• MILF blasts govt ‘backtracking’

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    Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. AFP Photo

    Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. AFP Photo

    THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday protested an apparent move by the government to backtrack from agreements that have been previously “initialed” and settled, a development which could bog down the already delayed negotiations.

    MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said there are two minor agreements that the government peace panel wanted to change. He said the rebel group will reject whatever proposal that will alter or amend what they have already agreed upon.

    Jaafar disclosed that their counterparts in government had a change of heart with regard to the initialed annex on wealth sharing.

    He said the MILF Central Committee would meet anytime soon after a courtesy call by a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) on Tuesday.

    But even as the committee has yet to meet to discuss the government’s proposal, Jaafar said that “most probably the Central Committee will not accept [the proposal].”

    “It has already been signed. It has already been initialed, why change? It has already been discussed,” Jaafar stressed.

    Jaafar said he would preside the Central Committee meeting as MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad was “indisposed,” but did not elaborate on the reasons that he said were “internal to us.”

    Alarming
    On its official website, www.luwaran.com, the MILF leadership said that among those the government panel wanted to change is the document pertaining to natural resources. It also posed to block a grant to the Bangsamoro government during the discussions in the 38th GPH-MILF exploratory talks held on April 9-11.

    “Except for those that are in harmony with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, we don’t accept the changes introduced by government on wealth sharing,” Luwaran quoted MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal as saying.

    It added that they won’t budge on the initialed document.

    The second “backtracking,” it was learned, was contained in the so-called “notes” recently sent to the MILF through the Malaysian facilitator, Dato Tengku Ab Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed, who visited the MILF leadership at Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindano last June 7.

    The website quoted an unidentified MILF peace negotiator but did not divulge the content of the “notes”, or be categorical about it in accordance with protocol.

    “Two change of positions in a row within the span of two months is alarming,” the MILF negotiator said.

    “The peace negotiation is an exercise in futility if there is no stop to thins changing of positions by the government negotiating team,” the source added.

    No renegotiation
    According to the unnamed member of the MILF panel, the government’s move was an attempt to throw the blame on the MILF for making it appear that the ball is in the rebel group’s court.

    “We are not renegotiating the initialed document,” the MILF official was further quoted as saying.

    The document on wealth sharing bore the initials of Secretary Senen Bacani and Prof. Abhoud Syed Ligga of the government and the MILF peace panel, respectively, and by three other personalities.

    The MILF claimed that the chairs of the two peace panels, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Iqbal, took the lead in the discussions, which culminated in the initialing of the document last February 27.

    Iqbal earlier disclosed that among those discussed during the two panels meeting last March were the issues on “power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization [of the Mindanao situation,” which are all part of the annexes of the initial framework agreement which the two sides signed in Malacañang in October last year.

    Iqbal said the two sides have already agreed on more than half of the provisions of the framework agreement .

    “Practically, we are settled on wealth sharing but we have not signed it yet. Subject for review,” he further said but refused to give details of the percentage that each side will get.

    Optimistic
    Ferrer, for her part, said that “the peace process continues to move forward even without the conduct of formal meetings.”

    She also confirmed that the panels have been exchanging “notes” lately to clarify several things.

    “[The]government hopes that this process will allow the Parties to gain more clarity with respect to the current language of the Annexes and lead them to an agreement on the unresolved issues,” she said, adding that the exchange of notes between the two parties is currently ongoing.

    “This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the Annexes on Power and Wealth-sharing very soon,” she added.

    Both parties agreed to meet again after the elections during their last round of formal talks.

    Besides the annex on wealth-sharing, yet to be signed are the annexes on power-sharing and normalization, which also include the tough issues of decommissioning and policing.

    Ferrer said that the Transition Commission has met several times, and was able to approve its internal rules of procedure as well as set-up working committees to draft the Basic Law, that will create a new political entity.

    Even without the Annexes, she said that the government is hoping that the Transition Commission “can soon start discussion on the substantive provisions of the Framework Agreement that will need to find language in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

    The provision on the Bangsamoro government being ministerial in form, Ferrer noted, is still being studied by the Commission.

    Confidence-building
    The confidence-building measures between the two parties also continue, she pointed out.
    For instance, she cited the ongoing planning for the provincial launches of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

    With respect to both parties agreements on cessation of hostilities, Ferrer said that “the ceasefire continues to hold well”, saying that “no armed skirmishes were recorded for the year 2012. “

    “This is testament to the good working relationship between the Government and MILF through the coordinative mechanisms overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Ferrer said that both Panels are also taking the time to continue consultations with stakeholders and their respective constituencies.

    “On the part of the Government Panel, these include engagements with government agencies not only for legal and technical concerns relating to the drafts but also to consolidate support for the implementation of the comprehensive agreement and the prospective Bangsamoro Basic Law,” she added

    Asked when do they expect to finish the annexes, Ferrer said: “The President and his entire cabinet is giving the peace negotiations the attention it needs and deserves to ensure that a comprehensive agreement, one that will give us the best shot for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao, is reached at the soonest possible time.”

    Diligent work
    Ferrer further claimed that her panel “is just as anxious to find workable solutions to these contentious issues and is working diligently and with urgency towards this end.”

    “Government is fully aware that time is of the essence and does not wish to ‘pass the buck’ to the next administration to implement the agreement,” she emphasized.

    Meanwhile, several lawmakers expressed optimism that the government negotiators handling the ongoing peace talks with the MILF would be able to resolve issues currently hounding the negotiations.

    Senator Gregorio Honasan, for one, said that the government peace panel should remain focused and finish what it started considering that it had already gone a long way since the peace talks started.

    Honasan was reacting on the statements issued by Jaafar and Iqbal warning the government against delaying the signing of the final peace agreement.

    Honasan said that the government peace panel should not be distracted by the statement adding that it is just an opinion of one side.

    “What the government should do is to remain focus on the negotiations and pursue it no matter what,” he added.

    Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, for his part, said that peace negotiators should maintain good lines of communication with all stakeholders in the peace process in order to prevent the other parties from having doubts towards the government.

    “The government should also make the stakeholders understand that there is no need rush the very sensitive process while making sure that there won’t be further delays,” he said.

    Before SONA
    At the House of Representatives, Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao province, who served as the justice secretary during the Arroyo administration, said the remaining annexes should be signed before President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s state of the nation address (SONA) next month.

    “I hope that the government and the MILF can finish and sign all the remaining three annexes before the SONA on July 22 to assure everyone that the peace in Mindanao will truly come as promised,” Datumanong said in a text message.

    “This peace agreement will improve development and encourage investment in Mindanao,” he added.

    But for House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption, the looming SONA should not prompt people to hasten things as this could make waste.

    “Although time is of the essence in having a final peace agreement, I believe that there is no need to finish the power sharing and normalization aspect of the agreement before the SONA because this is a very sensitive and binding issue,” Tugna, a lawyer, pointed out.

    “These provisions must be studied carefully. In the event of its signing wherein both parties are satisfied with the terms, it will be a strong foundation for peace and progress in Mindanao,” Tugna further stressed.

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    1 Comment

    1. June 18,2013. I agree with MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar saying as quoted “there are two minor agreements that the government peace panel wanted to change” As this developed. “The rebel group will reject whatever proposal that will alter or amend what they have already agreed upon”. It is understood and a public knowledge that when the Framework Agreement was signed by both parties publicly witnessed by diplomats, observers from foreign country, international and local personalities, it is understood that every line text of the framework agreement was read by both parties to be continued . . . . . . . . . . . .