From DDR to RRR: gov’t adopts "forward-looking strategy" in peace process with MILF

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Avelino Razon told the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao Monday afternoon that government will “endeavor to put a closure” to the discussions on the ancestral domain aspect of the talks by way of “exploring possibilities to renegotiate the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) in accordance with the parameters and principles reflected in the decision of the Supreme Court.”

By a vote of 8-7, the Supreme Court on October 14  declared unconstitutional the MOA-AD but said  “surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral Domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or significantly drastic provisions.”

Razon said a resumption of the talks “will allow us to reaffirm the principle on the primacy of the peace process, and reassert our commitments to implement all signed interim agreements in the peace negotiations.”

On the third R, he said government is proposing a review “to improve the nature and structure of the facilitation process, even as we continue to give due recognition to Malaysia as the Third Party Facilitator.”

“To this end, we are open to proposals and concepts, allowing the involvement of ‘eminent persons’ in the talks as a means to help push the negotiations forward,”  Razon said.

The government started reconstituting its peace panel in early December, naming Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as chair. Shortly before Christmas day, three members of the peace panel were named and the last was named in early January.

The last time the government and MILF peace panels met was on July 27 last year, when they initialed the now controversial GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MIOA-AD) in Malaysia and scheduled August 5 as the date of the formal signing in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order afternoon of August 4, barring the government peace panel chair from signing the agreement. The Supreme Court on October 14 declared the document unconstitutional.

MILF peace panel member Maulana Alonto said the conflict between the Philippine government and the MILF is “between justice and injustice,”

“There can be no neutrality on this,” he said.

Alonto noted that the Bangsamoro people “were not asking for the whole of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan” but “what is left to us should be restored to us and we should be able to rule a homeland.”

“All we asked was that there would be no assimilation of the Bangsamoro people but accommodation based on restructured totality of relationships.. that this time, we be accommodated if they do not want us to separate.”

He said they were for a “shared sovereignty with the homeland.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had listed down five points in a statement on December 26: that before the talks could resume, “there must be a group of countries or entities to provide ‘guarantees’ that both the GRP and MILF will honor and implement the agreements on reached by the parties;” that “both sides must be able to resolve the issue on the MOA-AD which the MILF considers a ‘done deal’;” that the International Monitoring Team (IMT) be allowed to discharge its duties and functions, including the investigation of all ceasefire violations from July 1, 2008 onwards;” that the AFP “should immediately cease military offensives against the three rogue MILF commanders;” and that Malaysia “should remain as the third party facilitator of the peace talks.”

Razon said the Philippine government has requested Malaysia to continue as facilitator and that government has “dropped the condition” on the surrender of the commanders as a condition for the resumption of talks.

“We are ready to return back to the negotiating table,” he said.

 “The GRP panel carries with it a clear and deliberate agenda to the negotiations and that is to put closure to the Ancestral Domain discussions so that we can immediately begin negotiations on the Comprehensive Compact or final peace agreement,” Razon said.

Razon said they are just “awaiting feedback” from the Malaysian facilitators “on the schedule of the resumption of the peace talks.”

“We are equally hopeful that when talks resume, the Parties will not only continue substantive discussions, but they will also renew the mandate of the International Monitoring Team and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group.

Razon said a six-point guideline had been laid down for the peace panel, the first of which is that  any consensus or agreement, whether interim or otherwise, reached by the government with the MILF in the peace talks “shall always be subject to constitutional processes.”

Second, any future agreement with the MILF “must be within the purview of Philippine citizenship” and “there shall be no talk of independence.”

The third guideline is for the government panel to “endeavor to exert utmost efforts and utilize available mechanisms to reflect in the agenda and the agreements the values, sentiments and principles of the Filipino people.”

The three other guidelines are that DDR “shall be the overall framework and context governing our engagement with the MILF in the peace talks;” that “whether the negotiations succeed and result to a peace agreement or not, cessation of hostilities on the ground must continue;” and that while peace negotiations are ongoing with the MILF, “government shall also intensify development efforts in the conflict-affected areas as part of its confidence-building measures.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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