Gov’t vows no repeat of MOA-AD problem; panel to present its draft peace proposal after April

TACURONG CITY (MindaNews/13 April) – The government peace panel will present the draft of its proposed peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the next exploratory talks after the April 27 to 28 talks in Kuala Lumpur, Dean Marvic Leonen, government peace panel chair said in Wednesday’s consultation with local government officials of Maguindanao.

He also assured the governor, mayors, vice mayors, provincial board members and their representatives, that President Aquino does not want a repeat of what happened to the GPH-MILF’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008.

Leonen said  they will hold a question and answer forum with the MILF on its draft peace pact in the April meeting, the 20th exploratory talks since peace negotiations resumed after the 2003 war in Buliok but the second under the Aquino administration,

In his briefing at the conference room of Genalin’s Resort here, Leonen said, “wala pang proposal ang pamahalaan natin. There are ideas, in fact, a full-blown proposal that’s on the deak of the President right now.” But the President, he stressed, instructed them “from the very beginning,” to be “inclusive and participative” and “’wag nyong ulitin ang nangyari sa MOA-AD.”

The Philippine government under the Arroyo administration had initialed the MOA-AD and were supposed to formally sign it on August 5, 2008 but the Supreme Court afternoon of August 4 issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the government peace panel chair from signing the agreement. The court in October declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional, citing lack of consultation, as among the major reasons.

In 2008,  Leonen narrated, “you were surprised about the contents of the agreement,” that the Arroyo administration was about to sign it but local government officials,  from North Cotabato among others, “got wind of the contents of the proposal and came out to oppose because they did not know basically the contents of the proposal or were not consulted” while the proposal was being crafted.

He  said they received in the February 2011 exporatory talks “the proposal of the MILF which they call a comprehensive compact.”

He reiterated that the MILF proposal is “not a document of independence.”

But Leonen said they cannot share a copy of the MILF draft with the local government officials because of the nature of the negotiations and because “it’s not our document; it’s their document.”

He said it’s a “long proposal, 49 pages including annexures. May dalawa pang di pa sina-submit at sabi nila isa-submit nila.”

Leonen noted that the MILF has been “going around, consulting with many sectors.”

“War is no option”

“Government is in the process of evolving its own proposal in order to move forward in the talks but we have certain ideas of how it will be. However,  we want to listen to you as to what your concerns are relating to the peace agreement,” he said.

Leonen also told local officials that the MILF is expected to present to the government peace panel on April 27 to 28 the status of  Commander Ameril Umbra Kato, commander of the 105th Base Command, who is reported to have set up a separate army, the Bagnsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Leonen said the MILF panel told them in February that the issue is internal to the MILF and that emissaries had been sent to Kato.

He said the MILF may report that negotiations are still ongoing or not positive. “The position of government will be revealed” after the MILF makes its report.

He said government forces are in a “state of defensive readiness as to what can happen, always keeping in mind the primacy of the peace process.”

Leonen at the start of the consultations, had emphasized that “war is not an option.”

He was accompanied by three other panel members – former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Upi Mayor Ramon Piang and peace panel consultant Dr. Hamid Barra.

The local officials were later divided into five groups for a workshop on two issues: “what are your issues and concerns on the GPH-MILF Peace Process?” and “What do you think is your role in the Peace Process.”

On Question 1, the local officials were asked to raise their concerns on socio-economic issues, political, cultural, and process.

Joint consultations

Consultation on the peace process was among the major concerns raised, along with poverty, land disputes and Voluntary Offer to Sell problems, unity of  leaders of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with whom government is reviewing the implementation of the 1996 “Final Peace Agreement,” government’s sincerity in implementing the peace agreement, diversion of aid, among other issues.

A representative of one group of vice mayors asked what would happen if an agreement is signed with the MILF, “anong power ng local government units? Ang mag-implement ba ng project ay MILF?”

A representative of another group of vice mayors suggested that the MILF panel be around also during the consultations “to give their ideas kung how sincere they are.”

Leonen said the idea was good and that “perhaps we can propose this to the MILF, let’s have  joint consultations with the MILF at a certain point in the negotiations.. kapag malimamiwanag  na ang terms, mag-joint (consultations) kaya ditto, buong panel nila, buong panel namin, perhaps going to each constituencyntncy. I don’t know how far we can reach, to be able to actually see how people feel about it.”

“Of course we’re going to go to Darapanan (where the MILF camp and peace panel office is) but they should also be willing to sit down with LGUs in Maguindanao” and other parts, he said.

“We are going to tell the MILF,  maybe in my opening statement (in KL)… that we heard it from the local government of Maguindanao that they are inviting us to a joint consultation,” he added.

The government and MILF peace panels agreed in  the 10th exploratory talks on February 6 to 7, 2006 to setting up a Joint Advocacy Group that would consult with various sectors and conduct joint activities to disseminate information on the peace process.

The government peace panel’s representatives to the JAG then were Rudy Rodil and Sylvia Paraguya while the MILF peace panel’s representatives were Datu Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto.

The Joint Advocacy Group’s efforts were not continued when the talks reached an impasse in late 2006. But they managed to issue a primer on the GPH-MILF peace process in October 2006, in the midst of the impasse. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)