DAVAO CITY: A former chief government negotiator on Wednesday expressed apprehension over a meeting between President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ibrahim.
Jesus Dureza, former presidential adviser on the peace process during Gloria Arroyo’s term, said the meeting amounted to “putting the whole peace process in great peril” as Aquino and Murad are yet to resolve “difficult issues on the panel level.”
“The divergent issues are basic and fundamental which both sides respectively hold dear, sacrosanct and inviolable,” said Dureza. “It is futile to expect the two principals to negotiate with each other and expect a magical result from that meeting.”
The meeting, which is set before Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) next week, was announced by Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. The meeting, he said, will result in the “meeting of the minds” between the two leaders.
“Conventionally, principals meet to only firm up certain resolutions, not to sit down and negotiate what their negotiators failed to do. Such a no-result meeting is dangerous because it will give wrong signals to the stakeholders. And it will deprive the negotiators the flexibility they need to continue seeking mutually acceptable arrangements,” Dureza added.
He said it would be good for the government and the MILF to suspend the pre-SONA meeting.
“However, having said that, it may be advisable that if indeed Malacañang is transfixed with the idea that a pre-SONA meeting has to be held between the two principals, then the purpose should be just to keep the public informed of the difficult issues, exhibit optimism and perforce, for the President and Kagi Murad to give their respective panels more marching orders to do more work and find a common ground,” Dureza added.
It would be futile, he said, to expect Aquino and Murad to be able to come up with a solution to the problem that the peace panels failed to do.
“We have again to manage expectations because a total breakdown scenario arising from a high-level meeting of the two principals may radically change the situation on the ground. The stakes are high,” Dureza said.
The MILF had said the meeting is necessary to thresh out issues confronting both sides on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“The purpose of the proposed meeting is to save the peace process in the light of major alterations made by Malacañang legal team on the draft BBL,” the group said.
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government peace panel, had admitted that “significant points of differences” between the government and MILF negotiators have delayed the review of the draft law.
“We will not and cannot move forward in the roadmap toward the establishment of the Bangsamoro unless we hurdle this crucial stage. We wish the MILF to understand the basis for the comments made as part of the review process by the Office of the President,” she said.
Ferrer added that the draft law will be scrutinized by Congress and the review seeks to make sure that it “must fall within the parameters of the Constitution.”
Dureza said Ferrer’s statement was apparently “intended to preempt or soften any fallout in anticipation of a possible non-submission of a mutually acceptable draft by the time Congress opens within the next few days from now.”
According to him, the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro and the draft law “were not constitutionally compliant.”
The MILF, he said, has now been placed in a position that it is responsible to “readjust its position to make possible an acceptable draft for submission to Congress.”
“Failing in getting MILF to make such adjustments, no BBL draft can be submitted to Congress unless amendments to the Constitution are first made,” Dureza noted.