• Government, MNLF to review peace deal

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    The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) headed by Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo has held two-day discussions with the senior leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by MNLF vice chairperson Jimmy Labawan to review and propose recommendations and mechanisms on the peace pact reached on September 2, 1996.

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    The review results will be tackled in the coming tripartite meeting to be held in Indonesia on the second week of November.

    The two-day consultative meetings were organized by Labawan and were attended by various state chairpersons of the MNLF from the group’s 50 state areas in Southern Mindanao.

    False beneficiaries
    During the discussions, the MNLF state chairpersons lamented that they were not the true beneficiaries of the Southern Philippines Peace and Development projects that were facilitated by the previous Opapp leadership.

    They said that the name of the MNLF was used in the project but the realty is that the MNLF combatants were not the real beneficiaries of the project that was funded by the Economic Livelihood Assistance Project of the United Nation and Development Program.

    Danny Salisipan, secretary of the Selatan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee of MNLF in the Soccsksargen area, said that the real combatants were left out of the project and the actual beneficiaries were those merely claiming to be members of the MNLF.

    Inheriting problems
    The same problems encountered by other various state chairmen were expressed during the consultation proper.

    Montalbo, however, appealed for understanding, reasoning that he has just been assigned to his post at the Opapp.

    “I’ve just inherited what was left by the previous Opapp officials but all of what you have reported to us will be taken up and surely it would be addressed by the present administration,” Montalbo said.

    A top MNLF state commander, Johnny Sia of the Soccsksargen area, also said that not a single centavo was received as compensation for their work as security forces in the region at the height of the implementation of the projects of the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development.

    Ustadz Pendi Colano, chairperson of the MNLF wing from Region XII (Soccsksargen), concurred that they did not benefit from any of the projects of the previous Opapp administration, the recommending agency of the government for the release of funds to beneficiaries.

    No hand in Zambo siege
    Meanwhile, Sia revealed that MNLF chairperson Nur Misuari had no hand in the recent Zamboanga siege, as Misuari’s position was to maintain a defensive position and not to confront government forces.

    Labawan also said that the MNLF hierarchy advocates genuine and peaceful autonomy and not armed confrontation.

    Lawyer Bong Parcasio, who served as legal counsel of the MNLF central committee, proposed to Montalbo the creation of an independent fact-finding commission to look into the Zamboanga siege.

    Montalbo urged the participants in consultations to submit their proposed recommendations as early as possible so that these could be included in the coming Government of the Philippines-MNLF tripartite review in Indonesia.

    One vital proposal, which Opapp and MNLF have agreed on is to schedule a formal discussion with the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on their claim on five provinces as embodied in the 1996 peace accord.

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