Tapatan features Archbishop Orlando Quevedo who was interviewed by the Mindanao Think Tank at radio station DXMS last August 2, 2012 on his impressions of the GPH-MILF Peace Dialogue. Excerpts from his interview are shown below:
1. Question: What can you say about the peace panel’s prioritizing the transition issue in its Kuala Lumpur discussions?
The transition issue is Number 5 in the list of ten decision points on principles. This appears to be very important because the 2013 elections are fast approaching. A new set of ARMM officials would impact the way the new political entity of a peace agreement would be put in place. I think that the two panels already have an understanding that with or without the elections, there will be a new political entity and this would be established soonest without any hindrance by ARMM. The other points are delicate issues and are important but they are not major obstacles to the peace process.
2. Question: What opportunities do you see in the peace process, especially in the decision points?
I have identified two key principles in my article on how to resume the peace negotiations as a result of the impasse. I presume that both panels noted my observations.
Aside from the transition issue, the powers given to the new political entity are important decision points. There are 3 kinds of powers: reserved powers of the national government, powers that are exclusive to the new political entity, and concurrent powers.
It is important to know what is reserved for the national government and what the exclusive powers of the new political entity are. Some of the exclusive powers are in the ten decision points. But exclusive powers are largely to be determined. The panels have to discuss that.
In relation to Christians there are opportunities to advance the peace process. They have to be assured that there are no "secret agreements." Secondly the GPH panel has to continually consult the public. There should be no surprises. My impression before is that the consultations were limited only to those who were against the MOA-AD. I am happy to know now that the GPH panel also consulted others.
3. Question: What can you tell the Christians for them to support the peace talks?
I would like to tell the Christians that they have nothing to fear. There is an assurance of religious freedom, the right to freedom of speech, the right to cultural association..etc. They are not going to be sold down the river. They’re not going to be under the Shari’ah court.
The present fear of Christians is on territorial boundaries. That fear has to be erased. The former annexes on disputed territories attached to the MOA-AD should not be inserted into a new peace agreement. In other words the territory should not be significantly larger than ARMM. The peace panels are very privileged at the moment because there’s a great openness to consultation.
Finally they have to be assured that a new political entity will respect private property. This is not explicitly mentioned in the ten decision points.
4. Question: Are there other points that are still missing in the decision points? Gaps?
The issue of a possible Constitutional change. It seems to me that the GPH is hoping that most of the substantial decisions could be covered by an Organic Law of the new political entity. This may not need a change in the Constitution. If there is a need for charter change, I hope that the new political entity can still proceed until such change in the Constitution is necessary. I believe that this is important. The new political entity must have a juridical and constitutional basis so that succeeding governments will not alter what was agreed upon in the peace agreement.