GRP, MNLF go into small-group meeting with OIC

Indonesian Ambassador Rezlan I. Jenie, deputy minister for multilateral affairs of Indonesia and chair of the Tripartite Meeting that is currently reviewing the 11-year old implementation of the “Final Peace Agreement” between the GRP and the MNLF, told MindaNews late Saturday night that he decided, with consultation from both parties, to hold a smaller group meeting first as the GRP and MNLF  proposed different ways of moving forward with the meeting.

The government delegation under Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan wanted “joint working groups” that would tackle the issues while the MNLF under lawyer Randolph Parcasio wanted plenary sessions.

The proposals were presented during an hour-long closed-door session after the opening rites Saturday night.

The plenary session at Suite 2 of the Crystal Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza hotel here started at 10:30 a.m. Sunday (3:30 p.m. in Manila) but was adjourned by 10:33 a.m. for the supposed “1 plus 2” meeting involving the heads of the delegation and two advisers each.

Jenie told the delegates he would convene the plenary by 4 p.m. (9 p.m. in Manila).

Tan, a native of Sulu and vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 1993 to 1996 and concurrent member of the government peace panel negotiating with the MNLF then, told MindaNews  he was bringing Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Leah Armamento to the small-group meeting.

Parcasio, member of the MNLF peace panel’s legal division during the 1993-1996 talks and Executive Secretary  to Nur Misuari when the latter was ARMM governor, said he would be with MNLF spokesperson Al Tillah and lawyer Firdausi Abbas. He said he was allowed to also bring in Ustadz Abdul Baki.

The small-group meeting took so long in starting as Parcasio left the venue, Suite 3 of the Crystal Ballroom for almost an hour.

“I had to get all inputs so I got all inputs,” he said as he entered the room. He was unable to answer if he phoned Misuari for consultation.

The door to Suite 3 was finally closed at 11:20 a.m. (4:20 p.m. in Manila), but not without Muslimin Sema, MNLF secretary-general under Misuari and Misuari’s vice chair in the 1992-1996 peace talks; Hatimil Hassan, MNLF vice chair under Misuari; and Parouk Hussin, MNLF foreign affairs secretary under Misuari and ARMM governor from 2001 to 2004, entering. Several other MNLF members entered the supposed “1 + 2” meeting.

Hussin, Sema and Hassan were among MNLF officials who formed the “Executive Council”  and ousted Misuari as MNLF chair in April 2001.

Abbas and Tillah were not with the MNLF peace panel in the 1992-1996 peace talks.

Sema told MindaNews the Philippine government should have sent Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as head of delegation. Ermita was the vice chair of the government peace panel then led by former Ambassador Manuel Yan. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)