To assure the voting public that all is well in these allegedly “hot spots” and “cheating capitals” of the country, the Mindanao Cross interviewed two Provincial Comelec Supervisors regarding their readiness to undertake the Mid-term Elections on Monday.
ATTY. NASIB YASIN
1. Can we confidently say that "all systems go" for Monday's election?
Answer. Yes, we are expecting that "All Systems Go" for Monday. As a matter of fact the first batch of PCOS machines have been delivered to different municipal halls. Last May 10, we started the so- called "Final Testing and Sealing” of the PCOS machines to determine if these are functional. We will even have the final mock elections, involving ten ballots for purposes of transparency. Then, after the Mock Election and the Final Testing and Sealing, the PCOS will be zeroed.
2. Do you foresee any problem that may crop up on Monday?
Answer. I think we won't have any problem. With regards to security, we have properly coordinated with the proper agencies. The lists of voters were already properly cleansed and we already have the final list of the BEI's. We also have contingency batteries good for 12 hours.
3. Do you have any appeal to voters to achieve the peaceful and successful conduct of elections?
Answer. My appeal to the voters is for them to be calm; to go to their respective polling precincts, and to cast their votes for candidates whom they believe will be better for their respective communities.
(Reporter: Ayesha Mae Gayao)
ATTY. KENDATUN LAGIALAM
Acting Provincial Supervisor
Commission on Election (COMELEC)
1. Can we confidently say that "all systems go" for Monday's election?
Answer: Absolutely yes. Comelec North Cotabato is confident that it can hold the May 13, 2013 elections with fewer problems both on security and technical aspect.
2. Do you foresee any problem that may crop up on Monday? Are these in connection with:
-a. Security. Are there groups that are planning to disrupt the elections?
Answer: We don’t see any major problem that will be encountered on Monday, May 13, 2013 elections. Our Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) both gave their assurance that Cotabatenos will be safe and secure during the Senatorial and local elections.
-b. List of voters. Last election (2010), there were names of voters that are no longer in the precinct where they used to vote.
Answer: The list of voters in 2012 is different from the list of voters for the 2013 elections. Your Comelec in North Cotabato saw to it that all qualified voters were included in the Certified Lists of Voters posted in different polling places. Hence, no names of qualified voters will be missing in the lists.
- The PCOS machines. Were these tested and found to be in good operating condition?
Answer: All PCOS machines that we are going to use in May 13, 2013 elections are all tested and found to be in good operating conditions.
- The Board of Election Inspectors. Are there "hot spots" where teachers do not like to serve as BEI? If yes, what is your back up strategy?
Answer: No identified hot spots. All BEI’s/teachers are willing to serve come May 13, 2013 senatorial and local elections.
- Transmitting of results. Do you have emergency electric power and contingency for "blocking" transmittal?
Answer: Should there be a brownout or power interruption, we have a readily installed fully charged back up battery to give the PCOS machine a continuous power supply. Power generator sets are also provided to those polling places without electrical connections.
3. Do you have any appeal to voters to achieve the peaceful and successful conduct of elections?
Answer: Go out and vote. Do not wait for the last minute. Come early. Polling places are open from 7am to 7pm on Monday’s elections.
(Reporter: Williamor Magbanua)
With the recent incidents in Sabah hitting the headlines of national newspapers, the Mindanao Cross thought it timely to feature an expert who can explain and communicate his impressions on the issue to our readers. Atty. Benedicto Bacani is the former Dean of the College of Law of Notre Dame University and is currently the Executive Director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City. Originally written as a blog entitled Bloodshed in Sabah and the peace process, Atty. Bacani shared the following thoughts.
1. What really happened in Sabah and what were the reactions of the different sectors to this incident?
The latest reports show that Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered that “necessary action” be taken against the Sulu intruders in Sabah. In the firefight that ensued, 10 to 12 “royal army” members and two Malaysian security personnel were killed. The standoff appears not over as the spokesman of the Sultanate of Sulu vowed that their supporters in Sabah will continue to fight.
Since the “invasion” of Sabah by the “royal army” more than two weeks ago, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been trying to distance the peace negotiations from the claim of the Sultanate over Sabah. Chief government negotiator Miriam Ferrer said that the standoff in Sabah will not affect the peace process since the unsettled claims over Sabah is a foreign policy matter that is outside the purview of the talks.
The MILF was more blunt in describing the move of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu as sour-graping, putting their personal interests above that of the Bangsamoro people.
In response to the claim of the heirs that claim over Sabah was not considered in the peace talks, the government and the MILF said that the heirs of the Sultanate were consulted on the developments in the talks. In fact, the Sultan of Sulu was even present during the public signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañang.
It is understandable that the parties are zealously defending the talks because at this stage, the parties are about to sign the comprehensive peace agreement, the mechanisms for implementing the pact are in place, and expectations are at a fever pitch that Mindanao peace is finally to be achieved before President Aquino’s term in 2016. The PNoy peace train is on the run and no one will be allowed to derail it.
Yet this peace train has vulnerabilities and these are exposed more by this unfortunate incident in Sabah. Government’s claim that the peace process is inclusive sounds hollow when indispensable parties to achieving durable peace like the Sultanate of Sulu and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) feel left out in the process.
How can the claim of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu be outside the peace process when the sultanate is the historical basis for the Bangsamoro claim for self-determination which is at the heart of the negotiations?
Why must the sultanate’s claim be off the negotiating table when it holds promise for more resources to the Bangsamoro at the very least from the rentals paid by the Malaysians to the heirs of the Sultanate? Why would the Sultanate and the Misuari-led MNLF be treated like “spoilers” when they are a great source of pride and identity to the Tausugs whose fragile support to the peace talks with the Maguindanoan-dominated MILF could be further eroded by the bloodshed in Malaysia?
2. What is your reaction to Malaysia's role?
True or not, the dominant perception is that by having Malaysia as facilitator of the talks, the parties have from the very start foreclosed any discussions of the Sabah issue in the negotiations. The peace process is handicapped by Malaysia being perceived as not being an honest broker in the talks because of its own interest in Sabah.
This perception is becoming more real when Malaysia resorted to violence to end the Sabah stand-off, sending off the message that its territorial interest over Sabah is primordial over its relations with the Philippines and its peace-making role in Mindanao.
While the Philippine government exerted all effort to leash the heirs of the Sultanate to maintain its good relations with Malaysia and protect the peace process, Malaysia reciprocated by resorting to swift violence over patient diplomacy which it demonstrated as a Mindanao peacemaker.
For close observers of the peace process, the images of the contrasting roles of Malaysia on Mindanao is ironic: The Malaysian Prime Minister as the “godfather” to the government-MILF peace talks proudly beaming during the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the same Malaysian leader giving orders to the Malaysian armed forces chief who was once the head of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) tasked to oversee peace in Mindanao to take all necessary action to end the impasse.
3. What's at stake in the peace process?
The Sabah bloodshed will generate anti-Malaysia sentiments in the country and in the Bangsamoro which will hurt even more the credibility of the peace process.
In the aftermath of the Sabah standoff, the biggest mistake that government and the MILF can do in the peace process is to continue to put the Sabah issue under the rug and to discredit those who are critical of the process as “sour-graping,” “matigas ang ulo” (hard-headed) and “spoilers.”
There is an opening to harness broad support and coalitions to the agreed negotiated peace formula in the Transition Commission where Malaysia is out of the picture.
The MILF dominates the Transition Commission and with their negotiators and consultants in the majority, it is practically given the blanket authority to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law for consideration of Congress. The receptiveness, sensitivity, and openness of the MILF to the concerns and feelings of stakeholders like the Tausugs, the Sultanate of Sulu, and the MNLF in the crafting of the Basic Law will spell the success or failure of the peace process.
If the MILF wills it, the Transition Commission can potentially be the arena for genuine and meaningful intra-Moro dialogue and the building of alliances.
With the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Mindanao Cross last Wednesday -
February 6, 2013, a person who is a consistent reader was interviewed for the Tapatan. We have chosen Mr. CRIS FLORES to provide us with his insights to the operations and content of the Mindanao Cross.
MR. CRESENCIO “CRIS” F. FLORES is a certified Public Accountant who finished his studies at the University of the East in 1949. A widower with one child and 3 grandchildren, he comes from Siasi, Sulu and taught accounting at the Notre Dame University. He held various positions in NDU – Dean of the College of Commerce, Treasurer, and finally comptroller. He was also an accountant of the Aboitiz Company and judicial administrator of the Guttierez Estate. He is now retired.
1. When did you first know about the Mindanao Cross? What were the circumstances?
-I first knew about the Mindanao Cross when I arrived in Cotabato City in 1952. You see, I’m close to the Oblate Fathers. Besides I love to read.
2. What is your impression of the MC issues in the past? Did it reflect the charism of the Oblates? Compare this with your impressions at present.
-Nobody told me that the MC is a community newspaper. I just see the newsboy bringing it for me to read. I think the CE0 then was a Fr. Bertelsman, I forgot the name of the Oblate father. The Editor then was Pat Diaz.
The MC informed the general public of what was happening during the week in this place. It really kept us updated. Yes, it did reflect the Oblates charism, especially in the editorials, which were always very well written.
3. What services for the community are still not provided for in the MC? What improvements would you like to see?
Fr. Robert Sullivan,OMI, whenever I asked him “Have you read the Mindanao Cross father?” He will say “Oh yes.” I then asked “What are the things that you read?” He answered “the first thing that I read is the peoples and events.” This was then written by the late Mrs. Edita Tugbo. He reads no other than that. I have been reading the newspaper but if I see that they have same issues with the national newspaper I don’t read it anymore.
I think that the Mindanao Cross is good enough. However, I don’t want it to just replicate the headline and topics of the national paper. But I always read the editorial written by Mrs. Tan. She is good. She sees to it that the issue is really very updated and she is knowledgeable of the topics. (Interview By: AYESHA MAE O. GAYAO)
1. What is the role of the CHD in the peace process as a part of the International Contact Group (ICG)?
-CHD works with several other NGO’s and foreign missions/foreign countries that provide advice to both parties in the peace process through the ICG which includes the CHD and three other int’l NGOs and four states: Government of Britain, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Turkey. We attend all the meetings; we work with the two parties and the Malaysian facilitator. We provide advice, create the ideas, help break dead lock, all at the request of the parties. We operate very quietly and very discreetly behind the scenes to try to help them move the peace process forward and we also engage the 2 parties bilaterally, so we travel to Mindanao back and forth. We meet also with civil society groups and a lot of people down in Mindanao to help ensure that their views are heard in the peace process.
2. To what extent was the ICG a part in achieving the signing of the Framework Agreement?
Well, I think we played a small part. It’s the two parties - the MILF and the GPH - that are the ones who came up with the solutions. They are the ones who made the hard decisions; they are the ones that responded to their constituents. We are only there when they need us. And frankly we provided a little bit of assistance; but at the end of the day they are the ones who made the choice.
3. How does the CHD view the signing of the Agreement?
Quite positively. I think it’s quite exciting. I think it’s very unique in peacemaking - this approach that they’ve taken here. In many conflicts around the world, what we’ve seen are many failed peace processes. I think because of the collapse back in 2008, this government and the MILF have made huge efforts to ensure that the views of the many people in Mindanao and nationally are included in this peace process. What I like about this agreement is that it creates the space for more people to come up with a solution; it takes in some ways the 2 parties out of the equation, and gives it to the people so that the people can now work in coming up with a basic law that will identify what type of system of governance is going to work down here. I think that’s quite exciting and unique. It’s going to be a model to many other places in the world.
4. What would be the commitment of the ICG and the members of the group in helping both parties build confidence among the people?
We will still have technical working group meetings on wealth and power sharing, and we in the ICG will help the 2 parties with the Malaysian facilitator in coming to an agreement on this. We will bring experts to help in providing advice and example from other countries. Furthermore, after the technical working groups complete their works, we will still continue to play a role since the panels will still exist in some form.
We will also be there to review the implementation of the agreement. There will be various commissions and bodies set up to help in the implementation of normalization provisions, as well as ensure monitoring in the implementation of the agreement. Various domestic groups and probably international experts will all help; and provide impartial source of monitoring and facilitation as needed by the 2 parties.
Archbishop Orlando Quevedo,OMI, DD was interviewed by the Mindanao Cross for his reactions to the recently finalized Framework Agreement between the GPH and the MILF. In general, his reaction was positive and favorable, seeing that the agreement was painstakingly crafted with many of the suggestions (including his in previous interviews) factored in.
1. You were insistent before that 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. Is this still your position considering that many experts declared that there is no need for a constitutional change to implement the framework agreement?
Yes that is still my position. While it may be true that the implementation of the framework agreement does not need constitutional amendment, the framework agreement itself says in vii, transition and implementation, that the transition commission shall - number 4, b - "work on proposals to amend the Philippine constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the constitution the agreements of the parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements." I understand "entrenching" to mean incorporating some fundamental provisions of the bangsamoro basic law explicitly into the fundamental law of the Philippines to ensure constitutional safeguards for the provisions.
2. The agreement states several “basic rights” which will be respected in the new political entity. Are these enough to protect the Christians and Lumads or these must be expanded to include other measures?
The major concerns of Lumads and Christians during the discussions on the ill-fated moa-ad were related to freedom of religion, the coverage of the Shariah Law, the protection of property rights, and rights regarding ancestral domain of the Lumads. These major concerns are now addressed in vi. Basic rights, nos. 1.b (right to freedom and expression of religion), 1.j (right to establish cultural and religious associations; 1.k (right to freedom from religious, ethnic and sectarian harassment), 1.l (right to redress of grievances and due process of law); no. 2 (vested property rights), no. 3 (indigenous peoples' rights). In interpreting 1.l above, we should take note of iii. Powers, no. 3 - "...the supremacy of Shari'ah and its application shall only be to Muslims." admittedly these are general expressions of rights. By necessity such general statement of rights would surely be elaborated and detailed in the projected bangsamoro basic law.
3. Some politicians took note of the provision on the Bangsamoro territory that says “areas which are contiguous and outside the core territory where there are substantial populations of the Bangsamoro may opt anytime to be part of the territory upon petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the residents and approved by a majority of qualified voters in a plebiscite”. Do you think this fear of predominantly Christian LGUs is justifiable?
Yes, the fear is justifiable, if it remains unexplained and clarified. I would presume then that this provision would receive a lot of comments and suggestions in the projected widespread consultation in the drafting of the bangsamoro basic law. I would also add one more clarification needed on the term "contiguous." contiguous to each other? Or contiguous to ARMM? What if there are two or three muslim barangays that are contiguous to each other but are quite far from ARMM territory? Would they be part of the bangsamoro territory? For such questions and issues the framework agreement serves as a basic direction with general parameters. Further negotiations on unresolved issues will be necessary. It is in this sense that I see the framework agreement as open-ended.
You also suggested in your previous interview that there should be “no surprises” in the agreement. However, Cotabato City which voted against the inclusion during the plebiscite is now included as part of the core territory, without any apparent consultation made by the GPH panel. What is your reaction to this?
The placing of Cotabato City as part of the core territory in v, territory, 1,c, is I think unfortunate. One would think that Cotabato city should be covered by provision v, no.3 regarding areas that are outside the core territory, since as of now Cotabato City is not part of ARMM. Therefore, no. 3 should be applied, a process requiring a plebiscite. Yet i am not surprised for the following reasons: Cotabato City is completely isolated from the region to which it presently belongs, namely, region 12. To use the language of the framework agreement, Cotabato City is completely outside the "core territory" of region 12! Further, all region 12 offices have transferred to Marbel, leaving Cotabato City without much political significance in its own region. Finally due to various circumstances, including the fact that substantial numbers of displaced persons have taken refuge in Cotabato City, a dramatic demographic change has taken place. If a referendum were to take place now, it is most likely that Cotabato City would want to be part of ARMM / Bangsamoro. But even so, declaring Cotabato City as part of the core territory of Bangsamoro, without a clear proviso for consultation and plebiscite, is most unfortunate. Surely the consultations for the comprehensive peace pact will correct this.
4. The relationship between the central government and the new political entity is defined as “asymmetrical”. Since this is not clearly discussed, what is your understanding of this provision?
Asymmetric relationship describes for me the relationship of two parties that are not on the same level, i.e., one is subordinate to the other or one is dependent on the other or one is part of the whole. When, therefore, the term asymmetric is used to describe the relationship between the bangsamoro relationship and the Philippines, it means that the relationship is not between two equally sovereign states. Before the ten consensus points were published, the MILF was asking for a sub-state. It is true that the relationship between a sub-state and the Philippines would also be asymmetric. However, I expressed my objection to the use of the term sub-state because it was a threatening and loaded term. It was easy for some people to conclude that the term sub-state simply refers to a small state, but nonetheless a full blown independent state. Perhaps this is the reason that the ten consensus points and the present framework agreement no longer mention "sub-state" but simply use the term "asymmetric relationship." in the evolution of the peace talks, I would therefore interpret the term asymmetric as referring to the relationship of the part (the Bangsamoro) to the whole (the Philippines).
5. The agreement also provides that the “the Bangsamoro shall have competence over the Shari’ah justice system. The supremacy of Shari’ah and its application shall only be to Muslims”. As the titular head of Christians in this area, what is your reaction to the full implementation of the Shari’ah justice system?
I am happy that the Shari'ah justice system applies only to Muslims. Still, all justice systems in this imperfect world are subject to human abuse especially when they remain too general in nature. Therefore, i hope that consultations with regard to the comprehensive peace pact will result into a satisfactory detailing of the Shari'ah justice system. In this way it would not be easily abused but would always respect the rights of Muslims -- as well as the rights of non-muslims to due process in accordance with the national justice system.
As a final note, I would like to emphasize the necessity for all stakeholders to participate in the consultations for the comprehensive peace pact and for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. It is in the bbl that the future comprehensive peace pact (developed from the consensus points and the framework agreement) will be finally and legally elaborated. Even now as the implementation of the framework agreement and the discussions for a comprehensive peace pact begin, the opinions of stakeholders are imperative. May we all be guided by the grace of God. May the will of God for peace be done.
1. What do you think of the government sports program at present? Is the Philippine Sports Commission doing a good job, considering that it is a government body mandated to look after sports development?
In my own opinion, there is no problem with the government’s sports program. However, the program is only partially implemented especially at the regional level. The implementing body is only focused on specific sports events such as boxing, basketball and football. Other sports events that can foster physical fitness, self-discipline and team work should be taken into consideration as well. The specific national sports associations/ Philippine Sports Commission have satisfactory performance especially in representing the country in athletic competitions.
2. Are students still interested in sports to attain “balance development”? What is their participation in the Palarong Pambansa? What do you think of the Palaro?
Nowadays, students are less interested to actively participate in sports because of multiple factors. One factor is the increasing use of technology, which made the students become less involved in physical activities. Second, the sports program is often neglected because most schools are only focused on the academic excellence of the students. Third, students do not get enough support from their schools in joining interschool sports events. Today, most students do not attain this balance development for either they excel in academics or in sports. Only a few students can really balance both academic and sports. These students are honed by their coaches to develop necessary skills to become a good athlete and at the same time they are motivated and taught how to maintain equilibrium between academics and sports.
Palarong Pambansa is essential for this is a way where government can discover promising and skillful athletes of the Philippines. Also Palarong Pambansa enables grassroots participation and fosters camaraderie among Filipino youth. The students’ participation in Palarong Pambansa gives them the opportunity and chance to be discovered and become a member of the Philippine team.
3. How would you judge our participation in the Olympic Games? In the Asian Games?
More trainings and enough financial support should be provided to our athletes so that they are more prepared in joining the Olympic or Asian games.
4. What suggestions can you give to improve the performance of our athletes who will compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016?
Have a long term plan and implement aggressive training programs in honing our Filipino athletes. Also, give what is due for them as well as provide untiring support for they will be the country’s source of pride and glory in the Rio Olympics 2016.
For September, the Mindanao Cross is focusing on the issue of sports development. The dismal showing of the Philippines in the recently concluded Olympics game makes us look closer at the country’s sports programs. Is there something wrong with our Palaro or the different National Associations that prevents us from making a name in international competitions? In the local front, are there efforts to supplement the government program (with basketball tournaments or swimming competitions)? Should we be contented in “fun runs” or “hataw” which is different from competitive sports? The MC interviewed sports enthusiasts in the region and this is what they have to say.
Mr. Roman M. Salaver is a name that we are familiar with in the field of basketball. For decades, he acted as trainor, referee, and organizer of basketball tournaments in the city. He is the Chairman for Cotabato City of the Basketball Association of the Philippines.
1. What do you think of the government sports program at present? Is the Philippine Sports Commission doing a good job, considering that it is a government body mandated to look after sports development? How about the specific national associations such as the PBA, the Football Association, etc.?
The government should look into the issue more. It seems like the government just sent players to the Olympics for purposes of participating and representing the country only. The government should look further on the capabilities and strengths of the players and focus more on the performance of our players. Even in the creation of the Olympic Team, there is the presence of politics. We are aware also of the misunderstandings between the officials of the said commission and the national associations which I guess is influenced by politics. In Cotabato City, I don’t feel that we have a sports body that focuses on sports activities. For me, The Philippine Sports Commission is not doing its job. If we can change or create a sports council to replace the Sports Commission, in which every council member will represent each sports activity and take charge of every event, then that would be better.
Searching for good players should not be limited to months but it must be done the whole year round. The Sports development should have enough funding that can sustain trainings all year round. Of course, we can really see that Budget will be one of the major problems. It should have been better if the Sports development program should be felt in all regions and even down to division levels and not just those in the Luzon or Metro Manila. I also believe that those who should lead the commission should not be politicians but those who are sportsmen or those who are really knowledgeable with sports.
2. Are students still interested in sports to attain “balance development”? What is their participation in the Palarong Pambansa? What do you think of the Palaro?
Palarong Pambansa is getting a huge budget from the Department of Education for the transportation and accommodation of the participants, but only allots a minimal budget for the training. It could have been better if we replace the Palarong Pambansa with a Regional Competition. Through this, we can train competitive players and discover from them those who are best in their field and from that put them into a pool of players which we will train for a more rigorous training. Eventually, we can choose from this pool our players for the next Olympics. Sad to say but Palarong Pambansa seem to be focused in the Manila area, to the neglect of Cotabato as well as in the neighboring provinces.
3. What suggestions can you give to improve the performance of our athletes who will compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016?
There are sports, civic and religious organizations that we can possibly tap for support so that we can be able to gather the youth to participate in the different sports activities. To encourage students to go into sports, give them scholarship and give them allowance. Also include in the curriculum of all schools a sports development program. In fairness to the local government, there have been efforts to promote sports development but unfortunately, their efforts are still not enough. It’s not even in their priority projects.
We would rather focus on events that we can excel. We don’t need to participate in all the sports events but rather focus only on those that we know we have the full potentials and full resources to train our players. Thus, we need to concentrate on individual skills. Let us just admit that we can never compete in group games. The problem with us is that we tend to join all the sports events, but we don’t have a mastery in even just one.
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.