Gov’t peace panel defers submission of counter-proposal to MILF

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 June) – The government peace panel has deferred submission of its peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

No explanation on the deferment, however, was mentioned in the press release issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) from Kuala Lumpur where  the government and MILF peace panels are meeting.

The MILF peace panel submitted its draft peace settlement containing its proposed Bangsamoro sub-state in February. The government peace panel during the last formal exploratory talks on April 27 and 28 agreed, according to the Joint Statement signed on April 28, “to submit its counter-proposal at the next meeting on June 27 to 28.”

The press statement merely said the government panel “ has deferred the submission of its proposal” and that both parties agreed that the next round of formal talks would be held first week of August.

The press statement quoted government peace panel chair and concurrent UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen as saying the two panels were able to “level off on important points to facilitate the talks” but was silent on what these “important points” were.

The MILF could not be reached for comment.

“No schemes”

Today’s meeting in KL was attended by Leonen, panel member Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and panel secretariat head Iona Jalijali for government and for the MILF, peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, panel members Datu Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto.

The press statement reiterated Leonen’s assurance that government “is not out to pre-empt and supplant the peace negotiations.”

In his opening statement at the talks, Leonen stressed government is “sincere in pursuing just and lasting peace in Mindanao and will not resort to any schemes.”

Leonen’s statement was in reaction to  an article posted on the MILF website that a former Moro government official had warned the MILF of an alleged government scheme that would be parallel to the peace negotiations.

The MILF website said the unnamed former government official “had described the scheme as preempting the negotiation by resorting to a process parallel to the diplomatic track but not necessarily abandoning it openly and at the same time supplanting it by something like direct talks.”

“As part of the scheme, the government will offer the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a sort of transition government, to the MILF leadership with the promise of reforming it while the necessary legislative action to amend the ARMM’s organic is also promised. The plan is a copycat of the formula dangled to MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) Chairman Nur Misuari in 1996 which he accepted,” the MILF website said.

ARMM reforms

In the OPAPP press statement, Leonen said the government’s reform programs in the ARMM will be pursued not because it wants to placate the MILF but “with a sense of urgency because the constituencies we both claim to represent need economic development, good governance, a chance to enjoy the blessings of every opportunity that they and their children should be able to enjoy.”

Leonen urged the MILF “not to become an obstacle to these reforms,” noting that the Aquino administration is “aware of the historical injustices of the past and will not repeat the same mistakes.”

The government and MNLF agreed during a meeting in Solo City, Indonesia on June 22 that  the MNLF would take part in the “ARMM governance reforms” of the Aquino administration when it appoints a caretaker administration to govern the ARMM from noon of September 30, 2011 to June 30, 2013.

The agreement does not mention who or how many MNLF members will be appointed as OICs in the 21-year old ARMM, an institution that was governed by the MNLF from  September 30, 1996 to September 30, 2005 under Governors Misuari and Parouk Hussein.

The report of the Technical Committee of the Ad Hoc High-Level Group of the Philippine government, MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said the  parties, “recognizing the possibilities for reform in light of the postponement of the ARMM elections believe that they should avail of the opportunity and use the period to work together with concerned stakeholders to capacitate the ARMM as a complementary mechanism for the full implementation of the 1996 GRP-OIC-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA).”

Congress early this month passed a bill resetting the August 8, 2011 elections in the ARMM to synchronize it with the national mid-term officials on May 13, 2013 and to allow President Aquino to appoint OICs in the interim.

Umra Kato

In the OPAPP press statement, Leonen expressed “pressing concerns” for the MILF to “discipline its forces,” referring to military reports that Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato “attempted to reinforce one of his commanders involved in the kidnapping of Filipino-Chinese businesswoman Angelina Chew Manjique.”

Leonen said reports also indicated that the MILF allegedly had the relatives of the suspects in the kidnapping, kidnapped, as part of its rescue strategy.

He also called the attention of the MILF on an ongoing feud or ‘rido’ between its 104th and 105th base commands in Brgy. Kidayan,  Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, reportedly over a 100-hectare land.

Leonen said the skirmishes had  resulted to the displacement of 4,000 villagers. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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