ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/16 August) – Mayor Celso Lobregat, through a letter Monday, has reminded government peace negotiating panel (GPNP) chair Marvic Leonen of the need to consult the people of Zamboanga and Mindanao prior to the finalization and submission of the government panel’s counter proposal to the draft agreement.
Lobregat said he was prompted to write the letter following reports that the government panel shall be submitting on Monday, August 22, its position paper and counter proposal to the draft agreement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel.
The mayor’s letter was sent through email and fax. Lobregat said he also called Leonen by phone to personally relay his concern.
Lobregat recalled that in their meeting in this city last May 17, Leonen and company emphasized that his group is composed of new members and very different from the previous ones and that it will not make the same mistakes of past panels.
The May 17 meeting was also attended by the members of the city council.
Lobregat said he sent the reminder to Leonen since the latter likewise stated during the May 17 meeting that “the negotiations shall be based on the principle of transparency and commitment to meaningful and genuine consultations with the people and the stakeholders, especially respecting the sentiments of the residents of this city.”
The mayor said Leonen also assured that the talks, negotiations and any agreement with the MILF shall be within the framework of the 1987 Constitution and that there will be no dismemberment of the republic, these being in consonance with the directive of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
“We were also made to believe that you will be coming back to the City for future dialogues and consultations,” he added in his letter to Leonen.
“We are, therefore calling upon your commitment that we shall be informed and consulted first before the finalization and submission of the position paper and/or counter-proposals of the government peace panel to the MILF,” he added.
Lobregat said it would be meaningless and contrary to Leonen’s pronouncements “if the government’s draft position paper is finalized and submitted to the MILF panel before the stakeholders, specifically the local government units in Mindanao, are consulted.”
The mayor said Leonen promptly responded through email and thanked him for the letter and assured that the panel remains true to its commitments.
“I am fully aware of my commitments and will take the request in your letter into serious consideration,” Leonen said, adding that the inputs during the May meeting were taken into consideration in the drafting of the proposals.
In a quickly called press briefing at the city hall late Monday, Lobregat called on the public to remain vigilant and alert concerning the peace talks, reiterating his stand that Zamboanga City is for a long, just and lasting peace but not for appeasement.
He said the Zamboangueños remain firm in their stand that the peace negotiations should be within the realm of the Constitution, no dismemberment and the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) should not be used as reference point of the renewed peace talks since it was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Lobregat was among the local government leaders here in Mindanao who questioned the constitutionality of the MOA-AD before the Supreme Court in August of 2008. (MindaNews)