DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 August) – Saying “nothing beats eyeball to eyeball,” Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said President Aquino’s “personalized” way of pursuing peace when he met Thursday night in Japan with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim “could only mean a good result somehow.”
But Duterte said he has misgivings because “what about the MNLF?”
He said something is probably cooking on the MNLF Front but this has not been divulged. “Palagay ko gisabay na. Wala lang gi-divulge” (I think there are parallel efforts but these have not been divulged), the vice mayor said in his regular Sunday television program, “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the Masses, For the Masses).
Apparently unknown to Duterte, the MNLF and the Philippine government had agreed on June 22 this year in Solo City, Indonesia that the MNLF will take part in the “ARMM governance reforms” of the Aquino administration when it appoints a caretaker administration to govern the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from noon of September 30, 2011 to June 30, 2013.
The agreement does not mention who or how many MNLF members will be appointed as OICs in the 21-year old ARMM, an institution that was governed by the MNLF from September 30, 1996 to September 30, 2005 under Governors Nur Misuari and Parouk Hussein.
According to the June 22 report of the Technical Committee of the Ad Hoc High-Level Group of the Philippine government, MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the parties, “recognizing the possibilities for reform in light of the postponement of the ARMM elections believe that they should avail of the opportunity and use the period to work together with concerned stakeholders to capacitate the ARMM as a complementary mechanism for the full implementation of the 1996 GRP-OIC-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA).”
“The GPH considers the MNLF as the principal partner to effect” the reforms “in the context of the full implementation of the 1996 FPA,” the report said.
North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said they support the President for all the efforts to make sure the peace negotiation will proceed successfully.”
But Mendoza said they demand “full disclosure of any proposal, public participation and transparency in all negotiations to avoid tension, misunderstanding, bloodshed, as what happened in 2008. There should be no repeat of the MOA-AD incident,” she said.
The governor was referring to the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which was already initialed and was supposed to be formally signed by both parties on August 5, 2008 but the signing was aborted with the Supreme Court issuing a temporary restraining order filed by local government units led by North Cotabato, then under Governor Jesus Sacdalan and Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol.
The aborted signing triggered renewed hostilities with Aleosan town in North Cotabato as springboard for the attacks blamed on MILF commander Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato.
The hostilities spilled over to neighboring provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte and eventually displaced some 600,000 villagers.
For Bukidnon Governor Alex Calingasan, “hopefully, the terms and conditions are transparent (this time) so we won’t be fooled again.”
Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said peace negotiations should not be between the peace panels alone. “Especially if it is a fast-tracked peace process, the people should know (what’s being talked about).”
Vicente Lao, Mindanao Business Council chair welcomed the President’s move.
“We never had this high level of negotiations before. This shows that this administration is serious in pursuing peace.”
Manuel Orig, Vice President for Mindanao Affairs of Aboitiz Power, said the President’s meeting Murad “ends a good indication for business.
“It is high time for peace,” he told Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro reporters during a briefing in Davao City on the energy situation.
Businessman John Gaisano said government should also attend to the concerns of other sectors who have grievances but are not taking up arms. “Should we give credence to a rebel group because they are armed?”
He said the President should just have sent an emissary.
“We welcome it. It’s good for business,” said Raul Alkuino, former president of the board of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative and an advocate of federalism.
But Alkuino lamented the national government’s treatment of Mindanao. “When imperial Manila is in trouble, they use the MILF, the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf or anything that draws attention, as scapegoat.” He said this tactic, which casts doubts on the sincerity of the national government in solving the problem in Mindanao, was inherited by the different presidencies. “Maybe PNoy (President Aquino) will change that system by investing time and effort for peace in Mindanao,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas, Walter Balane, Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)