Peace talks with MILF part of national security policy PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 February 2015 13:30

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process  Teresita Quintos Deles on Tuesday clarified the Philippine government’s clear, existing policy that peace negotiations will only be done with legitimate revolutionaries and not with terrorist groups or their associates.?

Deles made the statement during the second day of the Senate hearing on the unfortunate incident in  Mamasapano, Maguindanao which resulted to the deaths of Philippine National Police - Special Action Force troopers, armed elements and civilians. During the said hearing, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano ?criticized the government for engaging in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which he claimed to have ties with international terrorist organizations.

“The policy decision of government to negotiate with the MILF since 2003 was always accompanied by dependable, rigorous Philippine intelligence,” Deles said.

The peace adviser clarified that the peace process is part of the government’s national security policy. The decision on whether or not to pursue peace talks with the MILF or any other non-state actor is largely determined by the continuing assessment and recommendation of the Cabinet Security Cluster, in which the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, like the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense or Department of Justice, is a member, in line with our National Security Policy.

According to Deles, before “peace talks [with the MILF] resumed in 2003, this was a very explicit demand —the [MILF’s] disavowal of terrorism” adding that this “was monitored by the Philippine government, by our intelligence as well as [the] international community.”?

During the hearing, Cayetano made a presentation and accused the MILF of coddling some terrorist personalities.

According to Deles, since 2003, the MILF has been closely monitored by the government’s  intelligence forces and “there is no evidence of institutional links between MILF and terrorist groups.”

With regard to Cayetano’s allegation that the MILF coddled terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, Deles cautioned against jumping to conclusions while investigations are still on-going.

“With regard to the actual situation between where Marwan was found and the MILF, I think that is  subject for investigation,” she said.

Meanwhile, Deles assured the Senate that the government will not engage nor will it continue a peace process with a group that has terrorist links. ?

“Certainly this will not be allowed,” Deles said, adding that “every time terrorist acts may have been seen as possibly being associated with them [MILF], certainly that has always been raised.” At the same time, the peace adviser emphasized that “the continuation of peace talks with the MILF has always been fully coordinated with our intelligence units.”

Sincerity to the peace process

Deles likewise noted the sincerity that is continuously being demonstrated by the MILF to the peace process.

“The reality is also is that we have come to this point of a comprehensive agreement where the MILF agreed to go through a legal, legislative process fully understanding what that means,” she said. ??

“And I think you will see the statements that have been made by the MILF of [their] full respect on the [power of] Congress in this legislative prerogative,” Deles added, stressing the on-going transformation of the armed group into productive, civilian lives.

“There would be a transformation and all of those actions are happening now. And that includes the decommissioning being put into place where there are targeted actions that you would see within the next month, as well as the preparation of the MILF to fully transform which will include the building of a political party,” the peace adviser expressed.

At the same time, Deles said that the MILF ceasefire mechanism has been instrumental in the conduct of law enforcement operations . She urged the senators to verify with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) on cases where the MILF helped in the ceasefire and/or interdiction of criminal groups in areas with MILF presence.

The CCCH and AHJAG are mechanisms established due to the ceasefire accord between the government and MILF and vital to its implementation.

Deles expressed hope that the trust and confidence between the government and MILF will not be diminished due to the Mamasapano incident.

“The ceasefire has been holding. No single skirmish in the last three years because of the ceasefire mechanisms. Compare that with what has happened in the past, even in the attacks that were made in 2000 where bodies could not be extricated, the whole story, the documentation could not be done for days. And now, in 24 hours, you have the statistics on the ground and you have the MILF now saying yes they are coming [to the Senate hearing],” she said.