PNoy, Malaysian Prime Minister to attend signing of GPH-MILF peace pact

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/08 October) — The final date and venue of the signing ceremonies of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro are still being worked out but what is certain is that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak will be there.

Government (GPH) peace panel chair Marvic Leonen announced in a press conference at the Philippine Embassy Sunday afternoon that the government proposed October 15 as the signing date and was optimistic the Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair (MILF) would agree to Malacanang as venue.

The MILF had earlier expressed hope the signing would be in Malaysia. In 2008, the formal signing of the (GPH)-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was scheduled in Kuala Lumpur on August 5. The MOA-AD, already initialed on July 27 also in Kuala Lumpur,  was not formally signed because the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order barring the GPH panel from signing the agreement.  On October 14 that year, the Supreme Court declared the agreement unconstitutional.

In crafting the Framework Agreement, both parties made sure there would be no repeat of the MOA-AD debacle. A few minutes after the President’s address, the Framework Agreement was already uploaded in the Official Gazette website of the Office of the President.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed told MindaNews he could not confirm the date and venue of the signing but “wherever it may be,” he said, the Prime Minister will be there.

“Definitely he is attending. He will be in whatever ceremony there will be,” he said.

In his Address to the Nation Sunday afternoon to announce that a Framework Agreement had been reached, President Aquino thanked the government of Malaysia, “who stood as facilitators as we realized our aspirations for peace” and thanked in particular the Prime Minister “whose commitment remained firm despite considerable political and personal risk.”

The Malaysian Prime Minister is expected to visit the country this month.

Tengku admitted he was in touch with the Prime Minister “in the last two days. “

He said he had to personally brief him since “the press was saying there would be a signing Saturday.”

He said the Prime Minister was “keen on seeing the end” to the conflict.

Malacanang as venue

Nineteen years earlier, on September 2, 1996, the government and the Moro National Liberation Front  (MNLF) signed the Final Peace Agreement in Malacanang, two days after the agreement was initialed in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the presence of then Indonesian President Suharto.

Indonesia was represented at the formal signing in Malacanang by then Foreign Minister Ali Alatas.

MNLF chair Nur Misuari, also head of its peace panel, signed the agreement with his government counterpart, retired General and former Ambassador Manuel Yan in the presence of President Fidel Ramos.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal declined to say if  MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim will be at the signing.

Murad was not present in the supposed signing the MOA-AD in Kuala Lumpur in 2008. President Arroyo sent Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon to the supposed signing.

But Murad accepted the invitation of President Aquino for a one-on-one meeting on August 4, 2011 in Japan.

Before their one-on-one meeting,  the President, accompanied by key Cabinet members and Murad, accompanied by panel members and some members of the Central Committee, had a “meet and greet” session.

The two leaders  later met for two hours, their respective panel chairs as notes-takers, and agreed to fast-track the  peace process, to hopefully come up with a peace agreement in the first half of the President’s six-year term, to ensure implementation can be done in the remaining half. The President bows out of office at noon of June 30, 2016.

The GPH-MILF peace process has spanned 15 years and four administrations – from Ramos to Estrada to Arroyo and Aquino.

In his State of the Bangsamoro Address during the Bangsamoro Leaders’ Assembly in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on July 7 this year, Murad reiterated that the MILF “does not claim monopoly of the Bangsamoro struggle and the dividends of peace. “

“If ever the ongoing talks succeed, we see the MILF role only up to the time when new institutions are in place and democratic elections held. The responsibility of attaining the objective of the struggle is not solely on the shoulder of the MILF but a responsibility of all Bangsamoro people,” Murad said.

The President in his address to the nation on Sunday afternoon said, “we have gotten this far because of the trust extended to us by Al Haj Murad and his central committee and Mohagher Iqbal who shared our principles and aspirations.”

“Together, we traversed the distance between us until we finally met in a handshake and an embrace as fellow citizens of the Philippines,”  the President said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)