Mayor Lobregat says he’s no peace spoiler but “peace lover”

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/03 September) – “I am a peace lover, I am a peacemaker, in fact we went to the Supreme Court because we want peace,” Mayor Celso Lobregat said in reaction to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’ s naming him as number two “peace spoiler” in the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

.Lobregat said it is his duty and responsibility as mayor to espouse the stand of the city of Zamboanga and the stand of the city is not to be included in a future substate of the MILF.

The MILF in a statement posted Wednesday on its website ranked Lobregat number two in its list of “Top 10 spoilers of GPH-MILF peace negotiation.”

Lobregat ranks next to former North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol, who topped the list.

The rest are former president Joseph Estrada, Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz,  Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Cotabato City Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Malaya’s (Ducky) Paredes, Congressman Edcel Lagman and Senator Francis Escudero.

Lobregat joined Pinol, then Vice Governor of North Cotabato, and  then governor, Jesus Sacdalan, and Mayor Cruz in petitioning the  Supreme Court in 2008 to stop the signing in Kuala Lumpur of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) .

The MOA-AD, already initialed, was supposed to have been signed on August 5, 2008. The Supreme Court granted the petition of the local governments and issued a temporary restraining order afternoon of August 4.  The Supreme Court in October that year declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional but noted that it can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions.

“We have just been very consistent (in our stand) and if they brand me as a peace spoiler because I espouse the stand of the City of Zamboanga, that is my duty as mayor, that is my responsibility, in fact that was included in our platform of government,” he said.

Lobregat added the position of the residents of this city and other areas in Mindanao have been steadfast and consistent: they do not want to be part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in its expansion or in other bodies such as the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) in 1996.

He said everybody wants peace but stressed that peace involves consultation with all sectors.

“If we consider Zamboanga as one local government unit, as one sector, then this is a sector that says we want peace, want ARMM to succeed but we don’t want to be part of the ARMM,” the mayo said.

He noted that even Marawi City and Basilan province did not initially vote for inclusion in the  ARMM.

“Were the residents of Marawi or its officials ever called spoilers or was the government or residents of Basilan ever called spoilers because they did not want to join the ARMM?  Cotabato City at this point in time is not part of the ARMM, are the residents peace spoilers?” he asked.

On his appearance at the Supreme Court in 2008 to supplement the arguments on this city’s protest against the MOA-AD, Lobregat said the Zamboangueños saw that the agreement was  unconstitutional and that the protest was “in defense of Zamboanga City, Mindanao, the Republic and the Constitution.”

Lobregat has emphasized that he and the Zamboangueños sincerely hope that a peace agreement will be reached between the government and the MILF but the agreement should be within the framework of the Constitution. (MindaNews)