MILF rules out resumption of talks by January

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 December) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has doused hopes expressed by the Philippine government the stalled peace talks will resume by January 2011, with the rebel group saying it would not be possible without first resolving the issue of facilitator.

In an article posted Sunday in luwaran.com, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said they have requested the Malaysian government to retain Datuk Othman bin Abd’ Razak as facilitator “and this still stands. It is not in the MILF mind to meet in January if the facilitator’s issue is not settled.”

Earlier reports quoted Secretary Teresita “Ging” Quintos-Deles of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as having said the on and off talks will resume next month.

Iqbal said the government’s alleged continuing “character assassination” against Othman as bias to the MILF was not helping the peace process.

“Without a facilitator, how would the talks resume?” he asked.

In its December 22 statement the OPAPP said GRP peace panel chair Leonen hopes the facilitation issues will be resolved soon to pave the way for the conduct of informal sessions and resumption of formal peace talks.

“It is very clear that the Philippine government wanted the best chance for a full settlement to gain acceptance from the public. So we have to settle the facilitation issues,” he said.

Iqbal also demanded for a complete stop to the arrest of MILF officials and men and for the immediate release of detained MILF members and leaders. He mentioned in particular engineer Edward Gurrea and Commander Aguilar Saligan.

He said that if the government can release the “Morong 43”, the collective name of health workers whom the military accused of being members of the New People’s Army, it can do the same to MILF political detainees.

He said releasing them would be “a good confidence-building measure for the Aquino administration, which is steadily losing moral ascendancy in the present talks due to calibrated alibis not to start talks in July.”

Guerra (passport name Abraham Yap Alonto) was arrested on September 22 at the Davao International Airport en route to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The MILF Central Committee resolution on October 11, 2010 protested the arrest of Guerra, urged the dropping of charges against him and asked that he be released without delay.

The resolution also said Guerra, a member of the MILF Central Committee, is covered by the safety and security guarantees provided to MILF members who are directly and principally involved in the peace process.

In a forum during the 6th Mindanao Media Summit in Davao City early last month the MILF also said that releasing MILF members would augur well for the peace process. (MindaNews)

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