GPH, MILF peace panels to meet again June 27 to 28

GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen (l) and MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal at the signing Thursday afternoon of the Joint Statement on their two-day talks. Witnessing the signing is the new Malaysian facilitator (center). MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/28 April) –  The Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels signed a joint statement at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, agreeing to meet again on June 27 to 28 for the presentation of the government’s draft  peace settlement.

“Good, good,” government peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen told MindaNews immediately after the signing.

“There is reason to be happy,” said MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The two chairs signed the Joint Statement in the presence of the new Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed, who replaced Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, the facilitator since 2002.

Leonen said the negotiations are on track and the parties were “were frank and candid on many of the issues.”

“I just hope that the parties remain open to resolving the concrete issues and be pragmatic while being principled,”  he added.

 

The GPH panel on Wednesday “made queries on the Revised Draft Comprehensive Compact” submitted by the MILF in February, in the first formal talks under the Aquino administration.

According to the 10-paragraph Joint Statement, the Question and Answer session “clarified concepts, meanings and intent on some of its provisions” and the GPH panel “agreed to submit its counter-proposal at the next meeting on June 27 to 28.

No details of the Q and A session were made available but sources from both panels said the questions raised, already forwarded earlier to the MILF peace panel through the Malaysian facilitator, were frequently asked questions asked of the government peace panel, among them what the Bangsamoro sub-state is, how will it deal with local government units.

Also frequently asked is how the MILF peace agreement will be in relation to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the Moro National Liberation Front, given that both MILF and MNLF claim to represent the same Bangsamoro.

Iqbal, during the MILF’s consultation with Catholic Bishops in Davao City on March 30, said “aware of the fact there is only one Bangsamoro people, only one Bangsamoro homeland, the position of the MILF is very, very clear. We want the 1996 peace agreement (between government and the MNLF) to be implemented in full. The MILF is negotiating for what is lacking in the 1996 agreement. The MILF is not negotiating for leaders of the MILF. It is negotiating for the entire Bangsamoro people.”

“Bangsamoro sub-state”

The MILF draft, a revised version of what it presented in January last year to the Arroyo administration, proposed a “Bangsamoro sub-state.”

In the MILF consultation with Mindanao business executives in Davao City on March 31, historian and lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, senior member of the MILF peace panel, said, “we are not asking for parity rights. We are asking for parity of esteem.” He said they are not asking for a separate state but a sub-state. “It can be like Queensland of Australia, it can be like that of Massachusetts, or it can be like Kelantan or Sabah or Sarawak in Malaysia, in a federation. But since you do not like, the rest of the country does not like federal – we go for associative and therefore it will be an asymmetrical relationship.”

Asked what he meant by “asymmetrical relationship,” he replied, “Symmetry means pare-pareho, di ba (the same, right)? In other words, if we propose symmetry, we will require the other provinces to go federal or associative, whatever. Again, we are only using associative because federal is not yet acceptable – that’s in between. Between integration and federalism is associative,” Mastura, a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention and former representative of Maguindanao, said.

More consultations

Both Leonen and Iqbal said they would spend the next two months conducting consultations with various sectors.

In his opening statement on Wednesday, Leonen said “our schedules are full the next few weeks: meetings which range from command conferences of the area commands in Mindanao, consultations with local government officials, to meetings with legislators, former justices, cabinet clusters and of course with our direct principal the President.”

He said the MILF’s consultations are “complementary” to their own consultations. Leonen’s panel met with local government officials of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces on April 13 and 14.

The MILF’s decision to “come out publicly with the contours of your proposed Comprehensive Compact should cause a national discussion on a national issue: how to solve the Bangsamoro problem. It can complement our efforts. It will also help us – and our direct principal (President Benigno Aquino III) – to gauge the public pulse on political decisions that need to be taken,” the dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law said.

The MILF peace panel will meet with the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines at the Asian Institute of Management on May 6 in a consultation organized jointly by the International Alert, Mindanao Business Council and the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus.

The Joint Statement also cited the briefing of the GPH panel on the “progress and efforts” done by government on the list of political detainees as submitted by the MILF.

On the issue of the status of Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato and his Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the MILF reiterated it is an internal matter and that they are still exerting efforts to resolve it. (see separate story)

The MILF peace panel submitted through the Malaysian facilitator the names of the new composition of the MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG). The Core Group consists of lawyer Abdul Dataya as chair, and members Benjie Midtimbang, Osama Ali and Nurqadir Mondares. They also named the two members for each of the five teams under AHJAG.

Dataya has been chair of the MILF’s AHJAG since it was set up in December 2004. Midtimbang was former chair of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

The government had earlier activated its AHJAG chaired by Brig. Gen. Alan Luga.

AHJAG is a mechanism in the GPH-MILF peace process where both sides team up against criminal elements operating in “MILF areas/communities.” The AHJAG operates in tandem with their respective CCCH, following the agreement to “the isolation and interdiction of all criminal syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom groups including so-called ‘Lost Commands’ operating in Mindanao.”(Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2011/04/29/gph-milf-peace-panels-to-meet-again-june-27-to-28/


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