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, September 16, 2008

Peace process ‘messy’ but gov’t should ‘never give up’

Working for peace is “messy” but this should not deter government from pushing to resume negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said a former presidential peace adviser on Monday.

“Making peace is messy but let us persevere,” election commissioner Rene Sarmiento said in an interview.

Sarmiento used to head the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and also served in the government panel to peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“This peace process is facing zigs and zags and difficult turns but it [government] should never give up,” Sarmiento said.

The government has dissolved the panel negotiating peace with the MILF after hostilities between the secessionist rebels and government forces broke out early last month. The fighting began after MILF rebels attacked civilian communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte province.

Sarmiento conceded that peace negotiations take a long time but stressed that these should not be rushed.

Government, he added, “should [also] involve the civil society; they should be onboard. After all, in the peace process, the civil society is a very important stakeholder.”

He also expressed optimism peace can be achieved through dialogues among civil society, the government and the MILF peace panels, especially on the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The issuance early last month of a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court against the signing of the MOA-AD was followed soon after by hostilities between government forces and MILF rebels which are continuing through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The fighting has led government to dissolve its peace negotiating panel to the MILF and to review all its peace efforts.

“If we listen to the civil society, we listen to the other stakeholders and then reach a common point, improve the MOA [AD] and then hopefully achieve that peace in Mindanao,” said Sarmiento.

He added that the botched signing of the MOA-AD should not be taken as a step back from achieving peace but as a “learning experience.”

“I think we have learned our lesson. Let us concede that we had rejection of the MOA but we learned lessons that we should not repeat, and for me that is a big experience that we can use,” Sarmiento said.

He added that another product of the MOA-AD was that it encouraged the public to speak up on the matter.

“The reactions, the lessons, the comments [from the public], in effect, it became a national experience, and we should draw our lesson from this experience,” Sarmiento said.

But current presidential peace adviser Hergmogenes Esperon Jr. said peace talks with the MILF cannot resume until improvements on the ground are seen.

“We need an improved situation on the ground before we can reconstitute the peace panel,” Esperon said.(Katherine Evangelista; INQ.net)

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