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.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Govt ‘fooling around’ with peace talks

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front accused President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Saturday of “fooling around” with the Mindanao peace talks by creating a preparatory committee to amend a 2001 law expanding the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

On January 19, Arroyo issued Executive Order 777 creating a National Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to amend Republic Act 9054 which made Basilan the fifth province in the ARMM. Before passage of that law, the ARMM consisted only of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi.

Arroyo said the idea was to amend the provisions on territory and use this as a term of reference for the resumption of talks the MILF.

But Khaled Musa, MILF deputy information chief, warned that amending the 2001 law would only prolong the agony and suffering in Mindanao as "it is a misdirected effort."

"Why does the Arroyo administration do another thing when negotiation is the only right thing to address the Moro problem and the armed conflict in Mindanao?" Musa asked in an e-mailed statement.

There was only one explanation, he added: “The latest antic from Malacañang is part of its fooling around scheme."

Musa said even if Malacañang was serious about amending the ARMM charter, the MILF could still not accept it as basis for returning to the negotiating table.

He said MILF “will not settle for it because it is not negotiated; it is imposed.”

The peace talks between the government and the MILF hit a snag when the Supreme Court last August stopped the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which the government had worked out with the MILF. The Supreme Court subsequently struck the agreement down as unconstitutional.

The MILF insists any resumption of the talks should center on the MOA-AD.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was quoted in newspaper reports as saying last week that amending the ARMM charter was more feasible than insisting on the MOA-AD.

"I think it will be wiser to take a look at the provisions in RA 9054 pertaining to territory. This is one way of (accommodating the MILF demands) rather than calling it the Bangsamoro Juridical Authority (sic). The amendments can very well be the answer to the problem on territory in the negotiations," Ermita was quoted as saying. The original term used in the MOA-AD was Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

He said the PrepCom was given six months to formulate a package of proposed amendments to the ARMM law that would be "reflective of the Moro interest."

The committee was tasked to hold dialogues and consult with various stakeholders to get their views on the proposed amendments, he said.

Under Arroyo's order, the panel will be composed of a chair, and 14 members representing the ARMM regional government, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Regional Legislative Assembly, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, the indigenous communities, Christians, the academe, and civil society.(By Jeoffrey Maitem)

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