GPH peace panel to hand over proposed peace settlement with MILF on August 2

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 June) —  The government peace panel is expected to hand over its proposed peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when the two panels meet again on August 2 to 4.

This was the decision reached by representatives of both panels who met in executive session in Kuala Lumpur on June 27, the day the government peace panel was supposed to have submitted its counter-proposal to the MILF’s draft peace settlement.

No public explanation was made for the deferment but a June 27 press statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) from Kuala Lumpur quoted government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen as saying the two panels were able to “level off on important points to facilitate the talks.” The statement, however, was silent on what these “important points” were.

A group of civil society organizations led by the Mindanao People’s Caucus issued a statement at 8 pm June 28,  urging the government peace panel, “in the spirit of transparency and accountability to its stakeholders,” to “at least offer an explanation why there was no counterproposal submitted  in the last talks.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal could not be reached for comment but a report posted  on its website said the MILF peace panel “accepted the reason given by its counterpart vis-à-vis this deferment after a lengthy discussion on the matter” and that it urged the government panel “to make out its counter-proposal without further delay in August 2011, at the next scheduled full-panel round of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.”

Leonen told MindaNews the panels will meet again on August 2, 3 and 4 in Kuala Lumpur. He said it will be a three-day meet because they will have half-day sessions only in deference to Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting which begins on August 1.

The report in the MILF website said the government peace panel “asked for more time to finalize its own draft, in the light of developing situations in the peace process which government wants factored into the counter-proposal it promised to submit to the MILF in the next round of talks.”

It quoted Iqbal as saying the MILF delegation “was prepared to push our ancestral domain agenda.”

“That is why we downplayed the GPH’s ‘grand gesture’ until we receive their rejoinder draft,” said Iqbal.

What the government’s “grand gesture” was, the report did not say but Iqbal was quoted as saying the MILF “keeps an open mind, and even the extension of a handshake is a gesture of goodwill.”

MindaNews sought Leonen for an explanation on the deferment but he declined to comment. He, however, maintained that his panel and the MILF panel had “leveled off” on crucial points during the executive session.

The June 27-28 meeting was supposed to be a full-panel formal exploratory talks but according to the report posted on the MILF website, the government peace panel earlier informed the MILF through the Malaysian facilitator that it wanted an executive meeting in view of the deferment request.

The June 27 executive session was attended by Leonen, peace panel member Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and peace panel secretariat chief Iona Jalijali for the government and Iqbal, panel members Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto for the MILF.

The MILF peace panel submitted its draft peace settlement containing its proposed Bangsamoro sub-state in February. The government peace panel during the last formal exploratory talks on April 27 and 28 agreed, according to the Joint Statement signed on April 28, “to submit its counter-proposal at the next meeting on June 27 to 28.”

In the OPAPP’s June 27 press statement from KL, Leonen urged the MILF “not to become an obstacle” to the reforms to be instituted in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by a caretaker administration that will be appointed by the President to govern the region —  the core area of the proposed Bangsamoro sub-state —  from noon of September 30, 2011 to noon of June 30, 2013.

He said the Aquino administration is “aware of the historical injustices of the past and will not repeat the same mistakes.”

Last week, on June 22 in Solo City, Indonesia, the government and  the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) agreed that  the MNLF would take part in the “ARMM governance reforms” of the Aquino administration.

The government and MNLF signed a “final peace agreement” on September 2, 1996 but questions over the implementation of the agreement led to the creation of  a Tripartite Review Committee with the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF in the late 1970s, following the collapse of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

The June 22 agreement does not mention who or how many MNLF members will be appointed as OICs in the 21-year old ARMM, an institution governed by the MNLF from  September 30, 1996 to September 30, 2005 under Governors Misuari and Parouk Hussein.

Congress early this month passed a bill resetting the August 8, 2011 elections in the ARMM to synchronize it with the national mid-term officials on May 13, 2013 and to allow President Aquino to appoint OICs in the interim.

Among those interested in serving as OIC Governor is Eid Kabalu,  who was spokesperson of the MILF and chief of its civil-military relations department  until June 22. Kabalu claimed he resigned while MILF Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar claimed he was fired for allegedly violating the MILF’s Code of Conduct when Kabalu met with former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol and Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on June 13 purportedly to lobby for the appointment of MILF members as OICs in the ARMM’s caretaker government.

Pinol told MindaNews Kabalu “never endorsed himself” to the post of OIC Governor but Kabalu acknowledged his interest to be appointed as OIC Governor.

“If given the mandate, why not?”  he told MindaNews. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2011/06/29/gph-peace-panel-to-hand-over-proposed-peace-settlement-with-milf-on-august-2/

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