Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peace advocates urge Malaysia to stay

COTABATO CITY – Peace advocates in Mindanao are urging Malaysian officials to stay and continue helping in peace-building efforts.

The Bantay Ceasefire, composed of about 650 peace advocates, also asked Malacañang to speed up the attainment of genuine peace in Mindanao.

Its head, lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, said frustrations from the slow pace of the negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could be one of the reasons Malaysia was pulling out from the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

"Until today, the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain issues has not been signed by both parties. And the Malaysian government is worried that the talks could again start from square one. That might have frustrated them so they're pulling out," Arnado told Church-run radio dxND in Kidapawan City.

Arnado, who is also director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, said people were tired of armed conflict.

"The pullout will clearly have dire consequences on the lives of people in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao," the Bantay Ceasefire said in a statement.

"We speak as the sons, daughters, parents, the family and friends of the victims of armed conflict ... We speak on behalf of those who have the most at stake (in) its peaceful resolution. We speak as the ones to pick up the pieces should the peace process completely collapse."

Track record

Arnado said the track record of the IMT in the last four years would show that it played a crucial role in preventing and stopping hostilities as well as in the peace process itself.

Before the IMT arrived, two "all-out" wars in 2000 and 2003 had displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. Major fighting also occured earlier in Camps Omar and Rajamuda in North Cotabato.

Since the team was created, there had been no big clashes between government troops and the MILF. Last year, the IMT averted a full-blown war.

Records of the Joint Ceasefire Committees showed over a thousand violations of the ceasefire agreement in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, however, the number significantly dropped to less than 10 and the group attributed this on the "strong presence" of the IMT and the "hard work and commitment" of the Joint Government and MILF Ceasefire Committee.

"The presence of the IMT in conflict areas not only allowed the people to enjoy relative peace but also provided an environment conducive to peace negotiations. It allowed aid agencies to operate relatively free and unhampered in the conflict-affected areas," Bantay Ceasefire said.

The Malaysian-led IMT refused to grant interviews regarding the pullout. Malaysia has a bigger number of peace monitors compared to other countries. Arnado said other IMT members might move out as well.


Nagaishi Masafumi, Japan's senior adviser for reconstruction and development of Mindanao to the IMT, told the Inquirer by phone on Monday that he would finish his tour of duty in August and his embassy had sent no word about a possible withdrawal from the peacekeeping body.

Masafumi, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is the only representative of Tokyo to the IMT. Japan's role in the team is focused on the socioeconomic aspect of the peace process.

"I will finish my term here until August. I'm expecting another colleague after my term but it all depends on our government," Masafumi said.

"It's really necessary to complete the reconstruction efforts in Mindanao," he added.

Masafumi made the clarification after reports came out that aside from Malaysia, Japan would also pull out.

Eid Kabalu, civil military affairs chief of the MILF, told the Inquirer by phone that the group learned about Japan's possible withdrawal from a Japanese friend although it had yet to get a confirmation from the embassy in Manila.

Kabalu said the MILF was not surprised by Malaysia's pullout because "they are tired of the slow pace of negotiations."

He added: "We know they will still remain as main facilitator."

Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government, while committed to push the peace process forward, was not delaying but doing due diligence in completing the government's final draft of the ancestral domain agreement "to ensure that it is implementable and defensible from attacks of unconstitutionality."

But Khaled Musa, deputy chair of the MILF's committee on information, criticized Dureza, saying he was not the chief government peace negotiator and his statement did not carry much weight.(Edwin Fernandez, Jeoffrey Maitem, INQ.net)

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