For music, it turns out that humans are really wired to associate the emotions they feel with colors
Some 15 months ago, on July 4, 2011, I was in Malacañang to witness the signing of the closure agreement with the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army.
As I wrote at the time, it was great to be there: “I saw people I had not met for decades, reaching back to when I was at UP Baguio researching on ‘autonomy’ for the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.”
It felt good, after more than 20 years, to see how finally one story of struggle, negotiation, and accommodation could finally come to a conclusion.
In a wonderful sequel, I was back in Malacañang at the October 15 signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro negotiated between the GPH and the MILF.
This time around it was the culmination of several years of being in the negotiations as part of the International Contact Group (ICG), made up of 4 states and 4 international NGOs (including The Asia Foundation) that was established in 2009 as negotiations re-started after the 2008 debacle over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), a tentative document that was declared unconstitutional.
The ICG was invited to join with diplomats, the luncheon for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib hosted by President Aquino. The food was great Filipino cuisine – “Rib-Eye Bistek Tagalog on Mountain Province Brown Rice.”
Likewise, the chance to talk with all the key players in the negotiations (and many behind-the-scenes actors, like those from the MILF Central Committee) was very stimulating. We were also briefly entertained by The Company, a group that sang a cappella and the classic Pinoy pop song “Manila.” The lyrics went:
I keep coming back to Manila
Simply no place like Manila
Manila, I'm coming home”
My ICG colleague from Conciliation Resources, Emma Leslie, teased the MILF members at the luncheon about this choice of songs.
Then and now
The Framework Agreement, as many commentators have noted, is far from a final agreement, with 4 annexes full of details – on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transition processes – to be completed by the end of the year.
Then we will begin the next phase, as a Transition Commission drafts a Basic Law for the Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. All this in pursuit of PNoy’s goal of a negotiated settlement for all armed conflicts before the end of his term in 2016.
The signing of the Framework Agreement by the negotiators for the two panels while President Aquino, Prime Minister Najib, and MILF Chair Murad looked on was in stark contrast to what happened with the MOA-AD back in August 2008.
At the time, I was one of those on the plane flying to Kuala Lumpur to witness the signing. When we landed and turned on our cellphones, immediately they all began buzzing with the news that while we were in the air the Philippine Supreme Court had issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the signing of the MOA-AD.
We all know what followed – an upsurge of violence that led to some 750,000 internally displaced persons going to camps or fleeing to relatives elsewhere. It was a debacle leading to despair.
But in my mind on Monday, the real contrast was to what it would have been like if the MOA-AD signing had indeed gone forward. We would have been outside the Philippines, with perhaps 100 from the Philippines watching it, and the event would have been presided over by the Malaysian Facilitator.
There would have been very much less impact in the Philippines, much more grounds for skepticism about foreign involvement in the settlement, and a fueling of doubts and opposition.
Instead, on Monday in Manila, we had euphoria and the full participation of hundreds of different Christian and Muslim citizens, and many Philippine government officials. Certainly the euphoria will fade, but it is better to begin euphoric than be full of doubts and fears.
Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang announced that the second round of photographs with President Aquino, Prime Minister Najib, and Chairman Murad, after the negotiating panels themselves, was the International Contact Group.
The good thing is that we were being recognized for our role. The bad thing is that so many people were milling about that it was not possible for the ICG to gather at the stage in a timely manner, so the idea was abandoned.
The President and his guests left, and an opportunity to have a treasured photo of a historical moment was lost. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the inauguration of the Bangsamoro itself to have a second chance. - Rappler.com
Steven Rood has lived in the Philippines since 1981. He is The Asia Foundation's country representative in the Philippines and represents the Foundation as part of the International Contact Group for the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.