GPH to MILF: “let’s sit down, discuss differences and agreements”

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/30 August) –  Acknowledging that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may not agree with the approaches of government in crafting a peace settlement, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said they are “ready, willing and able to continue the negotiations” as he urged the MILF to “sit down with us and continue to dialogue.”

“We understand the MILF may not agree with the approaches of  government but we entreat them and urge them for the sake of (the) peoples in Mindanao to not simply posture by rejecting our proposal but to sit down with us and continue to dialogue and converse and see the extent of our differences but also  more importantly the extent of our agreements,” Leonen told a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Estosan Hotel, a few hundred meters away from the compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Leonen’s press conference in this city which is not a part of ARMM but has been the provisional seat of the five-province, two-city autonomous region since 1990, came a full week after the government and MILF peace panels adjourned its third panel-to-panel meeting with the MILF panel recommending to its Central Committee the rejection of government’s proposed peace settlement.

The MILF submitted its own proposal on February 10. In the next panel-to-panel meeting in April, the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel sought clarifications on the MILF’s proposal through a Q and A process.

A supposed panel-to-panel meet in June, where government was supposed to submit its proposal was cancelled in favor of an executive session where government extended the invitation of President Aquino to meet with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.
The meeting of the two leaders took place in Japan on August 4. There, they agreed to fast-track the negotiations, to ensure that whatever agreement is forged can be implemented within the Aquino administration whose term ends on June 30, 2016.
The MILF had proposed a Bangsamoro substate,  an “asymmetrical state-substate relationship, wherein powers of the central government and state government are clearly stated, aside from those powers they jointly exercise, which are also defined in this draft.”

Government’s proposal is a “three for one solution” which involves three components: massive economic development, a peace accord, and cultural-historical acknowledgment.”
Leonen said amending the 1987 Constitution is not a priority of the present administration.
“The proposal of government to the MILF does not contain a proposal for constitutional amendment,” he said.
“Autonomy as practiced by the ARMM in the past is a failed experiment.  However it does not necessarily mean we do not learn from that experience,” he said, adding the autonomy they are proposing “comes close to the idea of self governance also of the MILF.”
“We read sub-state also as autonomy. We do not see sub-state as a separate republic,” he said.
He also noted that many of the fundamental aspirations of the MILF “can be fitted into the provisions of the current Constitution.”
Leonen said the first component is that government will conduct  massive social services and economic development “as part of its efforts to transform the ARMM and that we offered to MILF the opportunity to be able to partner with government through the creation of a Joint Coordinating Committee on Development so both the government and MILF can participate in identification and implementation of projects in conflict-affected areas.”
On the second component, he said government offered the MILF “the opportunity to be able again to partner with government and other Bangsamoro leaders to actually problematize the defects of the autonomous region and perhaps to come out with a specific organic act that can transform the present autonomous regional government in Muslim Mindanao into something that will closely more represent genuine autonomy from their perspective.”
Leonen said the peace accord “tackles  all the components, all the strands of the current negotiations  — the concept,  the territory, the government and of course sharing in resources.”
The third component, he said is “motivated by the idea that future generations  should understand what had happened in Mindanao and should not carry on in their generation the baggage of the past.”
“Therefore we offered to the MILF that the government is very willing and able to actually retell the stories of Mindanao, retell the history of Mindanao. By retelling the history of Mindanao, it will be made known to the public, therefore making it mainstream, people will start to understand the  causes of intolerance amongst peoples in Mindanao, the causes of the conflict so that it will not be repeated again so we are willing of course to do what is necessary in order to memorialize the retelling of history of Mindanao.”
He said he told the panel before the adjournment on August 23 that the government was “rejecting the rejection.”
Leonen said the two panels “can work to finding the common grounds of agreement and  if there is disagreement, try to explore the reasons and various options” within which they can resolve the disagreements.
Leonen started and ended the press conference greeting Muslims on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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