Gov’t panel says NorthCot officials consulted on peace process

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 April) — The government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) have been consulting with stakeholder, including officials of North Cotabato, a press statement from the government peace panel said.

The consultations included getting their views and suggestions to guide the panel in the negotiations with the MILF, the peace panel added.

This, as the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) called on “all peace loving Mindanawons to unite and remain steadfast in our peace efforts in the light of this renewed attempt by the Piñol brothers of North Cotabato to sabotage the peace negotiations.”

The Piñol brothers on Wednesday field a petition for Prohibition and Mandamus with application for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court, “to compel the national government to “divulge to the public the contents of a reported draft peace agreement” between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and to “stop government from signing any interim peace agreement unless the same is made public and consultations are properly conducted.”

Government peace panel chair Rafael Seguis said Presidential Peace Adviser Annabelle Abaya had replied to Pinol’s April 22 letter to the government panel through Secretary Abaya, demanding a “copy of the draft of the Interim Peace Agreement with the MILF which Malacanang would like to sign before the end of the term of Presidential Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”

Abaya sent a letter on April 27 to Israelito P. Torreon, legal counsel of the Pinol brothers, in reply to the lawyer’s communication dated April 21. (The two peace panels signed a joint statement from Kuala Lumpur evening of August 21, on what transpired during the 18th exploratory talks.” Only one paragraph focused on the proposed interim peace agreement. Paragraph 9 states that the parties “formally exchanged amended draft proposals and matrices, discussed their proposals and agreed on areas of common ground, subject to endorsement by the Panels to their respective principals. This would be the basis of crafting the interim document in early May 2010.”)

In her letter, Abaya clarified that “there does not exist a draft peace agreement” contrary to newspaper reports. “Through the course of the GRP-MILF panel negotiations, the parties have exchanged evolving versions of the draft proposals, but there has yet to emerge a single working draft of any agreement, interim or otherwise. While we are hopeful that both sides might arrive at some consensus within the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I regret to inform you that as of now, we are not anywhere near the overly optimistic reports of the media,” Abaya said. She explained that the draft proposals “have touched on issues of mutual interests to the parties. The GRP has made it clear that we care deeply about territorial integrity, sovereignty, and respect for rule of law and constitutional prosesses….”

Abaya even invited the Pinols to her office if they want to know more. “I would be pleased to elaborate on the draft proposals on the table and to address any further questions they may have, should Vice Governor Piñol and Representative Piñol be willing to come to my office and meet with me to discuss their apprehensions in person.”

Abaya said they agree with the Pinols that the peace talks are “a matter of public interest and transcendental importance. This same premise is at the crux of our motivation in convening Dialogue Mindanaw, the recently concluded series of reflective dialogues held all around the country, which we are happy that Vice-Gov. Pinol had joined in Cotabato City…”

“Meanwhile, the GRP negotiating panel is conducting continuing consultations, and in fact, will soon be meeting with your clients, among other concerned stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process to ‘pick their minds’ on some ideas that are still in the process of development,”Abaya wrote.

In fact, Seguis was supposed to meet with North Cotabato officials in Davao City today, April 29. Seguis also stressed the panel “will hold continuing consultations before signing any agreed text,” the press statement said.

Last Wednesday, the peace panel in a press statement welcomed the Pinol brothers’ flingo f the petition. “We welcome this development as it will give us the opportunity to further show the strict adherence by the panel with the guidance given by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, in the conduct of its current peace talks with the MILF panel,” Seguis said.

He expressed confidence the Supreme Court will reaffirm the national government’s prerogative to continue its search for peace in Mindanao. The MPC on the other hand said several consultations have been done and the “overwhelming recommendation of the Mindanawons is to continue the peace talks.”

“Instead of running to the Supreme Court, the Piñols could have easily sought audience with the peace panels to get updates and briefings on the progress of the negotiations instead of dragging the Supreme Court into what is clearly a premature controversy. Unless this is part of yet another electoral ploy to capitalize so called ‘anti-Moro’ sentiments in the run through for the May 2010 election,” the MPC said.

It reiterated its call for the government peace panel to “intensify its information and advocacy drive so that people will no longer be misled and swayed by black propaganda which had effectively divided our people in August 2008. “ “We also appeal into the hearts of the Piñol brothers to give peace a chance in Mindanao and especially in North Cotabato whose people have been victimized over and over again by this lingering armed conflict the peace process of which has also been spoiled over and over again by politicians like them,” the MPC wrote.

The MPC said both panels should now facilitate the safe return of the IDPs, conduct the Unexploded Ordnance(UXO) clearance operations in the conflict-affected areas and approve the Terms of Reference of the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring be meeting with your clients, among other concerned stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process to ‘pick their minds’ on some ideas that are still in the process of development? Abaya wrote. In fact, Seguis was supposed to meet with North Cotabato officials in Davao City today, April 29. Seguis also stressed the panel “will hold continuing consultations before signing any agreed text,” the press statement said.

Last Wednesday, the peace panel in a press statement welcomed the Pinol brothers’ flingo f the petition. “We welcome this development as it will give us the opportunity to further show the strict adherence by the panel with the guidance given by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, in the conduct of its current peace talks with the MILF panel,” Seguis said. He expressed confidence the Supreme Court will reaffirm the national government’s prerogative to continue its search for peace in Mindanao.

The MPC on the other hand said several consultations have been done and the “overwhelming recommendation of the Mindanawons is to continue the peace talks.” “Instead of running to the Supreme Court, the Piñols could have easily sought audience with the peace panels to get updates and briefings on the progress of the negotiations instead of dragging the Supreme Court into what is clearly a premature controversy. Unless this is part of yet another electoral ploy to capitalize so called ‘anti-Moro’ sentiments in the run through for the May 2010 election,” the MPC said.

It reiterated its call for the government peace panel to “intensify its information and advocacy drive so that people will no longer be misled and swayed by black propaganda which had effectively divided our people in August 2008. “ “We also appeal into the hearts of the Piñol brothers to give peace a chance in Mindanao and especially in North Cotabato whose people have been victimized over and over again by this lingering armed conflict the peace process of which has also been spoiled over and over again by politicians like them,” the MPC wrote.

The MPC said both panels should now facilitate the safe return of the IDPs, conduct the Unexploded Ordnance(UXO) clearance operations in the conflict-affected areas and approve the Terms of Reference of the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team “which are exactly the agenda tabled in the upcoming KL meeting in May. These cannot be sacrificed and restrained by another TRO.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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