GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 August) – For peace, protocol be damned.
Former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol, once dubbed as the “number one obstacle to the Bangsamoro peace process,” said he was “surprised but not scared” when he learned of President Aquino’s meeting Thursday night in Japan with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim but urged the public to support the President because the search for peace “must not be hostaged by formalities and protocols.”
“Let us throw to the wastebasket of Philippine history all of those formalities and diplomatic protocols which have encumbered the search for peace in the Southern Philippines. There are many ways and methods in solving a conflict and we should give President Aquino the flexibility to do things he believes should be undertaken to achieve the objective,” Pinol said in an e-mailed statement.
“Let us all be comfortable with the thought that this President, however simplistic his view of governance is, possesses no insatiable desire for money, or craves for more years in power,” he said.
Pinol said there are varied reactions to the President’s meeting with Murad, but while he may have violated diplomatic protocols by talking directly to a rebel leader, “the frank eyeball-to-eyeball meeting shows that President Aquino is committed to bring the conflict in the South, which has stunted the growth of the region and caused untold miseries to the people, to a peaceful end.”
“Christian leaders in Mindanao, who in all modesty look up to me as their champion in defending the Christian population’s position in the negotiations, have frantically texted me asking if President Aquino, has betrayed us?” Pinol said, adding his response was, “Relax. Let’s give him an elbow room in handling this problem.”
Pinol was governor of North Cotabato from 1998 to 2007 and vice governor of North Cotabato from 2007 to 2010. In 2008, he led local government units in going to the Supreme Court to stop the government peace panel from signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the MILF.
The Supreme Court issued a TRO on August 4, 2008, the eve of the formal signing of the already initialed agreement.
He said Aquino, was one of the key leaders of the LP then and “there are still pictures in the internet showing him seated beside former Senator Mar Roxas, Senator Franklin Drilon and myself as we waged the campaign against what he said was a “secretive” signing of the document which Pinol said “would have established a semi-independent Islamic State embracing almoost half of the Island of Mindanao.”
He said President Aquino’s attitude on the peace process “is that of a Big Brother who would like to bring conflicting parties to an honest tete-a-tete, much like squabbling kids who are brought together and asked: ‘Hey, what’s your problem?’”
He said this was what was lacking in the previous administration’s peace effort which was “too formal and bound by diplomatic protocols and formalities that it hardly moved forward.”
But Pinol said the Aquino administration must keep in mind what he said were two important positions embraced by the majority of the Mindanawons: “No Islamic sub-state and no expansion of the autonomous area. There is no point expanding a region which is the poorest in the country and where governance is marked by massive corruption and creating a sub-state on the basis of religion could raise another Constitutional question;” and “Socio-economic solutions must be emphasized over political arrangements and accommodations. No amount of peace agreements could assure that there will be an end to the conflict in Mindanao if the Muslims continue to wallow in poverty and deprivation, if they are not able to send their children to school and if they are not given the services due them as citizens of this Republic.”
Pinol said the MILF listed him as its “Most Hated Filipino Politician” and claimed that in the last elections, when he sought to regain the governorship of North Cotabato, he received Zero votes in areas controlled or influenced by the rebel group.
Pinol, a member of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition, supported Aquino’s Presidential bid in 2010. He now writes a political and sports column for The Manila Times newspaper and is actively involved in Philippine professional boxing and farming. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)