• Stop delaying talks, MILF warns govt

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    This photo taken on October 15, 2012 shows members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels raising their rifles during a ceremony at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province on the southern Philippine. AFP file photo

    This photo taken on October 15, 2012 shows members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels raising their rifles during a ceremony at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province on the southern Philippine. AFP file photo

    Jaafar hints of renewed violence over stalled negotiations

    THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday warned the government against further delaying the consummation of the peace talks, stressing that delays only worsen the growing restlessness among the rebel group’s field commanders.

    Unable to hide his dissatisfaction, MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar accused the government peace panel of giving them unrealistic reasons for prolonging the signing of the final pact.

    He even hinted of a possible resurgence of violence in Mindanao if the MILF and the government would fail to sign the comprehensive compact agreement soon.

    According to Jaafar, the MILF commanders and their men on the ground were getting restless and anxious over the future of the talks. Most rebels belonging to the MILF are veterans of the four-decade old conflict in the south.

    But when asked by reporters to categorically declare if they are inclined to return to fighting, Jaafar curtly replied: “I cannot answer that question because you are implying something. So I refuse to answer that.”

    Jaafar said they remain committed to the peace process because the MILF leadership is still convinced that the best way to resolve the Bangsamoro issue is through the peace talks.

    But the MILF leader stressed that the signing should be done at the soonest possible time as the MILF commanders were slowly losing their trust and confidence in the government.

    “Our commanders cannot wait forever. Meaning they want the signing of the comprehensive compact agreement immediately as soon as possible… So this means that the talks between the two peace panels must not be deliberately delayed by the government or [should they]give flimsy reasons,” Jaafar pointed out.

    He also refused to elaborate on the “flimsy reasons” given by the their government counterparts and instead said that the question would be best addressed to the chairperson of the government peace panel, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

    Ferrer earlier appealed to the MILF to be patient and to remain cool under the present situation. Jaafar responded by saying that the Bangsamoro people have been waiting for the past 37 years for the peaceful settlement of the issue.

    “Why should the Bangsamoro wait for another 10 years, 20 years to address the Bangsamoro issue? I don’t think the situation is very good,” said the MILF official.

    Justified
    Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte admitted that both sides are taking a longer time in threshing out the three remaining annexes because they do not want a repeat of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) controversy which was thumbed down by the Supreme Court.

    “‘Yung doon sa MOA-AD, ayaw po natin kasing maulit ‘yon [We don’t want a repeat of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain],” Valte said, adding that this time, everyone is taking extra precaution.

    The Palace official said the government acknowledged the misgivings of the group “but rest assured that both panels are working with each other on these issues.”

    “Well, given that the three— the last remaining annexes— contain some heavy issues, so to speak, the government is really taking a close look,” she explained.

    “Ät gusto po nating siguraduhin [We want to make sure] that the contents of the annexes will pass muster,””Valte added.

    The Philippine government and the MILF signed on October 15 last year the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that will pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    Practically settled
    For his part, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher 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].”

    These matters are contained in 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 that include the transitional provision and other modalities.

    Iqbal also mentioned that the panels have practically settled on the draft of the wealth sharing issue while there were still some points to be resolved on the power sharing aspect.

    “Practically, we are settled on wealth sharing but we have not signed it yet. [It is still] subject for review,” Iqbal explained.

    However, he was mum on the percentage sharing that was agreed for each side.

    On February 27, the government and MILF panel signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the first of  four annexes to the framework agreement.

    Signed were the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities, which details the road map towards the creation of the Bangsamoro Rgion and the terms of reference for the Independent Commission Policing (ICP), which will submit recommendations to the peace panels on the appropriate form, structures and relationships of the police force under the Bangsamoro entity

    The initial framework agreement was signed in Malacañang on October 24, 2012 in the presence of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

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