DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol, his brother, Rep. Bernard Pinol (2nd district, North Cotabato) and two board members of the province in a letter Thursday to the Philippine government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), demanded “a copy of the draft of the Interim Peace Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which Malacanang would like to sign before the end of the term of Presidential Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
In a press statement prepared by the former journalist himself, Pinol said the draft agreement “must be thoroughly reviewed and studied first before it is signed by the government and the MILF.”
The government and MILF peace panels on Wednesday issued a two-page, ten-paragraph Joint Statement from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on what transpired during their 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.”
Pinol’s press statement noted that just as they declared in their petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Philippine government from signing the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5, 2008, “we believe that the right of the people to know the details of the “peace deal” is absolute and must be respected as it is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.”
The Supreme Court granted the TRO afternoon of August 4, 2008. It later ruled the MOA-AD was unconstitutional.
“Thoroughly reviewed and implemented”
Pinol, North Cotabato governor from 1998 to 2007, Vice Governor from 2007 until June 30, 2010 and presently a candidate for governor, explained that the North Cotabato Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislature) had earlier passed a resolution, asking President Arroyo to defer the signing of the new peace deal until June 30 so that the document could be thoroughly reviewed and implemented by the new President.
The vice governor chairs the provincial legislature.
“Rushing the signing of this document now while everybody is preoccupied with the election campaign could be dangerous as it would deprive the leaders the opportunity to review the new peace deal objectively,” he said.
Pinol said rushing an agreement “is dangerous because if the new President will reject the Interim Peace Deal, the MILF could accuse the government on reneging on a signed commitment and go on a rampage again and attack civilian populated areas.”
“We need to exercise prudence here because this document will affect the lives of the people of Mindanao and even the territorial integrity of the Philippines,” Pinol added.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo told MindaNews that “the nature of the present peace talks and its output are being misrepresented by politicians as though it is MOA-AD all over again.”
“It would be good for the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to inform the public what really would be the content of a ‘peace pact’ that is signable. The idea of deferring is tied to the fear that the ‘peace pact’ is like the very detailed MOA-AD,” Quevedo wrote.
Government peace panel chair Rafael Seguis told MindaNews, “consultations will be conducted by OPAPP under PAPP Abaya. She’s arriving this afternoon from Libya.”
MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal sent no comment to Pinol’s move.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel agrees with the North Cotabato provincial board’s resolution. “Attempts to bind RP now to any peace pact with Moro rebels is like lying a turbulent weather in an old Russian plane that killed the Polish president and party. Reckless. Unbinging. Unnecessary.
But Abdulbasit Benito, executive director of the Cotabato City-based Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, said, “that is not a new attitude of Manny Pinol. He is determined to oppose any settlement to the Bangsamoro problem to protect Pinol. He is determined to oppose any settlement to the Bangsamoro problem to protect his personal interest.”
Guiamel Alim, member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) and executive director of Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc., asked, “how can a draft be shared when it is still being worked out?”
Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said that “while it is the right of any citizen or official to demand transparency and diligence in the affairs of the state it is also their responsibility to ensure that their own acts are not perceived as forwarding their own political agenda, or to derail progress in the dawning of peace in this land.”
“Millions of pesos spent on consultations”
Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, said, “What happened to the millions spent on the CONSULTATIONS? If we have to deal with this recycled issue from August 2008 — then said consultations obviously failed to inform and educate the ‘public.’ Unless, of course you are dealing with incorrigible and desperate politicians who cannot be educated anymore. Whether you call it MOA or interim agreement or what have you, the armed conflict in Mindanao needs to be seriously addressed and resolved now. And any politician who seeks to be elected in office especially in the conflict-affected areas such as (North) Cotabato should present a clear peace formula and solution to the problem rather than foment hatred between Muslims and Christians.”
Pinol said the demand letter was sent to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya through his lawyer, Israelito Torreon, who also represented him in the MOA-AD case.
Board members Ronaldo Pader and Romeo Arana joined the Pinol brothers in asking for a copy of the agreement before it is signed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)