On Transparency of Mindanao Peace Panel

Peace panel wracked by dissension

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:09:00 02/11/2010
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100211-252523/Peace-panel-wracked-by-dissension

MANILA, Philippines—There seems to be no peace in the government panel negotiating for an end to war in Mindanao with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Two members quit the government panel two months apart, but the latest resignation, that of Tomas Cabili, could be the most controversial.

Cabili’s resignation on Tuesday came two months following the resignation of another panel member, Adel Antonino.

The government and MILF panels swapped draft peace agreements in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago, hoping to seal a peace deal before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down on June 30.

Officials declined to discuss the key contents of the government’s draft agreement.

Cabili was quoted in previous reports as saying he quit the panel because it lacked transparency.

This didn’t sit well with Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, the panel chair.

“What lack of transparency is he talking about?” Seguis said in a phone interview yesterday. “Maybe he just wants to replace me.”

Policy of confidentiality

Cabili had said Seguis’ “policy of confidentiality” ran counter to his views on how the peace negotiations with the MILF should be handled.

Seguis countered by saying Cabili had been invited to 31 meetings and had been furnished all of the panel’s reports, including a copy of the government’s draft peace agreement.

Cabili represented nongovernment organizations and Christians in the panel.

According to Seguis, Cabili was also invited to attend the exchange of draft agreements between the government and MILF panels in Kuala Lumpur, but Cabili skipped it for unknown reasons.

“He was the one marginalizing himself. What could I do if he’s the one staying away?” Seguis said.

No harsh words

On Antonino’s resignation, Seguis had no harsh words.

The panel chair said Antonino was a “great loss,” but told reporters it was Antonino who was in the best position to say why he resigned from the peace panel.

Palace officials offered different explanations for the resignations of Cabili and Antonino, but said they barely had any effect on the negotiations.

“It’s really a question more of differences in working style … with the panel, with the secretariat,” Annabelle Abaya, presidential adviser on the peace process, said in a phone interview.

“It’s a mature decision. When you work in an office, you’re not expected to be in good terms with everybody,” said Abaya, former spokesperson of ex-President Fidel Ramos.

She said only Cabili and Antonino could explain the reasons for their resignations.

Personal differences

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the two resigned panel members might have had personal differences with Seguis. But while the two were dispensable, Ermita dropped broad hints that Seguis was not, as far as Ms Arroyo is concerned.

“Maybe, they didn’t like the style of Undersecretary Seguis, but these are personal matters,” Ermita said. “Seguis has the confidence of the President.”

The government and MILF panels swapped draft peace agreements in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago, hoping to seal a peace deal before Ms Arroyo steps down on June 30.

Officials declined to discuss the key contents of the government’s draft agreement.

The government and MILF panels swapped draft peace agreements in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago, hoping to seal a peace deal before Ms Arroyo steps down on June 30.

Officials declined to discuss the key contents of the government’s draft agreement.

Ermita acknowledged, however, that it was possible that the panel failed to factor in the resigned panel members’ views when the government’s draft peace agreement was being written.

“Knowing Undersecretary Seguis, they were consulted, but their views could not have been considered into the draft en toto,” Ermita said at a briefing in Malolos, Bulacan.

Cabili and Antonino opted to stay on as consultants in a series of public dialogues on the final peace agreement that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is mounting from Luzon to Mindanao starting in the middle of this month.

“Both wanted to contribute to the higher ideal of peace, and believed that they would be more effective helping in the consultations,” Abaya said. “They opted to do the bigger challenge.”

Some effects on talks

Abaya, however, admitted that the resignations would have some effects on the negotiations.

“There will be a change in the dynamics in the panel,” she said.

“There shouldn’t be a long-term effect especially if new members are going to be appointed,” she added.

Abaya said she recommended to Ms Arroyo the appointment of women as replacements for Cabili and Antonino.

The ProPinoy Project

  • joeri cabalfin

    The controversy about the MILF and the GRP panel is a lonnngggggggggggg negotiation, because of the brilliant self interest in who’s side will win the game the game that every filipino will suffer and sad to say that only a certain juan de la cruz is the one who is suffering.’ kawawa naman si juan palaging naiipit’ did both sides know this ? or maybe they are just lying each other pretending that they’re really good enough to handle this situation.’kawawa naman kaming mga taga mindanao palagi na lang ginagawang basehan ng kung anu -anong dahilan .then another bad news is most of the member of the panel is not came from mindanao itself. ano ba talaga ang tutoong alam nila sa mindanao.