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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. Chances of Gov’t, MILF Wrapping Peace Talks Before End of GMA’s Term Bleak
Chances of Gov’t, MILF Wrapping Peace Talks Before End of GMA’s Term Bleak PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Saturday, 06 September 2008 22:44

          Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said it would be extremely difficult now for the government to be able to forge a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the remaining period of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term after the scrapping of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain due to constitutional infirmities and other patently unacceptable terms and conditions.


          “I think it would be very hard now to achieve that goal under an atmosphere in which the MILF looks at the government with distrust. They feel that they have been taken for a ride after being made to believe that an accord on ancestral domain had been sealed only to be told later that it had been cancelled.  Now they will think twice, thrice or four times before they agree to resume the peace negotiation,” he said.

 

          Senator Pimentel pointed out that it took the Arroyo government about four years to negotiate the MoA on Ancestral Domain.  With less than two years left of the President’s term, he said attempts to put together a new accord on this primary issue will have to pass through the proverbial eye of the needle.  He noted the stand taken by the MILF that the MOA on Ancestral Domain was a “done deal” in the face of the government’s insistence that it will not sign a similar agreement of the same form and substance in the future.

 

          He said that while the government is now saying it would reopen peace talks with the MILF on condition that it disarms first under its new approach of “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation,” or DDR,  this was considered  unacceptable by the rebel group.

 

          The MILF, through vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar, responded to the government’s proposition by saying the DDR should be tackled only as “the last item” in the stalled peace talks.

 

          Senator Pimentel said the Arroyo government is now trying to pursue the method used by the British government in persuading the separatist rebels in Northern Ireland to stop the armed fighting and to agree to a peaceful settlement.   He pointed out that the Irish Republican Army was indeed persuaded to halt the armed conflict but it did not surrender its weapons.  Instead, he said the IRA’s firearms were kept in a place under the custody of independent observers.  And it was only after a peace pact was signed that these firearms were destroyed or disposed of.

 

          He urged the government anew to formally offer to MILF the establishment of a BagsaMoro Federal State as part of a federalized Republic of the Philippines to address the grievances of the Muslim Filipinos and fulfill their decades-old aspirations for genuine autonomy.

 

          Senator Pimentel said leaders of the MILF, including its late founding chairman Hashim Salamat, and the Moro National Liberation Front, headed by Chairman Nur Misuari, have openly favored the federal system and yet this alternative proposal has not been formally taken up in the peace negotiations.

 

          The senator from Mindanao assailed the administration’s blatant attempt to conceal President’s Arroyo’s role in the formulation of the MoA on Ancestral Domain and to protect her from any liability perhaps in anticipation of the possibility that the Supreme Court will adjudge the agreement as unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid.

 

          “We saw how Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, during the oral arguments on the case on the case before the Supreme Court, tried to clear the President of any responsibility for the controversial MoA.  She even went to the extent of saying that the President didn’t have full knowledge of the agreement.” Senator Pimentel said.

 

          “What kind of explanation is that? The present government is surrendering our sovereignty and giving away our lands and yet, the President didn’t know it? What kind of alibi is that?”

 

          Senator Pimentel also said the Arroyo government was merely trying to extricate itself from monumental blunder by claiming that the MoA on Ancestral Domain was not an agreement binding on both parties but merely a document on consensus points for future negotiation.

 

          If that were so, he asked why did the government take the trouble of inviting United States Ambassador Christy Kenny and the envoys of Japan, Australia and the Islamic states to the signing of the agreement in Kuala Lumpur that was hosted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and the Malaysia foreign minister? # # #



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