GRP needs permanent negotiators in peace talks, says Senate bet

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) — The government needs a panel of “permanent negotiators” to push the peace negotiations with the Moro and communist rebels to its logical conclusion and bring lasting peace to Mindanao, a senatorial candidate under the administration party said.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial candidate Silvestre Bello III said he will propose the creation of an independent peace commission comprised of men and women of unquestioned probity and integrity and strengthen the framework of the peace talks.

Bello said peace negotiators are often replaced and have no institutionalized knowledge of the whole process, said Bello, a former justice secretary and peace negotiator.

“With the creation of the independent peace commission, the Office of the President and Department of National Defense cannot interfere anymore in all the peace processes,” he said.

Bello was the GRP panel chief negotiator in peace talks with the National Democratic Front from 1992 to 1998.

In a forum here, the presidential candidates said lack of consultations and sincerity on the panels caused the deadlock in the peace process between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Councilor John Carlo Delos Reyes, Nicanor Perlas and Eddie Villanueva gave failing marks to the peace negotiation with the MILF.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party, Sen. Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party and Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino were a no show at the forum.

Teodoro, the standard-bearer of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said more consultations with the stakeholders are needed for the peace talks to work and finally deliver sustainable and lasting peace in the island.

In his speech at the 9th Araw ng Zamboanga Sibugay, Bello told the crowd to “use your votes wisely to elect the leaders that will best represent your hopes and aspirations”.

“Having lived in Mindanao for years, I am one with you, people of Mindanao, in your aspirations for peace and justice” he said.

Bello said he also intends to pursue peace talks with the various armed and ideological groups until the resolution of the conflicts.

“I am in a way unique among the senatorial candidates across all parties in that I am the only one who put the agenda of peace and order foremost on the table,” he said.

“The other politicians are advocating for high quality education, food sufficiency and housing for all. I would say that although these are important as well, people cannot enjoy these amenities in life in a climate of unpeace.” he added. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)