Peace efforts cited in SONA technical report but not in PNoy’s speech

DAVAO  CITY (MindaNews/31 July) —  President Benigno Simeon Aquino was silent on his government’s peace efforts with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in his 53-minute, 95-paragraph State of the Nation Address (SONA) even as the 2011 SONA Technical Report prepared by the Presidential Management Staff noted the year-old administration’s achievements on the peace front.

The technical report is the basis for the President’s address.

As candidate for President, Aquino told MindaNews on September 25, 2009 that the first thing he would do for Mindanao once elected President is to focus on peace. “The  first focus has to be on the peace aspect. Everything rides on the idea that there is an attainment of peace otherwise no intervention will work to any good,” he said.

The technical report said the administration “initiated peace negotiations and completion of peace talks with rebel groups” and that it “recognizes that a purely military solution will not adequately address the issues on insurgency; thus, the government is pursuing lasting peace by bringing the resolution of conflict back to the negotiating table.”

It said the government peace panels and the MILF “formally resumed peace talks in 2011” and that during the Exploratory Talks held on April 27 to 28 in Kuala Lumpur, the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) “affirmed its commitment to the agreement on security and immunity guarantees, which covers the members of the MILF Central Committee.”

The GPH and MILF peace panels are supposed to meet again on August 2 to 4 after the GPH peace panel on June 27 asked to defer submission of its counter-proposal to the peace draft submitted by the MILF peace panel in the first formal exploratory talks in February this year.

The technical report also said formal negotiations between the GPH and the National Democratic Front (NDF)  resumed on February 15 to 21 in Oslo “after an impasse of seven years.”

The GPH and NDF peace panel chairs actually met for informal talks on December 1 and 2, 2010 in Hongkong. This was followed by exploratory talks in January and the formal talks in February.

“The Panels agreed to an accelerated timeframe to complete the remaining substantive agenda on socio-economic reforms (SER); political and constitutional reforms (PCR); and end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EOH/DOF), in the next 18 months or a maximum of three years,” the technical report said.

The GPH and NDF panels were supposed to meet in June.

The President’s silence on the peace process in his SONA did not sit well with peace advocates.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told MindaNews  after the SONA that  the negotiating tables of both the GPH-MILF and GPH-NDF “ are in sensitive, complex stage at this time. But something will unfold soon.”

Marvic Leonen, chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the MILF, said, “Everything done for good government and accountability provides context for government’s peace initiatives.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said “there is only one meaning. The two peace talks are not on the radar of the government.”
The President’s SONA last year had eight paragraphs on the peace process with the MILF and the NDF.

The technical report also said formal negotiations between the GPH and the National Democratic Front (NDF)  resumed on February 15 to 21 in Oslo “after an impasse of seven years.”

The GPH and NDF peace panel chairs actually met for informal talks on December 1 and 2, 2010 in Hongkong. This was followed by exploratory talks in January and the formal talks in February.

“The Panels agreed to an accelerated timeframe to complete the remaining substantive agenda on socio-economic reforms (SER); political and constitutional reforms (PCR); and end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EOH/DOF), in the next 18 months or a maximum of three years,” the technical report said.

The GPH and NDF panels were supposed to meet in June.

The technical report also cited the 4th Tripartite Meeting of the GPH, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on February 22 to 23 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the “GPH and the MNLF jointly expressed that they look forward to the early adoption of the drafted Amendatory Bill for RA 9054 (the law which created the ARMM), within the context of reviewing the progress and continuing the discussion towards the full implementation of the GPH-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement.”

The technical report said the President witnessed the signing of a MOA between the Philippine Government and the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) on July 4, 2011. This, the report said, “signals the beginning of a closure process to the 25-year Mt. Data Peace Agreement, signed in 1986.” It said the MOA “embodies and builds upon the ideals and aspirations of the Cordillera people for peace and development in the spirit of the Peace Agreement. It also lays down the components that will lead to the final disposition of arms and forces of the CBA-CPLA and their transformation from an armed group into an unarmed potent socio-economic force in the region.” (MindaNews)

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