MILF welcomes peace talks but wary of ‘little details’

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcomes the intention of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to resume peace talks, but is wary that “little details” may yet derail the peace process.

“We cannot question (his) intention (but the) devils in negotiations is in the details,” said MILF peace panel member, lawyer Lanang Ali, in an article on the MILF website.

“Sometimes, words are used to conceal what is in the hearts of men,” Ali said, but added Aquino enjoys a relatively high trust rating among the Moros of Mindanao at this time.

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Aquino said peace and tranquility can be achieved if “those affected will talk with one another— the Moro, Lumad, Christians.” Aquino said peace negotiations with the MILF can resume after the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting which begins on August 11 this year and ends on September 9.

However, Datu Antonio Kinoc, an alternate member of the MILF peace panel representing the indigenous tribes of Mindanao, said the SONA was “very soft and merely repeated the old cliché that in order to solve the problem, ‘people-to-people’ talking to each other is encouraged.”

He said the problem in Mindanao is rooted in sovereignty issues and the conflict requires sincere, hard, and objective solution. “More importantly, political will is the key to solving this conflict,” Kinoc said. (PIA-Bohol)

Catholic, Muslim educators to talk peace

Catholic and Muslim educators will launch a series of discussions on the peace problem in Mindanao.

Jesuit-run Ateneo University School of Government and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, with the support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), are hosting the talks featuring experts on the issue.

Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Vina said the discussions are taking place “outside the peace process” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators.

In a report of the Union of Catholic Asian News, he expressed hope that some sessions could tackle issues raised during formal negotiations.

IBS is a non-stock, non-profit private institution begun in 2001 to undertake independent and collaborative research on Bangsamoro society, history, education, culture, politics, economic, and contemporary affairs.

IBS Executive Director Abhoud Syed Lingga said the Mindanao conflict stems from the struggle of the Bangsamoro people against “domination” by the Philippine state.

Lingga said peace in Mindanao can be achieved primarily through formal peace negotiations at the national level.

The new administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is preparing to resume peace talks that broke down in August 2008. (PIA-Bohol)

UP Law dean to head GRP panel in talks with MILF

UP College of Law dean Marvic Leonen will be the government’s chief negotiator in the resumption of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Malacanang announced Thursday.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is currently in Tuguegarao City to visit the wake of soldiers killed in action, said in a statement that he is committed to a consultative peace process so he has appointed Leonen — who he said understands the country’s history, different cultures, and aspirations — to head the government panel that will negotiate with the secessionist group.

Leonen, a constitutional expert who specializes in land issues, has taken part in convening a consortium of universities, many of which were from Mindanao, to examine the next phase of the peace process under the new administration.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said Leonen has “earned the respect of the peoples in Mindanao” because of his efforts to engage the academe and marginalized sectors and communities in resolving issues.

Leonen has worked on issues involving agrarian reform, access to justice, ancestral domain, health, environment, and international economic law. He said he will remain the dean of the UP College of Law despite his new role as the government’s chief negotiator with the MILF so UP can act as “a public service university.” (PIA-Bohol)

New peace panel to be set up within July

THE administration is expected to complete its new peace panel that will negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) within the month, said presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Q. Deles.

She declined to identify the panel members since the process of selecting the candidates is ongoing.

The government, she said, would immediately communicate with the Malaysian peace process facilitator to schedule the first round of talks.

Before exiting, the Arroyo administration entered into a “continuing agreement” with the MILF through a six-point declaration that noted key issues such as the aspiration of Bangsamoro (Muslim nation) for self-rule, ancestral domain and political settlement.

Ms. Deles said the administration is reviewing agreements and the strategies of the past government in the talks.

In a statement, she said the administration is adopting a four-point strategy on solving insurgency: delivery of basic services, particularly education and health; economic reconstruction and sustainable development in Mindanao; strengthening of security sector reform, particularly in disbanding private armies; and good governance.

Ms. Deles said these strategies will also advance the peace process in the entire country. (PIA-Bohol)

Govt peace panels for MILF, CPP talks in the works

THE government is now forming five-man peace panels for the impending resumption of negotiations with communist and Moro secessionist rebels, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita “Ging” Deles gave President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Tuesday morning her recommendations for the heads of the panels that will negotiate with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Lacierda refused to give names until the two panels are formed.

Lacierda said the resumption of peace negotiations with the two groups is the Aquino administration’s “internal” solution to the problems in conflict-ridden and poverty-stricken Mindanao.

The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, operates nationwide while the MILF has its forces mostly in Central Mindanao. (PIA-Bohol)