MILF: We are no better negotiators, but truth is on our side

Peace negotiators of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) never considered themselves as better negotiators than their counterparts from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), contrary to what other people perceived or said. 

 
This was in response to comment made by radio commentators of DZRH, who said: “Mas magaling daw MILF negotiators kaysa negotiators, kasi MILF daw scholars at ideologues” (MILF negotiators are better, because they are scholars and ideologues).
About two weeks ago, similar remarks were made by Father Eliseo Mercado Jr., one time head of the Quick Response Team (QRT) that monitored the GRP-MILF ceasefire agreement in the 90s, during a television interview with ANC.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, after listening to the DZRH comments said: “We are no better negotiators than our counterparts in the government, but what perhaps spells the difference is we stand for truth.”
He said the stand of the MILF, in seeking for the rectification of the historic injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, is so valid and compelling that even if the government gets the best minds in the Philippines as its negotiators the outcome would still be the same.
Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, a senior member of the MILF Peace Panel, told Luwaran that government negotiators especially former GRP Peace Panel Chairman Secretary Silvestre Afable is not only knowledgeable but a man of dignity and great foresight.
Atty. Lanang Ali, a mainstay in the negotiations since 1997, said government negotiators are high caliber men who know how to negotiate, but it just happened that we in the MILF are standing on solid historic, moral grounds that are impossible to defeat in a fair and square deal.

On the issue of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), he said so many Filipino politicians, who are supposed to be “statesmen”, acted in accordance with their prejudices and biases against the Moros of Mindanao.
“The voices of hatred and the ghosts of the Moro-Spanish War still haunt them to this day,” he said.
Maulana Alonto, for his part, acknowledged that some members of the GRP Peace Panel are writers, brilliant lawyers, and accomplished military leaders.
“They are well-grounded men and perhaps what differentiates our style from them is that even across the negotiating table, we still follow the consultative and collective policy of the MILF,” he stressed, adding that no one, not even our chairman, monopolizes the discussion.

Atty. Musib Buat, who served the government for decades, has no unkind words to government negotiators, although he acknowledged that discussions sometimes got so passionate and emotional, which he described as natural in negotiations.
“We are hard on issues but we are always soft with people,” he explained following one basic rule in negotiation.
          
Buat, who is known among his peers as the man who can crack even in times of hard bargaining, has always identified himself with the cause of his people.
He was the legal adviser to the late Governor Datu Udtog Matalam of the Empire Province of Cotabato in the 60s.

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