A Valentine’s Day surprise for the MILF from the women in the GPH peace panel

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/15 February)  —  Only women could have thought of what could be a first, worldwide, in contemporary peace-making history: a Valentine’s gift to  the peace panel of a revolutionary group.

The second day of the three-day peace talks fell on a Tuesday, Valentine’s Day and just as soon as the panels sat down before 10 a.m. for what was expected to be a really heavy day of discussions on substantive issues at the Penang Room of the Sheraton Imperial Hotel, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen informed Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed that the women in the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) peace panel had something important to say.

The women — panel members Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Bai Yasmin Busra-Lao, and members of the legal team – Johaira Wahab, Armi Bayot and Anna Basman – stood up to greet everyone a “Happy Valentine’s Day,” approached the MILF peace panel members, its secretariat and  handed over a heart-shaped canister of chocolates each to MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal, panel members Datu Michael Mastura, Abhoud Syed Lingga and Datu Antonio Kinoc,  secretariat members Jun Mantawil, Mike Pasigan, Mohadjirin Ali and the lone woman in the MILF team — peace panel consultant Raissa Jajurie, a lawyer.

Each heart-shaped Famous Amos canister, complete with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” sticker,  contains six pieces of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Ferrer handed a canister each to Mastura and Malaysian facilitator Tengku while Lao gave to Iqbal and Lingga.

Three of the GPH women are Muslims: Lao, Wahab and Basman.

Lao acknowledged that Muslims do not celebrate Valentines’ Day but added, “we live in a pluralistic society.”

Ferrer said “we did it in the spirit of friendship between panels and the spirit of collegiality between us women and the men with whom we are working hard to find a solution.”

MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal  told MindaNews  the act of giving was “very sweet” but added, “well, to us, the  spirit of Valentine is incidental; the real thing is we are engaged in negotiation to search for real justice and peace in Mindanao.”

No, the MILF men did not give the GPH women roses. “Wala. Just ‘thank you very much!’” said Iqbal.

No photograph of the gift-giving was taken.

Tengku admitted that Tuesday’s negotiation was “very tough” because it focused on substantive issues but declined to give details.

“It was sincere but tough,” he told MindaNews on Wednesday morning. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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