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.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Malaysian monitors fly out

COTABATO CITY -- THE MALAYSIAN PEACEKEEPERS began their withdrawal from this troubled southern island Saturday, raising worries that the decades of Muslim separatist rebellion in the predominantly Catholic nation may resume.

Twenty-eight of the 41 Malaysian soldiers and police officers in the International Monitoring Team boarded two army transport planes from various points in Mindanao and were reportedly flown to a base in the Malaysian province of Sabah.

The rest of the Malaysian peacekeepers will remain until the end of August with the remnants of the IMT, a body formed by the Islamic Conference to help maintain the ceasefire between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government so peace negotiations could go on.

The Malaysian-brokered peace talks hit a snag last December over the issue of ancestral domain. Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson, said they would bring their demand for their own Bangsamoro homeland to the International Court of Justice.

Plebiscite needed

The government’s position was that a plebiscite would be needed to resolve the demand for an ancestral domain. “I don’t think bringing that to the ICJ will change the Philippine position. Our position is fundamental. We cannot dispense with constitutional processes,” responded Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

The remnants of the 60-member IMT, which includes 10 soldiers from Brunei, eight from Libya and a Japanese development worker, are also expected to pack their bags and go home before September, according to Reuters.

Mixed feelings

Before leaving, Maj. Gen. Yasin Mat Daud, head of the Malaysian-led IMT, said the team had laid the foundation for peace to take root in the Philippines’ most resource-rich region.

“We have mixed feelings about leaving Mindanao,” Yasin told Reuters, watching the soldiers file into the belly of one of the two twin-engine Casa-235 transporters while Filipino troops helped load equipment onto another plane.

“We’re happy because we’re returning to our families, but, we’re also sad because we’re leaving behind an unfinished dream. We’re still hoping to see the government and the MILF sign a peace treaty soon. That’s also our dream,” he said.

Yasin told the Inquirer that because of the pullout, the IMT offices in General Santos, Davao and Zamboanga cities would be closed down. Team sites in Cotabato and Iligan would remain until the pullout is complete.

Hopeful of peace pact

However, Yasin said he was still hopeful that a final peace treaty would be signed. He also said Malaysia would continue to broker the peace talks and raised the possibility that another peacekeeping contingent might be sent again in the future,

In the 1990s, the government entered into a peace pact with another separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front, which then participated in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The MILF, a breakaway group of the MNLF, did not accept the pact. It has been in stop-start negotiations with the government for more than a decade to end the near 40-year conflict which has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced millions and stunted growth in Mindanao

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