak is unlikely; the trend can only be downwards.

This attitude towards peaking comes directly from the stock market. If a particular stock has been rising it is a good investment. Then the peak is reached and at once people start selling in order to cash in their profits. The value of the stock itself has not changed at all. What has changed is the whole composite attitude of people towards the stock. Similarly with a performer the talent may not have changed at all but if the attitude of everyone else involved has changed then the peaking effect can be seen. Any accelerating process is bound to peak sooner or later because the fall-off in acceleration immediately sets in motion the process of deceleration and then downward acceleration.”

Applying the foregoing observations of Edward de Bono to the peace negotiations between the GPH and the MILF, my interest is whether the GPH-MILF process peaked too early when the parties signed the FAB in October 2012. Was the signing of the FAB the peak of the current peace process? Is the peace process now on its downward trajectory? If it is on a downward trajectory, how do we keep it steady or even peak a bit more?

Peaking too early is obviously not about the good faith and resolve or even the capacities and abilities of the current peace advisers and negotiators nor is this about the value of the process itself.  Peaking is about whether the composite attitude of the people towards the process has changed. Do the people see more “peaks” to come or do they see a downward turn? Of course, this “composite view, attitude and feelings of the people” is an amorphous thing and people can debate as to what exactly that is.

From my point of view, after the much celebrated signing of the FAB, it has been a slow descent for the GPH-MILF peace process. See, for example, Carol Arguillas’ “Timeline: GPH and MILF six months after the signing of the framework agreement” which details the events that happened after the signing of the FAB. The important fact is that the parties have failed to agree and sign on the annexes (the heart of the agreement). They have signed on a lot of good and peripheral matters – Transition Commission, third party monitoring, IMT and AHJAG, Sajahatra Bangsamoro, appointments to the members of the Transcom, among others. But the completion of the annexes remain elusive and delayed. All the good news that happened after the signing of the FAB are good news on the side issues. Aside from these good news, the people also hear about delays, requests for postponements and even requests for funding from DBM, etc.

I understand precisely why the annexes have not been signed. It is going to be a very difficult decision. The cost is high and the call is the President’s. The President needs to make a decision and he needs to consider a lot more of factors than the other party. Yet all of these are not new. There are no new factors to consider. The factors and considerations have been the same from the time of President Marcos to President Aquino. The dynamics whether between the GPH and the MILF  or inside MILF or GPH is already a set pattern. It is a recurring one. A review the agreements and disagreements from the start of the negotiations in 1997 through the MOA-AD debacle in 2008 up to the signing of the FAB in 2012 will reveal the “pattern” and knowing the “pattern” can help the parties break  it or at least avoid the usual consequences. I will write about that “pattern ” some other time (and more importantly, some ideas on how to break the pattern) .

One of the ways to avert a downward turn and make the people believe that the process has not peaked and the best is yet to come is to be found ironically not on the negotiating table but on the ground. If the peace process brings in more respect, more food on the table and more feelings of security and normalization, then people can wait even if the formal negotiations take a little more time than what was previously announced. On the other hand, more delays in the negotiations coupled with increasing intolerance, hate, poverty and violence will bring the peace process to peril.

In the end, the people will soon make up their minds: is there more to come or was that it? The GPH and MILF better hurry up and make up their minds before the people do.