MANILA, Philippines - Government peace panel negotiator Marvic Leonen and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal on Monday recalled the strain of coming up with the final wording of the framework agreement, saying debates reached until 10 p.m. of the final night, with numerous calls to the leadership of both sides.
Leonen said it was even President Benigno Aquino who was able to come up with an acceptable wording at the final minutes.
Aquino also approved the wording contributed by the MILF panel.
"At the last minute, the words we proposed were words from the President himself. At the last exchange, we looked at final wording, Iqbal said 'ano kung ganito?' I told the President, he said okay. I said 'Sir, I think we just completed the Framework Agreement," Leonen said.
Now, after the signing, Leonen sees upcoming work in both Houses of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as the most daunting task ahead.
He described the MILF panel as "soft on the people, but hard on the issues," and said he expects more of the same nature in the settlements ahead.
Iqbal, meanwhile, said it is the whole paradigm shift from rebellion to governance that will serve as a struggle to the MILF.
"We the MILF, we are used to fighting. We are not used to governance. So it will be difficult. But with our determination, we will overcome all these."
Both sides also see discussions on wealth and power sharing as a challenge, since the framework still does not break it down in detail.
Iqbal, however, said, "Let me tell you that no doubt the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro is the best possible peace pact that can be signed by the parties."
"Pushing them too far will be like asking them to tread the pathways of independence or send them to the brink of war. This agreement is like a safe zone on the ground and if all and sundry especially the government and the MILF nurture it to wholeheartedly and creatively, it will grow and grow until real peace, justice, and development in Mindanao will happen," he added.
Iqbal and Leonen reiterated that the agreement does not just cover MILF, but all the Bangsamoro people who wish to be part of the process.