developmentprojects in conflict affected areas…” This issue, like that on the acknowledgementof MILF camps, had sovereignty and territory implications for both sides, evenif to a lesser degree. But the dynamics between the MILF and GRP on this wasaggravated by internal dynamics within the GRP, including between its regularpeace panel and the back-channel negotiators.

The latter dynamics was a classicexample of the government’s lack of coordination and strategic coherence in theGRP-MILF peace negotiations. GRPpeace panel Chair Jesus G. Dureza wanted to put up a development set-up whichwas elaborate, following a consultation process.

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It would have provincialdevelopment committees with tri-people representation. This would take toolong. It would have a partnership concept like the Southern Philippines Councilfor Peace and Development (SPCPD) for the MNLF. The MILF looked at such anelaborate system with suspicion. They were looking for control and authority,as connoted by the agreed terms to “determine, lead and manage,” and sorejected a consultation model. And so GRP back-channel negotiator SilvestreC. Afable, Jr.

thought of an NGO-type project implementing body, and theparties eventually settled on this, not the MILF itself directly managingdevelopment projects but an MILF-initiated NGO, the BDA. Earlier, the lawyerDureza had argued that the MILF has no legal personality to implement projectswhich is part of governance. The non-lawyer Murad had countered that theagreement itself provides the legality. 18 All told, this issue occupied theparties for about seven months from October 2001 to May 2002 when it wasresolved at the negotiation level after President Arroyo suspended the regularpanel in favor of the back-channel negotiators. Ifwe look at current second suspension of more than one and a half years as offrom February 2003 to September 2004, the main stumbling block issues for asecond resumption of peace negotiations––AFP withdrawal from Buliok complex,dropping of criminal charges against MILF leaders for the March–April 2003Davao bombings, and MILF 9 Soliman M. Santos, Jr. disengagement of any links tothe Al Qaeda affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah are not at all substantive issues ofthe Bangsamoro problem but issues of trust and confidence. Major trust, atleast from the MILF perspective, has been broken twice within a period of threeyears, and so its two demands for resumption are some sort of test ofseriousness of the GRP.

Thethinking in the MILF is that if the GRP cannot comply or deliver on smallagreements or matters, then how can it be expected to do so when it comes tobig agreements on substantive issues. Compliance with the two demands wasfinally completed in August– September 2004. But still, the negotiations didnot resume in the last quarter of 2004, indicating there must be otherbottlenecks (the ball was now with Malaysia) or unfinished business, e.g. thephasing in of the Malaysian led International Monitoring Team (IMT) and theformation of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) on criminal interdiction tofully secure the ceasefire. The GRP for its part also wants proof of the MILF’savowed renunciation of terrorism and terrorist links, a major concern of theGRP because of its strong alignment with the U.S.

-led global war on terror. Ithas thus calibrated or graduated its responses to the MILF’s two demands forresumption, e.g. partial or gradual withdrawal from Buliok, and suspension ofwarrants of arrest in lieu of dropping of criminal charges.

Seen as significantinitial proof of MILF’s help in the war on terror is its intelligencecooperation with the August 2004 AFP air strike which hit the U.S.-listed”foreign terrorist organization” Pentagon gang leader Tahir Alonto and hiscompanions at their hideout in Liguasan Marsh, generally considered an MILFarea. But doubts about the MILF’s terrorist links persist, mainly from somemilitary and police intelligence quarters. One major obstacle is the high levelof distrust,22 clearly seen more in the negotiations with the MILF than withthe MNLF. Oquist noted and described it this way: “Some in the AFP considerthat the MILF non-insistence on independence or other political demands hides acontinued commitment to independence in the future. Likewise, there areelements in all of the insurgent groups that doubt the political will and goodfaith of the GRP in the negotiation process.

Thereare still high levels of mistrust and lack of confidence on both sides, despite––andpartly because of all of the years of peace contacts and negotiations.”23 Onemight say that the historical and social basis of this distrust between thenegotiating parties and panels are the deep social, cultural, and religiouscleavages between the peoples they purportedly represent, the Filipino peopleand the Bangsamoro people. This must count as an obstacle, too, to thenegotiations, a settlement, and its implementation.

It is a basic concern whichcannot be addressed mainly by the negotiations but needs a broader people-topeople peace process. Ina vicious cycle, every outbreak of hostility and disruption in the negotiationsreinforce the high distrust and the deep cleavages. At the same time, somedisruptions, transitions and lulls during the current second suspension wereunavoidable, excusable, or not attributable to the will of the parties or otherforces. To be sure, certain transitional developments involving all key playersunavoidably contributed to extended suspension: the U.S.

entry into thenegotiations scene in May 2003, the demise of long-time MILF Chairman Hashim inJuly 2003, the retirement of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad inOctober 2003, the long Philippine election period from campaigning toproclamation spanning the first half of 2004 followed by at least two fullmonths (July–August 2004) spent reorganizing the government’s politicaldepartments, and the wait for the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections inNovember 2004. Atleast the main cast is in place before the New Year.

As it is, the usualnon-negotiation periods of Ramadan and the Christmas season have alsounavoidably intervened in late 2004. 10 Delays in the Peace Negotiationsbetween the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Butfrom the longer view, since the start of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations in1996, the various disruptions were still mainly due to the dynamics between andwithin the parties, especially on the government side. These dynamics havetheir roots in competing policy positions.

Competing Policy Positions I presenthere mainly Dr. Oquist’s analysis of the “extreme protraction of the peaceprocess” due to competing policy positions,24 which is one of the mainobstacles to achieving a negotiated settlement in the GRP-MILF peacenegotiations and to implementing agreements, whether interim or final. In theOquist analysis, there has been the existence across the years of essentiallythree competing policy positions in Filipino society, in the government, in thearmed forces, and in civil society at the Bangsamoro, Mindanao and nationallevels. The”pacification and demobilization” position consists of negotiating concessions(maximum from adversary, minimum from one’s own side) necessary to achieve thecessation of hostilities and demobilization of rebel combatants, basically toend the insurgency. This can lead to a pragmatic approach in relation totactical objectives on both sides rather than the achievement of strategic,durable peace.

These fast, quick fixes always have appeal but may not lead toconstruction of viable, sustainable peace, fall short of it, and are toosuperficial. The “military victory” position seeks defeat of the adversarywithout concessions. Specifically, in the Philippines, it advocates themilitary defeat of the MILF and the NPA, the political defeat ormarginalization of the MNLF, and the extermination of the Abu Sayyaf and otherterrorist and kidnap-forransom groups. Negotiations are useful only fortactical advantages, including those related to public relations.

Divide-and-ruleis a common tactic. Extremes can easily disrupt ground situations. But it hasnever really worked in achieving lasting peace in Philippine history. The”institutional peace-building” position advocates the short, medium, andlong-term construction of policies and institutions for peace in the economic,social, political, cultural, and ecological spheres through participatory andconsultative mechanisms. It has high levels of long-term commitment andmotivation of its supporters. It is a long-term endeavor, which needs policycoherence based on national consensus and an integral, holistic policyframework.

Sometimes these positions combine in different proportions,especially the first two positions. On paper, like President Arroyo’s ExecutiveOrder No. 3 of February 2001 defining government policy for comprehensive peaceefforts, it might look like an “institutional peace-building” position. But inpractice or operation by the GRP peace negotiators and by the Cabinet OversightCommittee on Internal Security (COC-IS) above them, it has been mainly the”pacification and demobilization” position and sometimes the “military victory”position. Andpost-9/11, this has been further dominated by an all-out anti-terrorismposition, itself a policy matter. Predominance of the military and militarysolutions, and of a narrow national security doctrine, have impinged on thepeace process long before the U.

S-led global war on terror. The latter has onlystrengthened the hand of the “hawks” and reinforced an already dominant orhegemonic ideology of national security, particularly its thrust ofcounter-insurgency as the framework to address insurgency or rebellion. Thepeace process has become subsumed under such a national or internal securityframework. The peace negotiations in particular, through the PresidentialAdviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), have been subject to the COC-IS created byPresident Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 12 with a counter-insurgency “Strategyof Holistic Approach.” 11 Soliman M. Santos, Jr. I round out this discussion oncompeting policy positions with the relevant conclusions of a recent study by aFilipino political scientist Miriam Coronel Ferrer on the dynamics of thepersistent Mindanao conflict.

26 One of the six major reasons for itspersistence she identifies is “incoherent peace policy and absence ofpeace-building leadership.”Theformer refers to the Philippine government, while the latter refers to bothgovernment and rebel leaders with rare exceptions, notably President Ramos. Shedescribes this elsewhere as the absence of a type of leadership that iscommitted to finding peaceful solutions and instituting lasting peace. Withoutleadership, there are only the motions and routines of on-and-off talks, of thefighting-while-talking mode. 27 The government’s objectives for the peaceprocess is no longer so much about addressing the root causes of rebellion asit is demobilizing the rebel forces. And even before Arroyo, there has been thepersistent militarist mentality of degrading the military capability of therebels in order to be able to impose a peace settlement on them.

There has alsobeen the “military victory” temptation to try to even finish them off with U.S.anti-terrorist logistics support, which also funds the AFP’s modernizationaspirations.

As for the dynamic among the positions, Oquist noted that allthree of the competing positions are in play in the Mindanao peace process andthey all have significant sources of support in civil society and government,including the AFP. Noneof these actors and stakeholders, including the AFP and the MILF, aremonolithic in relation to these positions. The relative influence of thesepositions varies dynamically across time. The balance among the positions alsomakes possible drastic policy shifts. These shifts have occurred not only fromone administration to another but also within one administration. Perhaps thebest example of this in relation to the MILF front was the shift from the”all-out war” policy of President Estrada in 2000 to the “all-out peace” policyof President Arroyo in 2001, and then back again to an “all-out war” policy in2002–03. 25 All told, there is no policy consensus, coherence, or consistency.

Thus, the protraction of peace processes. A second major related reason for thepersistence of the Mindanao conflict identified by Ferrer is the “lack ofnational consensus.” No national consensus has been reached on the need tosolve the Mindanao conflict through peace negotiations that could effectivelyredistribute political power, economic resources, and social opportunities. Asidefrom national consensus, there is also the problem of Mindanao consensus amongand within the three basic peoples (broadly, the Christians, Muslims andLumads) there, not to mention the communist armed struggle factor. It is notjust a question of consensus on the peace process but on its key substantiveissues like the one coming up on ancestral domain. 28 Oquist advances twoconclusions in relation to the competing policy positions.

First, peace willnot come out of unilateral policy actions in Mindanao. Second, peace must comeout of the interaction of forces. For that to happen, there needs to beconsiderable consensus-building on the cost of insecurity in Mindanao, theurgent necessity for the Philippines as a whole to commit to viable and sustainablepeace with a sense of national ownership.

This must take place within the Stateand in relation to public opinion, at both the national level and in Mindanao.The lack of national or Mindanao consensus is partly due to the lack ofparticipation of other stakeholders (e.g. other Moro groups, Lumads,Christians, and civil society), and adversely affects support for andsustainability of the peace process, especially when it comes to theimplementation of agreements. It also results in their issues (e.g. land rightsand indigenous peoples’ rights) not being factored in and addressed properly.

These were major gaps in the GRP-MNLF peace process. AMuslim woman peacemaker 12 Delays in the Peace Negotiations between thePhilippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had these critiquesof participation in the Mindanao peace process: Peace talks were top, highlevel, and exclusive, only with the leaders of the MNLF and MILF, with theexclusion of the vast majority of Bangsamoro, Lumad and Christian settlers Nocommunity-based peace talks and no consensus-building Not fully reflective ofthe needs and aspirations of the affected communities and stakeholders No senseof ownership by the stakeholders, the vast people of Mindanao No sustainabilityof peace agreements; communities are uninformed or ignorant of agreements,hence cannot be vigilant of sustaining and protecting whatever gains there from29 Impingement of the “Global War on Terror” In contrast or contraposition tothe inconsistent peace policy of the Philippine