Celso surprised but appreciative on Pnoy-Murad meeting in Tokyo PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 16:11

Mayor Celso Lobregat yesterday said he was surprised by the meeting between President Noynoy Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Al Hadj Murad Ibrahim in Tokyo, Japan August 4 but expressed appreciation that the president is going out of his way to find solutions to the peace problem in Mindanao.

“Honestly we were surprised about the meeting because nobody knew about it but as we were surprised, we are appreciative that the president is going out of his way, [to find solutions to the problem, and that] he is concerned about the peace in Mindanao,” the mayor said in an interview with City Hall reporters yesterday.

He said he is hopeful that the peace process or peace talks will be concluded during the term of President Aquino. “I think that is his intention and we are appreciative of that”.

On the other hand, the chief executive reiterated his appeal for the peace talks to be held within the realm of the Constitution, that there should be no dismemberment and that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used as a reference point or take off point considering that it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

“We are hopeful for peace but we also want to make sure that this is not just appeasement,” the mayor said stressing that the Zamboangueños stand firm in their position not to be part of any sub-state or entity or movement.

Many times over, the overwhelming majority of the Zamboangueños have opted to be out of the Autonomous region for Muslim Mindanao and the expanded ARMM. “We don’t want to be part of that and we hope that our sentiments will be heard and respected”.

The mayor attested that the meeting could be a possible development considering that the president has gone out of his to try to attain peace within his term. However, he said while the government hopes to fast track the process “I hope by fast tracking they will not take short cuts and again do not consult [with the people] and do not consider the Constitution”.

“There have been lessons that can be learned from past experiences and hopefully this panel will not make the same mistakes,” he stressed.

Mayor Lobregat also pointed out that by saying that there should be transparency and consultations in the peace talks mean that “before the panel agrees, [with the MILF] they (members) have to consult [with the people] and before the panel will finalize [the agreement] there should be consultations”.

“And like I said, it is not just consultation for consultation’s sake but the stand and sentiments of the people should be heard,” he added.

The August 4 meeting between the president and the MILF leader in Tokyo was purposely to discuss possible approaches in moving the peace process forward, according to reports published in the website of the office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen in the same report said that the “informal meeting which lasted for two hours was cordial but consisted of a frank and candid exchange of their views about the frames of continuing peace talks and some possible approaches that the parties can take to bring a peaceful settlement”.

The report also identified those who accompanied the president during the Tokyo  meeting with the MILF official as OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Budget and Management Secretary Florencia Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen.

Murad was joined by members of the Central Committee, the MILF negotiating panel and some base commanders, according to the OPAPP report. — Sheila Covarrubias