PNoy says signs augur well for GPH-MILF peace talks but …

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 July) –  It merited  a paragraph in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), a slight improvement from last year’s complete silence on the progress of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front .  This time, the President managed to say the signs augur well for peace with the MILF but stopped there.

“He could have done better if he had asked for patience and support for the peace talks from all stakeholders especially government political institutions,” Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, told MindaNews.

Aquino lauded the reforms in the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), even praising OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman for being a “certified ghostbuster” in the 22-year old institution that the government and MILF peace panels have agreed to replace with a “new autonomous political entity.”

“Even those who previously wanted to break away are seeing the effects of reform. Over the past seven months, not even a single encounter has been recorded between the military and the MILF. We recognize this as a sign of their trust. With regard to the peace process: talks have been very open; both sides have shown trust and faith in one another. There may be times when the process can get a little complicated, but these are merely signs that we are steadily moving closer to our shared goal: Peace,” he said.

Reforming the ARMM was part of the “three for one” package that government offered to the MILF on August 22 last year, an offer rejected by the MILF but repackaged repeatedly by government.

Last year, the President said nothing on the peace process in his 53-minute 95-paragraph SONA but surprised the nation ten days later – at noon on August 5 — with an announcement that the President met with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan, the night before.

The two leaders agreed to fast-track the peace negotiations so an agreement could be forged within the first half of the Aquino administration and implementation of the agreement could be done until the end of the President’s term on June 30, 2016.

The negotiations ended in an impasse barely three weeks later in Kuala Lumpur when the government panel handed over its “three for one” peace formula, which the MILF panel rejected, prompting Leonen to say “we reject your rejection.”

The panels met informally in November and formally in December, after months of shuttling by the Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, to break the impasse.

This year’s 83 minute, 141-paragraph SONA  devoted two long paragraphs on the ARMM reforms and a short one on the progress of the GPH-MILF talks.

The government and MILF peace panels have held 10 exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur since February 2011, the last one on July 16 to 18, with 2.5 days out of the three-day talks spent on executive sessions.

In its Joint Statement on July 18, the panels expressed “confidence in wrapping up discussions on mechanisms towards the realization of a new political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as contained in the April 2012 GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles.”

The April document, the first major agreement forged under the two-year old Aquino administration, was intended to “further guide discussions” on the substantive agenda of the negotiations.

The agreement provided, among others, that the parties “will work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM.”

The panels will meet again in Kuala Lumpur next month.

At the end of last week’s talks, several consensus points were reached, particularly on the transition mechanism from the ARMM to the “new autonomous political entity” but government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal declined to divulge details, explaining that other issues have yet to be resolved.

MindaNews sources from both panels, said one of the consensus points listed down was that the ARMM elections in 2013 would proceed as scheduled. One said this was already a “non-issue” when they reached Kuala Lumpur as this had been resolved during the shuttling of Malaysian facilitator, Tengku, between the May and July talks.

This means that the transition mechanism from the ARMM to the “new autonomous political entity” will have to consider there would be a new set of ARMM officials alongside a transition commission.

Tengku told MindaNews evening of  July 17 that the parties were “on the same page now but different paragraphs.”

At the end of the three-day talks on July 18, he said the two were  now inching “closer to the same paragraph.”

Leonen declined to comment on the President’s brief mention on the peace process. Iqbal reiterated that ARMM is “not a factor in the talks” because the MILF had “rejected that consistently.”

Samira Gutoc,  OIC member of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly representing women, told MindaNews the SONA “may not have been aggressive on the peace process but extolled the changes in the ARMM.”

Naguib Sinarimbo, former ARMM Executive Secretary, said the President’s SONA was a good appraisal of the administration’s first two years in office but “should have provided a clearer vision for the Philippines that can rally the Filipino people in unison to achieve it – where we want to go and clear government programs designed to achieve it. No definitive pronouncement also on the peace talks.”

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, said the President’s remarks on the peace process was “like a re-stating of  GMA’s (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) ‘peace is at hand’ announcement.”

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, the secretariat to the Mindanao Peaceweavers, the network of peace networks in Mindanao which urged both panels to suspend the ARMM’s regional polls in May 2013 to pave the way for a transition commission, said “Last year there was no mention of the peace process but a breakthrough meeting with Murad happened after. This year, there was a line or two about the talks, so perhaps a bigger breakthrough is in the offing?”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2012/07/24/pnoy-says-signs-augur-well-for-gph-milf-peace-talks-but/


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