Peace spoilers won’t succeed — GPH, MILF PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 August 2012 13:44

KUALA LUMPUR — The Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today (Saturday) denounced the “senseless attacks” of the Bangramoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the “violent acts of lawless elements in several areas in Mindanao” and vowed to “work together to ensure that these (peace) spoilers will not succeed.”

“The GPH and MILF denounce these aggressions or dirty spoiling by groups who will do everything to derail the peace process,” the panels said in a Joint Statement signed shortly before noon Saturday at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel.

The panels said they will work together to ensure the spoilers will not succeed “as the parties continue to push forward to bring  just and lasting peace to our peoples and communities.”

In deference to Ramadan, the panels and their technical working groups (TWGs) held morning sessions only on August 7, 8 and 9, took a break on Friday the 10th and resumed on Saturday.

As usual, the Joint Statement was carefully worded. It said the panels have made “progress in the discussion on a framework agreement” that both GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal  had repeatedly said they hope to sign soonest.

In a bid to speed up the process, the panels will meet again in late August after consultations with their respective principals on the issues that have yet to reach a consensus.

This is the first time the panels are scheduling a second meeting within the same month.

The Joint Statement, however, noted that the TWGs on Wealth-Sharing ang Power-Sharing, which met for the first time here this week, “discussed and reached consensus on some issues on power sharing and revenue generation and wealth sharing arrangements.”

The Statement did not indicate what the consensus points are.

Present in yesterday’s signing were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and Mujiv Hataman, OIC Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), observer and consultant, respectively of the government peace panel.

Hataman is serving as OIC until noon of June 30, 2013, when  the elected officials of the ARMM take over. The incoming elected officials will be the last for the ARMM. Under the GPH-MILF Agreement on the Decision Points on Principles on April 24, the two panels will, among others, work for the creation of a “new autonomous political entity” that will replace the ARMM. The new entity, according to the same Agreement, “shall have a ministerial form of government.”

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed on Thursday summed up the first three days of the talks, thus: the panels are “on the same paragraph now, but it’s still a long paragraph.”

At the end of the talks on July 18, Tengku told MindaNews that the two panels were still on the same page but were moving closer to the same paragraph.

Backdrop of violence
The August 7 to 11 negotiations were set against a backdrop of  gunfire and some 20,000 residents in Maguindanao and North Cotabato displaced in the aftermath of the BIFF’s simultaneous attacks on military detachments  at around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, August 5.

On August 8, three soldier and two civilians, including a ten-year old boy, were killed while 30 others, mostly students, were wounded when gunmen believed to be members of a private armed group attacked an Army patrol inside the state-run Mindanao State University in Marawi City.

The BIFF and Marawi attacks triggered comments about an alleged war in Mindanao, prompting OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman to appeal to the public to “please double check facts before posting on social media. Let us not cause undue panic which may hamper government operations. Let us be part of the solution and not cause further trouble.”

In their opening statements on August 8,  both GPH peace panel chair Leonen  and MILF peace panel chair Iqbal aid the BIFF attacks had even strengthened their resolve to forge a peace agreement soonest.

“These incidents serve no other purpose than to strengthen our resolve to find a credible, workable and just political settlement with the MILF.  The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will also be able to fully unmask those groups who do not do justice to the many sacrifices of the many to find a just solution to the Bangsamoro question,” Leonen said in his opening statement.

“The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will be able to do our joint advocacies so that our partnership can effectively deliver on our mutual promises,”  he added.

In his opening statement, Iqbal said the BIFF’s intention “is clearly to shame us and to stop the peace negotiation. But will they succeed? It depends on the MILF and the government. If we are not decided to settle the Moro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao, then we become their first casualty and their laughing stock.”

The BIFF, a breakaway group from the MILF, was founded by Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, former commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command who resigned in December 2009 and set up the BIFF in March 2010.

The MILF Central Committee on September 22, 2011 expelled Kato after a series of dialogues with him failed.

In November 2011,  Kato was reported to have suffered a stroke and that he allegedly died. Abumisry Mama, BIFF spokesperson said in late November that  Kato was “still recovering from poor health but we can assure you he is alive.”

The media-savvy Kato, however, has neither made any public appearance nor granted any interview even if by telephone, since his reported stroke in November. Reports reaching the military said Kato is still alive but is incapacitated. — Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews