GPH, MILF peace panels meet anew in KL, discuss peace formula

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/05 December) –  Four months after President Aquino and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim agreed in Japan to fast-track the peace process between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and nearly four months since the negotiations were stalled by the alleged “heaven and earth” gap between the parties’ proposed peace settlement, the two panels are back here to attempt to craft a mutually acceptable peace formula  “within the soonest possible time.”

Members of both panels, the International Contact Group and the Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, were all smiles as they moved out of the Executive Boardroom  of the Royale Chulan Hotel where they also met in August, to the Sri Bendahara II function room for lunch at 1:20 p.m., Monday, four hours after the meeting started.

Such was the determination of both panels to “move forward on the substantive agenda” on the political settlement of the conflict that the issues on the October 2011 Al-barka and Payao incidents and the reported death on November 25 of Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, a former MILF commander who organized the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in March 2010, were not discussed but left to the ceasefire mechanisms to deal with.

“The work or our panels should be focused. Ours is to bring about a negotiated political settlement within the soonest possible time,” government (GPH) peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, said in his opening statement.

“On behalf of the government, let me now state this challenge: let us complete our task within the first quarter of next year,” he said.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku with GPH peace panel chair Leonen shortly before the afternoon session on December 5. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. ArguillasMILF  peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said, “the people of Mindanao want peace now and not later.”

“Any delay for whatever reason will surely not be appreciated and the responsible party will have to do a lot of explanation, including a possible isolation from the arena of public opinion,” he said.

The opening session was held behind closed doors as usual but the opening statements of both were nade available after.

Two new members of the panels were introduced, both of them women: Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao, consultant for the GPH panel and lawyer Raissa Jajurie, consultant for the MILF peace panel.

Shortly before returning to the meeting room at 3:15 p.m., Tengku  was seen talking with MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and later with government (GPH) peace panel chair Marvic Leonen. The afternoon session to clarify what the GPH refers to as “common points” and what the MILF refers to as “consensus points” ended at  6 p.m.

The  two panels held separate caucuses prior to the 7:30 dinner hosted by the Malaysian facilitator. A “three plus one” executive session will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before the full-panel meeting.

Last meeting

The atmosphere on Day One of the three-day talks was generally cordial and there was no raising of voices, so unlike the August 22-23 meeting when the GPH panel handed over its “three for one” formula that the MILF peace panel, which proposed a Bangsamoro sub-state in February, rejected.  The talks adjourned at noon of August 23, a day ahead of schedule. But both parties were able to return to the negotiating table about two hours after the adjournment, through the intercession of the ICG.

To bridge the gap, Tengku shuttled between the panels in September and in October, leading to  the November 3 “three plus one” executive meeting also here in Kuala Lumpur where both parties, represented by three members and the head of the secretariat each,  agreed to “move forward on the substantive agenda” of the talks and meet again “very soon for this purpose.”

Malaysian facilitator Tengku (right) with MILF peace panel chair Iqbal just before the afternoon session on December 5.MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. ArguillasAlso agreed upon during the executive meeting was that the panels would await recommendations relating to the review of the ceasefire mechanisms that may result from investigations that the International Monitoring Team and other ceasefire mechanisms, will conduct in Al-barka, Basilan and Paoay, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The IMT did its probe in Al-barka last week but was not able to proceed to Zamboanga Sibugay.

President Aquino and MILF chair Ebrahim had agreed in Japan on August 4 to fast-track the negotiations so that an agreement can be forged before 2013 and  implementation can be done within  the term of the Aquino administration. The President serves until June 30, 2016.

There are only 54 months left to the end of the Aquino administration and 18 months to its mid-term.

In their first panel-to-panel meet in February this year, the two panels expressed optimism they could forge an agreement by April 2012.

Civil Society to GPH, MILF

In a statement addressed to the two panels,  the Bishops-Ulama Conference said “civil society lauds the resumption of  the peace talks but respectfully insists that the panels duly come up with  negotiated political settlement taking into consideration already agreed substantive points/provisions and when settlement necessitates Charter Change, people’s will must be obtained through referendum.”

The BUC among the convenors of the 2nd National Solidarity Conference on Mindanao on September 8 to 9 on the theme,“The GPH-MILF Peace Talks: Finding the Common Ground.”

In his message to the panels, Guiamel Alim, executive director of Kadtuntaya Foundation and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society,  said: “The war which has been dragging for years had been very costly to all. There is no way one can eliminate the other militarily. They have both identified the underlying issues that lead to the armed conflict. I can’t see any good reasons why they cannot agree.  I hope that their decisions will be inspired by the greatest demand to end the violence and work hard  to achieve a mutually acceptable peace formula that will usher in security and development in Mindanao. We will support the peace talks in every way we can. More power. May God provide them the mercy and guidance.”

Irene Santiago, chief executive officer of the Mindanao Commission on Women said she appreciates the commitment on both sides to “come to the table again after all the many things that have threatened to derail the negotiations.”

“There are many things that connect us.  Let the panels focus on that, especially at this time.  Women leaders of Mindanao are meeting in Davao this week on the 10th anniversary of the Mindanao Commission on Women.  We send them prayers and wishes that they listen to one another more than ever,” she said.

The statement issued by the participants at end of the 2nd National Solidarity Conference urged both panels to develop a working draft from their two draft proposals because “what is lacking in one draft can be filled in by the contents of the other draft.”

“This may sound too simplistic but as it stands now, there are two proposals on the table and both are not diametrically opposed but could actually feed on some gaps that each proposal may be found wanting.  For instance, as the two proposals stand, it cannot simply be a choice between  political solution or socio-economic development.  Both proposals can go together and will be mutually beneficial,” the statement read.

It also urged the panels to “stop posturing or competing with each other’s intellectual prowess and superiority in terms of strategies and tactics in negotiation”  but “lay down the cards on the table, roll the sleeves up and start the work of honest, discerning and determined negotiations” that would consider what they listed as seven peace outcomes:  “address the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-governance in accordance with their distinct identity, culture, religion and way of life; correct the imbalance of totality of relationship between Filipinos and Moros; give due recognition and justice to the ancestral homeland of the Moros;  deliver good and effective governance, social services and foster economic development as soon as possible; recognize the Moro aspiration for separate national identity while retaining their Filipino citizenship; demilitarize, rehabilitate and normalize the situation in the conflict-affected areas; Filipinos and Moros share the fruits of peace and become partners in development.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

 

Comments

comments