Kabalu confirms “clandestine meeting” with Pinol, Duterte on ARMM OIC posts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 June) –  Eid Kabalu, who was reported to have been fired but who claimed to have resigned from his post as chief of civil-military relations and spokesperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), confirmed he met two weeks ago with former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol and Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to discuss possibilities of taking part in Malacanang’s reform program in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but said he did so “not officially but in our personal capacity.”

Kabalu told MindaNews he met with Pinol and Duterte evening of  June 13 in what was supposed to be a “clandestine meeting” that lasted for about two hours at the lobby café of the Marco Polo hotel here. Pinol said the meeting “over iced tea and Coke” started at around 8:30 p.m. and ended past 10 p.m.

Kabalu said he sent a text message on June 12 to Pinol, whom he described as “my personal friend,” to set a meeting with the Liberal Party member.  Kabalu said Pinol immediately phoned him and set the meeting for June 13, with Duterte.

Pinol told MindaNews Sunday morning that he and Duterte asked Kabalu if his meeting them had the approval of the MILF’ Central Committee and that Kabalu said yes. Kabalu, however, told MindaNews Sunday afternoon that he met with the two leaders in his personal capacity “kaya we kept it secret” (that’s why we kept it secret).

“Hindi official yun. We cannot bring the MILF into an issue like this,” he said. The MILF has repeatedly said the ARMM is not the solution to the conflict. Its peace negotiating panel in February handed over its draft peace settlement proposing a Bangsamoro sub-state with the ARMM as a core area. The government peace panel is expected to present its draft peace proposal to the MILF during the June 27-28 exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Kabalu said he contacted Pinol because Pinol is a Liberal Party member and could bring up the matter he was going to discuss with them, to the President.

“Pragmatic”

Kabalu explained his name “was floated for the position of OIC Governor as early as April,” before the Senate passed the bill resetting the August 8, 2011 polls in the ARMM to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term elections and to allow President Aquino to appoint OICs in the interim.

Congress passed the bill in early June and President Aquino is scheduled to sign it into law on June 30.

Kabalu said he did not endorse himself to be OIC Governor.

Pinol said “in fairness to Kabalu, he never endorsed himself.” He said Duterte during their meeting also said they should not talk personalities as yet.

Pinol said Kabalu  suggested that the ARMM OIC Governor be “somebody endorsed or recommended by the MILF. “

“Kabalu represents the more pragmatic side of the MILF,” said Pinol.

Pinol quoted Kabalu as saying the result of the peace talks will take long so it is best to “get whatever we can” from the opportunity that has presented itself.  The opportunity is the law allowing the President to appoint OICs to govern the ARMM from noon of September 30, 2011 to noon of June 30, 2013.

50 major posts

At least 50 major posts need to filled with OICs – the governor, vice governor, 24 assemblymen, Cabinet secretaries and heads of offices.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which signed a  final peace agreement with the government on September 2, 1996 and which is reviewing, along with the government and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the implementation of the agreement, agreed in a meeting in Solo City, Indonesia on June 22, that it would take part in the caretaker ARMM government.

Pinol said he told Kabalu that the MILF “operated against me in the May election but this is a greater cause than anything else.  I can set aside my personal feelings and politics.”

He said he immediately sent a text message to President Aquino after the meeting with Kabalu. He declined to say what the President’s reply was but noted it was “positive.”

Pinol said Duterte asked Kabalu to give him a memo “of what you would like to happen, what you would like to achieve and what you would want to give in exchange.”

“Rody asked for it so he could brief Mar (Roxas) in Manila,” Pinol said.

“I did not see the paper,” he said, adding Kabalu gave it to Duterte. He said he had not spoken with Duterte since the meeting.

OIC Governor

Kabalu told MindaNews he gave a printout of a four-page memo to Duterte indicating the platform of government would be  power-sharing. He declined to give MindaNews a copy but said the four-pager included an introduction, prospects and how to carry out the platform.

MindaNews sought Duterte for comment but through his aide, he replied “no comment.”

For Pinol, “what transpired was what I was dreaming of.”  He explained that the MILF’s joining the ARMM leadership is pragmatic because  the MILF’s proposed “Bangsamoro substate or ancestral domain will always meet opposition.”

Pinol said the reports that the MILF fired Kabalu “goes to show there is a fissure in the MILF” but noted there is a “more pragmatic group within the MILF.”

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar on Saturday said Kabalu was fired for allegedly violating the Front’s Code of Conduct.

Jaafar said Kabalu met with Pinol and Duterte without clearance from the MILF.

Kabalu acknowledged his interest to be appointed as OIC Governor. “If given the mandate, why not?”  he told MindaNews.

Given the opportunity, he said, he would like to “institute the desired changes and reforms” in the ARMM.

“But what if you are not appointed OIC Governor?” MindaNews asked.

“OIC Governor is my priority,” he replied. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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