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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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It’s a done deal, says MILF exec

But Esperon says gov’t can’t disregard judiciary

It’s a done deal.

That’s the position of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front a day after the Supreme Court stopped the MILF and the Philippine government from signing a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD) in a bid to end four decades of the separatist war in Mindanao.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, told reporters by phone from his base in Mindanao that the MoA became binding when it was initialed by the two sides on July 27 and Tuesday’s aborted ceremony in Malaysia was merely a formality.

“Our official position is that the agreement on ancestral domain has been signed, so it’s a done deal,” Jaafar said.

He dismissed as “purely an internal problem of the government” the Supreme Court’s issuance on Monday of a temporary restraining order (TRO) following objections by officials in North Cotabato and Zamboanga City over their inclusion in a proposed Moro homeland without consultations.

Not bound by order

“We are not bound by that order,” Jaafar said. “It’s an internal process in the government. What was committed by the government cannot be taken back.”

The MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohaqher Iqbal, said: “The act of initialing the agreed text of MoA-AD by the parties constitutes a signature of the Philippine government and MILF. Initialing was in fact done with a credible third-party witness, the Malaysian government as facilitator of the talks since 2001.”

He said that the court action was not a setback to the MILF. “We are on the upper hand especially in the battle for moral ascendancy.”

Iqbal said the MILF would “still pursue the peace process to bring an end to the conflict without, however, losing sight of alternative means to achieve freedom and justice.”

Esperon disagrees

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disagreed with the MILF position, telling reporters that affixing initials to the draft accord was meant to preserve the document and to ensure that it would not be altered or changed.

Esperon said this was the reason there was “an elaborate program to make (the MoA) official” with the help of Malaysia. He described as “unnecessary” MILF statements that the Philippines had “discredited” itself.

“It’s simply that we have to observe the democratic process of doing things involving three coequal branches of government,” he said. Esperon said Malacañang cannot disregard the judicial branch.

Nobody is giving up on peace

“Nobody is giving up on peace, we have not given up on peace, we will never give up on peace,” said Esperon, who put off his planned departure Tuesday for 24 hours to meet with the MILF panel in an apparent bid to ease tension.

But Iqbal put a damper on Esperon’s initiative, telling reporters: “We came here to sign the MoA and not to meet, not to argue ... It’s as simple as that.” He said that if the Philippines wanted to sit down and talk, it should be communicated to Malaysian facilitators.

The draft MoA expands the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao that would be governed by a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) with broad political and economic powers, which critics said amounted to an establishment of a separate state.

The proposed deal was meant to formally reopen negotiations to end a near 40-year conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and kept the country’s most resource-rich region dirt poor.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim, who held talks with his Philippine counterpart Alberto Romulo, called for peace in Mindanao.

“What should simmer in our minds is for peace and tranquility to exist. There ought not to be violence in any instance,” Rais told reporters in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya.

‘Purely temporary impasse’

Expressing his disappointment over the halting of the landmark deal, Rais said he hoped that it was a “purely temporary impasse.”

“This is a setback which should be overcome soon,” he said.

Romulo, who was due to witness the signing but instead held talks with Rais, said the pact was “within the constitutional authority and within the legal authority.”

“We stand by that, that is why we are confident our Supreme Court will find this to be resolved,” the Philippine foreign secretary said.

Malaysia, which has hosted peace talks between the two sides, reversed its decision to withdraw troops in Mindanao, where they are monitoring the ceasefire between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Representatives of civil society groups who flew to Malaysia to witness the signing held a news conference to announce they would oppose in the Supreme Court attempts by local Mindanao executives to scuttle the peace accord.

“We allowed our myopia, our recklessness, our xenophobia to take the better of us,” they said in a statement.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza denied claims by local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao that they were not consulted. Protests against the accord have been held in Zamboanga City, Iligan City, and Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

“These LGUs are provoking the people’s anger by saying that the deal was done in haste. They were participants to many of these consultations. Why aren’t they telling the people that there were consultations done?” Dureza said.

‘We might as well separate’

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara Tuesday issued a statement saying that the MoA should undergo rigid screening at three levels at the very least—the Supreme Court, Congress and the plebiscite.

“It’s fortunate that the Supreme Court has already stepped in because they can very well determine the legal boundaries and legality of this agreement, whether we are now giving up our territory in exchange for a peace agreement,” Angara said.

The administration senator said the public will also have to scrutinize each and every word of the agreement.

“Giving our Muslim brothers the right to govern themselves and the right to utilize and exploit their wealth is perfectly legitimate. But I would not allow the emerging entity to be able to conduct diplomacy and foreign relations, to be able to issue their own currency and to allow them to carry arms and raise troops,” Angara stressed.

If these three conditions are safeguarded and preserved for the Republic of the Philippines, then he is willing to concede practically anything to them so they will enjoy the benefit of their freedom, according to Angara.

3 marks of independent state

“Those are the three earmarks of an independent state and it would be incongruous that within our territorial boundaries, another state will be created. There’s no country in the world who can still maintain its self-respect and dignity by allowing that, might as well agree to separate.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez in a press briefing dismissed talk of allowing secession.

“It’s not a state within a state that is being recognized here, rather it’s the Muslim nation. It’s the people who will decide, that’s why there is a plebiscite, and before that there must be an enabling law passed by Congress. So before there is an enabling law, there is nothing,” Gonzalez said.

(With reports from Jerome Aning, Jeffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao, Reuters, Agence France-Presse)

1 comment:

damean said...

"Iqbal said the MILF would “still pursue the peace process to bring an end to the conflict without, however, losing sight of alternative means to achieve freedom and justice.”

- Iqbal is still living under the influence of the culture of war.

“Giving our Muslim brothers the right to govern themselves and the right to utilize and exploit their wealth is perfectly legitimate. But I would not allow the emerging entity to be able to conduct diplomacy and foreign relations, to be able to issue their own currency and to allow them to carry arms and raise troops,” Angara stressed."

- Speculations will only fuel people's emotions.