MILF reaching out to MNLF on peace pact; MNLF “willing to embrace MILF brods”

Iqbal, who wrote the book using his pseudonym, Salah Jubasir, acknowledged the “internal problem” but said they are reaching out to the MNLF leadership.”

The position of the MILF on the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF is “very clear,” that it be “implemented in full” but those that cannot be implemented, “we are willing to accommodate in our own agreement,” he told MindaNews.

But lawyer Randolph Parcasio, Executive Secretary to ARMM Governor Nur Misuari and head of the MNLF delegation that went to Jeddah early this month for a Tripartite Review with the Philippine government (GRP) and the Organization of  the Islamic Conference (OIC), told MindaNews “there is no need to include in another peace pact. GRP just has to implement a consummated pact.”

“The MNLF is willing to embrace MILF brods,” Parcasio said.

“What is important,” he stressed, “is to avoid who will be subsumed to whom and what,” Parcasio said.

The GRP and MNLF signed a peace agreement in 1976 and a “Final Peace Agreement” on September 2, 1996.  Eleven years later, however, questions on implementations have led to a review.

Early this month, the GRP and MNLF delegations met with the OIC for a Tripartite Meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to review the 1996 peace pact. Joint working groups were set up and these groups are expected to submit their report by January 10, 2008, in preparation for the January 14 meeting at a still undecided venue.

The MNLF holds an observer status in the OIC, the 57-member country that brokered the peace negotiations since the early 1970s.

Detained MNLF chair Nur Misuari was unable to attend the Tripartite Meeting but sent an opening statement read for him by MNLF spokesperson Al Tillah, questioning the legality of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Last month, the government and MILF peace panels reached a breakthrough by finally breaking the 13-month impasse in the peace negotiations on the issue of territory in the ancestral domain agenda.

The impasse ended with a compromise on what areas would comprise the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity  (BJE) “immediately” and “later,”  MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews in late October.

The two panels had earlier agreed that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would constitute the core of the future BJE.  In addition, the government peace panel proposed the possible inclusion of 613 Moro-dominated villages in Mindanao subject to a plebiscite while the MILF proposed the inclusion of a much wider area.

Murad said the compromise on territory that was reached during the Kuala Lumpur  meeting in October was a formula that would have “ARMM plus contiguous areas” join the BJE “immediately” with the other areas, “not necessarily all contiguous” joining “later.” He declined to elaborate on “later” although this presumably refers to within or after a transition period the panels still have to agree upon.

The present ARMM comprises six of 27 Mindanao provinces, namely  Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan (carved out of Maguindanao last year) and Basilan, and two of Mindanao’s 33 cities: Marawi and the newly-created Lamitan.

The MILF had earlier rejected the government’s offers of an “expanded” or “enhanced” ARMM, claiming it is a failure.

The incumbent ARMM officials, elected in 2005, will end their three-year term of office in September 2008. Elections are scheduled in August.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told reporters in Davao City Wednesday last week that the “best-case scenario” for the Philippine government’s review of the 1996 peace pact with the MNLF and the yet to be signed peace pact with the MILF is a law merging the provisions of the peace pacts by March 2008.

Dureza said once the review of the 1996 “Final Peace Agreement” by the Philippine government-MNLF- OIC is completed, the provisions will be “downloaded into a bill to amend the ARMM law.” 

In the government’s talks with the MILF, once an agreement is signed, “you have no other way but to download it to legislation.”

He said the two proposed legislations will then be consolidated into one bill. “Now you can both already converge (the provisions of both GRP-MNLF and GRP-MILF pacts) into a legal framework for the Bangsamoro.”

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., convenor of Kusog Mindanaw told MindaNews that Dureza is ignoring the fact that traditional leaders are in control of the local government units. Also, the President, he said, is “not a strong president” as she has no control over the Armed Forces and does not have the numbers in Congress to push for her peace agenda.

Datu Michael Mastura, a lawyer and MILF peace panel member, said Dureza’s “best-case scenario” is “the bad road to peace.”

Iqbal said he is confident the future peace agreement they will have forged with government will be better than the MNLF’s. “Kung ano ang mas maganda, yung ang dapat bigyan daan  (we should give way to whatever is better),” he said.

Iqbal also said they “do not believe in a timeline.” 

“As far as we are concerned, we have not timeline. We do not believe in timelines,” he stressed, adding the future of their peace negotiations does not hinge on the ARMM elections but on finding a settlement to the problem. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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