Usec Santos on Sulu situation: “We are not hostages”

Santos and Dolorfino had been reported “hostaged” by the MNLF’s Ustadz Habier Malik.

Santos said they arrived at Malik’s camp at 3 p.m. on Friday for some turnover rites and a discussion of  a social development package for them and were supposed to leave at 4:30 p.m. when Malik asked about the tripartite meeting among the Philippine government, MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which was originally intended for July 2006, reset to September then December and on February 6 to 8 and reset again for a still unspecified date.

“I would like to correct the impression that we were kidnapped, that (MNLF chair Nur) Misuari is just the isue here. For them, the issue here is to set hte date for the tripartite meeting that will not be postponde and will preferably be held possible within this month, preferably next week so we can go home,” Santos said.

Santos, Undersecretary for Security Concerns and former chair of the government peace panel’s ceasefire committee in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said he and Dolorfino volunteered to be left behind to allow the 23 others to leave but their offer was not accepted.

Dolorfino, chief of the National Capital Regional Command, chair of the government peace panel’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) in the negotiations with MILF, and pointperson for the Sulu Roadmap to Peace and Development, told GMA 7 in an interview that they are “in safe hands.” 

“Our 12 security escorts still have their firearms,”  Dolorfino told GMA-7.

Santos said they would welcome toothbrushes, “reading materials and an extra laptop.”  He said they were lent clothes for sleeping.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews Saturday morning that he was on his way to Sulu. As of  2 p.m., however, he has yet to give an update on his Sulu visit.

An OIC delegation which visited Mindanao in May 2006 to look into the implementation of the then nearly 10-year old peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF had proposed a tripartite meeting in Jeddah sometime in July with MNLF chair Nur Misuari to “work out an implementation program” to carry out the provisions that have not been  implemented “or have been changed in a way.”

“The parties must sit together,” Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, adviser to the Secretary-General of the OIC and head of delegation of the OIC Field Visit to Southern Philippines, told a meeting with civil society at the Marco Polo Hotel evening of May 19.

“For peace to really be permanent, it has to be just. One of the parties thinks the agreement has not been implemented. The purpose of proposing a meeting in Jeddah is for this, (for the parties) to sit together with open hearts and minds and only after that can we reach an assessment of the situation,” El-Masry said, adding that until now, there is  “wide gap” between the reports of the parties on the implementation of the peace pact. “We are trying to narrow the gap.”

El-Masry also reiterated the OIC’s earlier appeal to the Philippine government to free Misuari, who had been detained on alleged rebellion since January 2002.

Misuari signed the peace agreement with the government in Tripoli, Libya on December 23, 1976 and in Manila on September 2, 1996

“We honestly think that his participation in the peace process is a catalyst to the peace process and that his contribution will make the process move forward,” said Masry, who had earlier served as independent expert on human rights at the United Nations for eight year. (Carolyn O. Arguillas, with a report from Froilan O. Gallardo/MindaNews)