Dimaporo wants a Moro-led council on top of peace panel;Gov?t peace panel lacks 2 more members

Dimaporo made the clarification after the Mindanao Peace and Security Summit. Earlier, he told the plenary Moro leaders should head the peace negotiations with the MILF because they know the situation better, they “understand the people they negotiate with.”

Dimaporo told MindaNews after the summit that his proposed council will direct the peace process with the MILF and the government negotiators, and will directly deal with President Arroyo.

He said the council could be composed only of three persons – former congressman Macabangkit Lanto, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., and former Lanao del Sur governor Mahid Mutilan.

Mercado was named government peace panel chair vice Silvestre Afable in mid-June but five days later opted against accepting the appointment after clarifying with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim the group’s objections against his chairmanship.

Mutilan was a former member of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MILF.

In lieu of Mercado, retired general Rodolfo Garcia, the Deputy Armed Forces Chief of Staff, was named panel chair. Garcia is a familiar face in the GRP-MILF talks, having been head of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) while Deputy Chief of Staff and a regular member of the panel until he became a regular panel member a month after he retired in 2004.

The government panel at present needs two more members to replace Garcia and former Sultan Kudarat Governor Pax Mangudadatu.

The Garcia panel’s deputy is historian Rudy Rodil while Sylvia Paraguya is representing the Lumad (indigenous peoples). Rodil, a member of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front from 1992 to 1996, was acting chair before Garcia was named.

Garcia told MindaNews he hopes they can constitute the five-person peace panel within the week.

The government and MILF peace panels last met in September 2006. The talks ended in an impasse over territory. Informal talks, however, were made between representatives from each panel and the Malaysian facilitator.