ADVOCACY MINDANOW: Sabah fallout on MILF peace talks

By | March 10, 2013

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 March) — I was in Zamboanga City over the weekend to attend the Jaycee Senate Zamboanga Chapter Induction there. I was glad I took the trip. When Mayor Celso Lobregat said: “Welcome back, Jess” in his speech to the JCI Senators, I suddenly realized I had not visited Zamboanga for sometime. I remember Zamboanga City was always in my travel schedule in my regular visits to the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan and TawiTawi.

I took the opportunity of meeting old friends in the media and other contacts who could help me get more validated information on what is happening in Sabah and help me wade through the flurry of events that have been in the headlines for weeks now.

Here are a few items or thoughts I have picked up along the way.  Aside from the deaths and the violence suffered by Filipinos there, one of major casualties of the Sabah incident is the MILF peace negotiations.   Evidently, events have overtaken   the MILF peace talks.  Even MILF’s claim for a Bangsamoro ancestral domain and right to self determination, without factoring in the Sabah claim, will not fly anymore. Malaysian participation   as a neutral  ”facilitator” is now blown to pieces due to their violent operations against the Filipino Muslims in Lahad Datu.   With the arrival of hundreds of Filipinos fleeing Sabah, more alleged atrocities committed against Filipinos are starting to surface.

Although everyone is now agog over where this incident will eventually lead to, I think there is an urgent need now for   government, the MILF and the rest of the stakeholders to sit down and find some ways to overcome the roadblocks that suddenly appeared on the road to peace.

I strongly urge that any solution that government will try to craft on the Sabah claim must necessarily take into account the peace process.  I see a positive opportunity here using the Sabah issue as TRIGGER TO UNITE ALL.    Everything must converge.   If we succeed in getting all sectors and factions to converge, it will be a paradigm shift and it may really bring about a comprehensive formula for all Bangsamoro.


Difficult it may be but there is no other course now but for ONE ROAD MAP for all to cover the MILF, MNLF, the sultanates, the tribes, and the traditional political sector. (This was the old road map, by the way, that got detoured somehow.)

The Sabah claim I am sure will take long to settle but we need not wait for that. In fact, if we all unite, we can all do a “home-run” and quicken the pace of the negotiations.

But here are a few imperatives for this formula.

First and foremost, both the MILF and the MNLF must NOT INSIST that they alone, separately, have the “exclusive franchise” to represent the whole of the Bangsamoro. Secondly, the functioning and existing political leaders must also be key players. Thirdly, Malaysia will have to exercise some restraint in what it is doing now in Sabah. This way, it can continue and remain as “facilitator” after agreeing to leave the Sabah issue to be resolved by a third party body or interlocutor. Fourth, President Aquino must also calibrate his statements and actions based on the imperatives of the situation. Fifth, the accruing benefits to the Sultanate, if any, must be inclusive. Meaning, although the Kirams are the “lead claimants”, all the many heirs (9 families as of the latest count) including the “subjects” or the so-called “ra’yat” or non-blood or non- royal followers must all be beneficiaries. Finally, let’s not tinker with the sovereignty issue. It will lead us nowhere.

I am sure there are other imperatives out there that we can all contribute to the formulation of the road map to sustainable peace.

I can’t help but be an optimist and dreamer. I always look for a silver lining in the gathering dark clouds. (Lawyer Jesus G. Dureza was government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF under the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2003 and was later named Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (2005 to 2008). He heads Advocacy MindaNOW Foundation, Inc. and was recently named publisher of the Davao City-based Mindanao Times. This piece is from his syndicated column, Advocacy MindaNOW).