Ermita says Moro “leadership issue” delaying peace; Mastura says GRP “washing hands”

According to the Office of the Press Secretary’s (OPS) report, “Muslims (sic) leadership issue delaying the signing of peace accord in South” posted on its website on December 19, Ermita said “an important point necessary for the attainment of a final peace agreement in Mindanao is who between the MILF and the MNLF would represent the Bangsamoro people.”

Ermita said they requested Saif Al-Islam Muammar Al-Qaddafi,  son of Libyan President Moammar Al-Qaddafi, to help convince the MILF and MNLF leadership to unite. The request was made, he said, when the young Qaddafi paid a courtesy call in Malacanang last week.

Libya has been instrumental in the peace process in Mindanao since the early 1970s and was venue for the signing of agreements between the Philippine government and Moro revolutionary groups: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF and the 2001 Agreement on Peace with the MILF.

Detained MNLF chair Nur Misuari was allowed by the court to attend the meeting with Qaddafi’s son at the Shangrila hotel in Makati last Thursday (December 13) but Randolph Parcasio, MNLF legal counsel, told MindaNews Misuari fell ill and instead  sent a delegation to inform the younger Qaddafi he could not make it.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews they sent a five-person team, including a member of the MILF’s Central Committee, to the meeting.

The Philippine Star reported on December 15 that Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, attended the meeting.

Sema, secretary-general of the MNLF during the 1992-1996 peace negotiations, was among the MNLF officials who set up the so-called Executive Council that ousted Misuari as MNLF chair in April 2001.

With Sema in the December 13 meeting were former ARMM Governor Parouq Hussin and ARMM Assemblyman Hatimil Hassan, also Executive Council members.

The Star quoted Sema as saying leaders of the two fronts and representatives of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),  “have reached a consensus to have a common peace blueprint before September 2008.”

Sema, Hassan and the ARMM representative to the meeting are government officials.

“Ermita said the government is hoping that the leadership issue will be resolved as soon as possible to bring lasting peace and development in Mindanao,” the OPS reported.

Iqbal told MindNews the leadership issue is “internal” between the MNLF and MILF. The ARMM, he added, “is government.”

The OPS report quoted Ermita as saying, “so that they will be fighting for one aspiration – the establishment of an autonomous region in the Bangsamoro land, one autonomous region. It cannot be the present ARMM and then another autonomous region.”

In the 1996 “Final Peace Agreement” with the MNLF, the MNLF settled for the creation of an autonomous region, initially comprising the earlier established Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Agreement, however, envisioned to expand its coverage within the transition period, into the other “areas of autonomy” listed in the 1976 peace agreement, through the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) and the Special Zone Of Peace And Development (Szopad).

The MILF, on the other hand, has repeatedly ruled out autonomy in their proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).  The proposed area of the BJE, representing also the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro, will have the present ARMM as core area and the predominantly Moro areas in the contiguous areas.

Iqbal told MindaNews in May 2005: “as to autonomy, that’s out of the question. We will not discuss autonomy. It’s a failure.”

“We will never sign an agreement with government on the basis of autonomy. We have made that very clear,” Iqbal said.

The MILF then eyed four types of governance as possibilities in reaching a negotiated political settlement of the conflict: federal, commonwealth, association of free states and independence.

Ermita was vice chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MNLF from 1992 to 1996. In the talks leading to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, he was a member of the technical working group.

Ermita served briefly as government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF after Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza resigned as peace panel chair in May 2003.

Mastura said Ermita’s “forte is “sowing discord, fitnah among the Moros.”

“Posing stumbling blocks, he has made a career out of this problem! Point to us a single solution he has formulated,” he asked.

The Philippine government signed a peace agreement with the MNLF on September 2,  1996. Exactly a month earlier, on August 2, then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres met with MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar, asking if they would accept the peace agreement the MNLF was going to sign. The MILF rejected the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF.

The Philippine government opened talks with the MILF in January 1997, still under the Ramos administration. The talks collapsed in 2000 when then President Joseph Estrada declared an “all-out war” against the MILF, and resumed unded the Arroyo administration’s “all-out peace” vow.

Ermita, in fact, signed the “Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks” on March 24, 2001 in Kuala Lumpur with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, then MILF vice chair for military affairs and MILF peace panel chair.

Ermita was then the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Murad ended his stint as peace panel chair in late July 2003, after he assumed the post of MILF chair from Salamat Hashim who succumbed to a lingering illness that month.

The March 24, 2001 agreement was hailed a “breakthrough” especially with both parties agreeing to resume the talks “immediately” after the signing of the March 24, 2001 agreement “and continue the same from where it had stopped before April 27, 2000 until they shall have reached a negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro problem.”
(Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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