Tengku on GPH, MILF: “same page now, but different paragraphs”

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (MindaNews/18 July) –  “On the same page now, but different paragraphs.”

This was how Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed summed up the progress of  the first two days of the three-day peace negotiations here between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Tengku told MindaNews Tuesday evening after yet another round of executive session on the contentious issue of transition from the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the “new autonomous political entity,” that the two panels are already “on the same page now, but different paragraphs.”

Ten days earlier, on  July 7at the opening of the Bangsamoro Leaders’ Assembly at the MILF camp in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao – a gathering attended by thousands of  Moro delegates from various parts of Mindanao,  foreign dignitaries, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen – Tengku said that last year, the two panels were “not only reading different chapters; they were reading different books.”

Tengku assumed the post of facilitator in April 2011.

“Today, they are now reading the same chapter,” Tengku added on July 7, as he expressed hope that “by end of July, they would be reading the same paragraph.”

Ten days later, in Kuala Lumpur, he said the panels are on the same page but different paragraphs as yet.

How soon the two panels will be on the same paragraph and same sentence, Tengku could not say on Tuesday evening. But he told MindaNews the panels will meet again for another executive session Wednesday morning, the third in the three-day talks.

In his opening statement on Tuesday morning, Leonen said, “we are at the door of an agreement.”
“Let us persevere. Now is indeed the time for peace,” he said.
MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on the other hand appealed to the international community in his opening statement, particularly members of the International Contact Group (ICG), the group of  states and international NGOs helping in the peace process, to “extend all possible help to the government and MILF go overcome their differences and sign the comprehensive compact immediately.”

The talks began Monday with an executive session the whole day on the issue of transition. Another executive session was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, leaving Tuesday morning for the plenary session where both panel chairs delivered their opening statements before the panels and the International Contact Group, the GPH and MILF consultants.

OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman  attended the plenary as GPH consultant, along with senior military adviser, Brig. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer. Hataman

In the last talks in May, the governors of the five-province ARMM, took turns attending the plenary sessions.

Among the issues associated with transition is what to do with the ARMM regional polls on May 13, 2013. The Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), a coalition of peace networks in Mindanao has urged the suspension of the ARMM polls to give way to a transition government. The MPW proposed that provincial and municipal elections will push through as scheduled.

Leonen has repeatedly said that with or without a peace agreement this year, elections in the ARMM will push through as scheduled, pointing to RA 10153, which reset the August 8, 2011 ARMM elections to May 13, 2013.

Leonen told a gathering of the business sector in Davao City on May 25 that “we think it is still possible to address the concerns of the MILF  even with elections in 2013.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in his press conference on July 9 in Darapanan that they had “officially told the Philippine government about our concerns on the election of the ARMM in 2013.”

“But then as a matter of policy, we do not recognize the ARMM so it is the making of the (GPH) and if there is an agreement between the MILF and  (GPH), it is the responsibility of the Philippine government to do away with whatever  (it) has created. We have nothing to do with the ARMM. If there is an ARMM elected there, then it is the duty of the (GPH) to see to it that this ARMM will not run obstacle to the implementation of any agreement we will reach with the Philippine government,” he said.

The GPH and MILF peace panels on April 24 signed their first major agreement under the two-year old Aquino administration —  the ten-point “Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012”  —  which provided, among others, that they would “work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM.”

The ARMM election, originally scheduled on August 8, 2011, was postponed by RA 10153 to synchronize it with the 2013 mid-term elections. The same law allowed President Aquino to appoint Officers in Charge (OICs)  for Governor, Vice Governor and the Regional Legislative Assembly to serve supposedly until June 30, 2013, when the new set of officials shall have assumed the post.

The Commission on Elections has set for early October the deadline for filing of certificates of candidacy for ARMM and other elective posts nationwide.

The last time the panels met here was on May 28 to 30, the talks ending with no joint statement issued but there was neither a breakthrough nor a breakdown.

The two panels resumed talks on July 16 to 18, a week after the three-day Bangsamoro Leaders’ Assembly and a week before President Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address.

Aquino and Murad met in Japan on August 4,  both leaders agreeing to fast-track the peace process to sign an agreement within the first half of the Aquino administration so it can be implemented until the President steps down on June 30, 2016. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

 

 

 

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2012/07/18/tengku-on-gph-milf-same-page-now-but-different-paragraphs/

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