Self-governing ARMM part of draft peace pact
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – A self-governing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is part of a draft peace agreement presented to the government during a session with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Thursday, the government said yesterday.
The government peace panel, comprised of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, panel chairman; Annabelle Abaya, presidential adviser on the peace process; and panel members Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and Ronald Adamat, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday afternoon.
Seguis said no negotiations were conducted, but a question-and-answer session to clarify the concepts and provisions of the MILF’s latest draft document was held.
“The questions were direct and we got clarification on matters we wanted to (clarify),” Seguis said. The MILF presented a draft Declaration of Principles on Interim Governance Arrangements.
The government peace panel has agreed to submit its counterproposal to the MILF, he added.
Seguis said the MILF acknowledged that constitutional processes should be followed with regards to provisions in the draft that would require constitutional amendments.
“Whatever differences we may have, we are of one mind that we need to preserve our gains, and to agree on a clear roadmap on how to move ahead,” he said.
“We are committed to finding creative ways and alternatives towards forging a peace agreement, whether in the present administration or in the next.”
Seguis said both sides agreed that a significant interim agreement can still be realistically pursued.
“The government panel’s sincerity is never diminished by the limited time we are given,” he said.
“We remain committed to understanding whatever you have to say, inasmuch as we hope the MILF panel would be committed to understand our ideas as well.”
The government is exploring every conceivable means, and exerting every possible effort, to arrive at a just, equitable and honorable agreement acceptable to all, Seguis said.
After the question-and-answer session, both sides held separate dialogues with the members of the International Contact Group.
Abaya said Dialogue Mindanaw continues today with simultaneous public consultations and dialogues for peace in San Mateo, Rizal and Cagayan de Oro City, following a successful session in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
“It is very important that voices of all sectors are heard as it would greatly help in the government’s quest to achieve peace in Mindanao,” she said.
Abaya said the opinions, proposals and views received during the reflective dialogues are consolidated and presented to the government peace panel for consideration.
“The government will not let these valued opinions go to waste and we will certainly put them to good use by bringing them directly to the negotiating table,” she said.
Similar reflective dialogues will be held in Baguio City tomorrow.
The Rizal leg will be held in partnership with the Mindanao Solidarity Network, a Manila-based group supporting the peace efforts.
Members of academe and local government units are the driving force behind the Cagayan de Oro leg of Dialogue Mindanaw.
Actively participating in the previous legs were the youth, women, military, police, academe, farmers, local government units, business, non-government organizations, media, Christians, Lumads and Muslims.
On March 9, Dialogue Mindanaw returns to Mindanao with a visit to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and Iligan City while Butuan City is next on March 11.
Present at the talks in Malaysia were Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace negotiating panel; Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak, chief facilitator; members of the government peace panel; members of the MILF peace panel; and ICG member.
Drilon to gov’t: Reveal contents of draft agreement
Former Senate president Franklin Drilon dared the government yesterday to reveal the contents of the draft agreements with the MILF.
“In the interest of transparency and the need for public consultations as required by the Supreme Court in its ruling in the controversial MOA-AD case in 2008, I urge the government peace negotiators led by Undersecretary Seguis not to commit the same mistakes and bare to the public the contents of the current working peace agreements with the MILF,” he said.
Drilon said the peace talks were once again being done in secret, which led two government peace panel members, Tomas Cabili and Adel Antonino, to resign.
Cabili told him in Dumaguete City last Wednesday that he resigned because he was being kept in the dark on a lot of important matters, he added.
Drilon said President Arroyo must leave the task of forging a peace agreement with the MILF to the next president.
The present administration has failed to deliver lasting peace in Mindanao, he added.
Malacañang was reportedly hoping to seal a new agreement with the MILF before the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term on June 30. – Pia Lee-Brago, Rudy Santos