Friday, November 4, 2011

Statement of Former Chief Negotiator Silvestre Afable on the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute

I am glad President Aquino gave the MILF P5 million for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BMLI).

I was the Government’s chief negotiator with the MILF when, in 2006, we reached agreement (across the negotiating table in KL) to set up the BMLI. Secretary Jess Dureza was then the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. He may have just forgotten that event.

The BMLI is an offshoot of an earlier agreement (2001) to form the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA). At that time, the MILF wanted to try its hand at implementing its own development projects.

As the BDA grew, it needed more personnel who could receive, disburse and account for funds; and supervise incipient development teams. The BMLI was the envisioned training school for these personnel. We requested the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to work on the basic curriculum and devote trainors to the project, which was done with enthusiasm and zeal.

Institutions such as the BDA and the BMLI must not be treated negatively, because these, alongside the ceasefire, provide the necessary climate for negotiations and stem the urge among fighters to shoot each other. One must be creative in offering alternatives to those who have been used to live by the gun.  

When the government and the MILF restored the ceasefire in 2001, we needed to follow up on two key items: first, to get in an International Monitoring Team to help make sure the truce holds; and create the basic institutions to re-channel the energies of MILF fighters-on-hold.

Confidence-building measures lie in the meat of any peace process anywhere in the world. While we seek a political solution in the peace talks, we try to safeguard the ceasefire like precious life itself, and carve out a positive direction for fighters-on-hold—who will hopefully trade their guns for ploughshares when a final settlement is reached. 

The MILF itself has tried its level best to abide by this negotiation-ceasefire-development model as a transitional mechanism to a final political settlement. Many Filipinos are cynical about this, but I appreciate the fact that President Aquino is not. 

Former GPH Chief Negotiator in Talks with the MILF
November 3, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2 big elephants in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations

By Atty. Camilo ‘Bong’ Montesa

Dominant idea.

The parties can profit if both of them discuss the "dominant idea" that organizes their thinking on the matter. The dominant idea, of course, has been called a lot of names in the past, i.e. the big elephant in the room, the black sheep sibling whom nobody introduces to friends, the glass ceiling, the invisible line, etc.

The dominant idea is the idea, usually unexamined and uncritically accepted as a given, that organizes everyone's thinking and perception- how they characterize the problem and the solutions that they propose. The dominant idea is about how participants look at things.

What is the dominant idea for both the Government and the MILF? What is the idea that lies at the bottom of their proposals? The dominant idea is the same for both, albeit viewed from different perspectives: The 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The Government's big elephant: 1987 Philippine Constitution

For the Government (and it might be a good thing for them to lay bare their reasons one of these days), a peace agreement with the MILF is possible as long as it does not include amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The present Constitution provides the limits (as far as substance is concerned) of what they can offer the MILF. It is not hard to see this. The Eleven Characteristics of the Government Proposal is replete with allusions to said limits:

The proposal works with what is available and doable within the next few years.

The proposal shows government’s awareness of the extent of the legal and political powers of the President.  However, it is also a political document that is intended to cause public discussion that can support future debates, when it becomes necessary, in other constitutional forums such as the legislature and the courts.

This proposal takes this history into consideration but avoids simplification of the solutions for a complex and myriad problem.  The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may have been a failed experiment in the past; but the current proposal is based on a more balanced understanding of whether its past failure was due to its structure and the systems that it spawned or the quality of the past national or regional leadership.

More importantly, the silence or the lack of statement by the Philippine Government on the possibility of amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution, when such has been a central issue of the negotiations for the past 14 years, is most eloquent proof that the 1987 Philippine Constitution (or making sure that there is no talk of amending it) is a dominant idea.

The Philippine Constitution is the big elephant in Government's thinking. Reading theEleven Characteristics, one gets the sense that everything is being done in good faith to respond to the aspirations of the MILF as long as it is, in substance, within the 1987 Philippine Constitution. In fact, there seems to be lack of opening even in the possibilityof charter change.

The MILF's big elephant: The 1987 Philippine Constitution

For the MILF, an essential element of any future agreement should include amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution. This has been a consistent message since the beginning. The MILF have rejected from the start any and all Government proposal that seeks to implement only what is allowed by present laws or by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including an enhanced and better functioning ARMM. The succession of Chief Negotiators can attest to this consistency: Dureza, Ermita, Afable, Garcia, and Seguis.

The 11 General Features of the MILF Comprehensive Compact Draft is also replete with proof that they are looking at nothing short of an arrangement that necessarily implies amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution:

The MILF proposal provides for an “asymmetrical state-substate relationships, wherein powers of the central government and state government are clearly stated, aside from those powers they jointly exercise, which are also defined in this draft.

It is a formula of peace through the exhaustion of all democratic remedies to solve a home-grown sovereignty-based conflict, which, following the same approach, other similar global sovereignty-based conflicts have also been successfully resolved, such as in South Sudan and Northern Ireland.

It is a proposal to correct and solve the one-sidedness or imbalance of totality of relationship between Filipinos and Moros, the former continue to be rulers and sole decision-makers, while the latter as mere second class citizens without any role in national decision-making.

The Two Elephants: Constitution and Independence

Actually there were two big elephants in the room when the negotiations started and these two blocked the negotiations. Negotiations could not even start at all with those 2 big elephants present in the room.  Thus, the need to park first the 2 big elephants in order for negotiations to begin. The 2 big elephants were: the 1987 Philippine Constitution and Independence.

Both parties agreed, for purposes of peace talks, not mention the two big elephants so that negotiations can begin. And negotiations did begin, flourished and progressed. But I guess since the negotiations is nearing its completion and the discussion is now on the substantive matters, the parties need to revisit the 2 big elephants.

To be fair, the MILF has already dealt with the big elephant called Independence and in its place, aspires for the highest form of autonomy under Philippine citizenship. The question now is what to do with the other elephant called 1987 Philippine Constitution? We cannot continue to ignore it. (Atty. Camilo ‘Bong’ Montesa is a former member of the GPH Peace Panel.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aquino declares August 30, 2011 as holiday in observance of Eid el-Fitr

President Benigno S. Aquino III declared August 30, 2011 as a regular holiday throughout the Philippines in observance of the Eid el-Fitr (Feast of Ramadhan) “to bring the religious and cultural significance of the Eid’l Fitr to the fore of national consciousness.”

Here is the text of Proclamation No. 234, s. 2011 dated August 11, 2011.

Proclamation No. 234, s. 2011





WHEREAS, Republic Act No. 9177 declared Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Ramadhan) as a regular holiday throughout the country;

WHEREAS, Eid’l Fitr is celebrated by the Muslim World for three (3) days after the end of the month of fasting;

WHEREAS, to promote cultural understanding and integration, the entire Filipino nation should have the full opportunity to join their Muslim brothers and sisters in the observance and celebration of Eid’l Fitr;

WHEREAS, in order to bring the religious and cultural significance of the Eid’l Fitr to the fore of national consciousness, it is necessary to declare Tuesday, 30 August 2011, as a regular holiday throughout the country.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare Tuesday, 30 August 2011, as a regular holiday throughout the country in observance of Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Ramadhan). The Eid’l Fitr prayer shall depend on the result of the Niyata or moon-sighting activity on the 29th day of Ramadhan 1432H, corresponding to 29 August 2011.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila, this 11th day of August, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eleven.


By the President:

Executive Secretary

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's a holiday.

Hello. I'm now back into blogging once again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Defense official unceremoniously sacked

By Anthony Vargas (DateLine Philippines)

MANILA, Philippines – A senior official of the Department of National Department (DND) was sacked from his post early this month for still unknown reasons, learned on Tuesday.

Ariston delos Reyes, a retired navy vice-admiral, was sacked last March 9 from his post as the defense department’s undersecretary for internal affairs without citing any reason.

Delos Reyes said that he had received a letter from Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza informing him that his duty as undersecretary in the defense department has been recalled.

Delos Reyes added that he reported two days later to Mendoza’s office and was told that he was being terminated from the defense department due to some government re-organization.

“I reported to the executive secretary who informed me that due to reorganization, my designation was terminated,” delos Reyes said. “My termination was unceremonious, I had no forewarning,”

Delos Reyes, who was appointed to the department sometime in early 2006 after his retirement from the military service, said he felt no ‘frustration’ over his termination.

“I am not frustrated over it. It already happened, but I do hope that proper authorities would have acted on it so there will be due process,” delos Reyes said.
He declined to say if his being sacked from his post was a result of his move to initiate an investigation on two erring officials of the defense department said to have strong MalacaƱang connections.

“I am not saying that is the reason, what I am trying to say is the timing was bad and others might misconstrue it because of those things. I was removed. I don’t want to speculate,” delos Reyes said.

Sources from the defense department said delos Reyes might have been sacked from his post when he wrote a letter to the President asking for an investigation on two erring officials of the department.

Delos Reyes reportedly filed a complaint of dishonesty against another defense undersecretary who reportedly used his position to allow his son from the private sector to study for his master’s at government expense.

The said official allegedly signed a memorandum allowing his son to take his master’s at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) despite a lack of qualification or being underqualified.

Delos Reyes also initiated the filing of a complaint against another defense assistant secretary found to be keeping in his office assorted serviceable and unserviceable munitions.

The munitions were reportedly kept in his office despite the fact that the Defense assistant had been relieved some two years ago. (

US Senate confirms new envoy to RP

By Dateline Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The United States Senate has confirmed the appointment of Harry K. Thomas as the next American ambassador to the Philippines, the US embassy in Manila said.

The embassy said the Senate confirmation is required by the US Constitution.
Thomas, who has been learning Tagalog, is expected to arrive in the Philippines within the coming weeks, the embassy said.

A New Yorker, Thomas is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served most recently as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director, Human Resources.

He previously served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and Executive Secretary of the Department.

Thomas joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and served as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh from 2003 to 2005.

He also served in the White House as Director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2002. His other postings include: New Delhi, India; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Lima, Peru. Ambassador Thomas speaks Spanish, Hindi, and Bangla and is learning Tagalog.

He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and pursued further study at Columbia University.



As of March 23, 2010, the following are the party-list groups that submitted their nominees to the Commission in Elections (Comelec):

1. Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac)
1. Sherwin Tugna
2. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales
3. Armi Jane Borje
4. Emil Galang
5. Carlos Muchada Jr.