Government panel dialogues with North Cot residents on Monday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 May) – A peace caravan from Davao City will join an estimated 50,000 “community peace movers and prayer brigades” at the University of Southern Mindanao Gym in Kabacan, North Cotabato on Monday, May 3, in what is being dubbed as  “Peace Power Day (State of the Peace Talks).

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus  (MPC)  issued an invitation Friday night for Davao City-based participants to gather at the Matina Town Square at 7 a.m. on Monday for the peace caravan to Kabacan,  about three hours away by car, where some 50,000 “community peace movers and prayer brigades,” are expected to  welcome them.

Arnado said the 50,000 will include “bakwits” or internally displaced persons.

“We call on all peace-loving Mindanawons to unite for peace and muster all efforts to maintain peace amidst the renewed attempt by some politicians to sabotage the peace negotiations,” MPC secretary-general Mary Ann Arnado wrote.

Government peace panel chair Rafael Seguis and his panel members “will join us to provide an accurate update on the peace process between the GRP  and the MILF, and clarify the misconceptions perpetrated by known spoilers of  the peace process,”  Arnado said.

“Let us not be dissuaded by black propaganda and emotional persuasion. Together let us find out the truth,” Arnado wrote in her advisory.

The Kabacan program will begin around 10 a.m.  There will be an open forum after Seguis gives his updates on the peace negotiations with the MILF and anyone is welcome to ask his or her questions, said Arnado.

North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol on April 29 filed with the Supreme Court a petition for Prohibition and Mandamus with prayer for Preliminary Injunction 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.”

In a press statement dated April 29, Pinol and his brother said they were prompted to go to the Supreme Court because of “reports of a possible signing of an interim peace agreement before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down on June 30.

On April 21, the lawyer of the  Pinols and two board members of the province, wrote the Philippine government through the OPAPP, 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.”

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 April 21 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.”

Presidential Peace Adviser Annabelle Abaya on April 27 replied to the letter written by the Pinol’s lawyer on April 21, clarifying 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,” she 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 processes….”

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.”

In a press statement, Seguis  stressed the panel “will hold continuing consultations before signing any agreed text,” the press statement said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)