Manila Reneged On Agreement, MILF Peace Talks Stalled Anew

December 15, 2007 at 5:21 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 15, 2007) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels accused Manila of reneging to its commitment after peace talks were stalled Saturday in Malaysia.

Malaysia is brokering the peace talks and has previously threatened to pull out its truce observers in the southern Philippines if the negotiations do not progress.

Government and rebel negotiators previously agreed on the scope of the Muslim ancestral domain in southern Philippines. It refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

But the MILF accused government negotiators of reneging on the agreement that stalled the talks.

“The MILF peace panel accused the government of reneging on its commitment to the peace process by reversing all what have been agreed as consensus points on ancestral domain,” it said in a statement.

The MILF said government negotiators headed by Rodolfo Garcia completely disregarded the agreement on the ancestral domain and insisted again that the granting of homeland to Muslims in Mindanao would solely be through Constitutional process which the rebel group previously opposed.

Peace talks had been stalled since September last year after both sides failed to agree on the scope of the ancestral domain. It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, earlier said that both sides are expected to sign the formal agreement on ancestral domain probably before the end of the year after the two groups ended a meeting in Malaysia in November.

The ancestral domain which covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines and the Sulu Archipelago.

Mohammad Ameen, a senior rebel leader, said the MILF will only sign a peace deal with Manila if it establishes genuine governance for Muslims either in the form of “state” or “sub-state”.

President Gloria Arroyo has opened up peace talks with the MILF, the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state, in 2001.

The MILF earlier warned that hostilities may erupt in Mindanao if the peace talks fail or if Malaysia pulls out its truce observers from the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao, whose 16 million populations included four million Muslims.

The IMT is composed of 41 officers from the Malaysian Defense Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police, and the Prime Minister’s Department and is also supported by 10 military officers from Brunei Darussalam and 5 from Libya. Japan also has a member in the IMT.

But analysts fear that Arroyo or her allies in the House of Representatives might use the peace talks with the MILF as an excuse to amend the Constitution to change the system of government from Presidential to Parliamentary or Federalism to allow the MILF to have a separate state and eventually prolong her into power beyond 2010.

Under the Presidential form of government, Arroyo is allowed only three terms, but she can be elected as Prime Minister should Congress, dominated by her political allies, approves a proposal to dissolve the Senate and change the system of government to Parliamentary.

Arroyo, who deposed President Joseph Estrada in a people power revolution in 2001, is unpopular in the Philippines and topped the list of the most corrupt presidents in recent history, according to a Pulse Asia Survey.

The survey conducted Among 1,200 respondents nationwide from October 21-31, 2007 showed that 42% think that Arroyo is the most corrupt followed by Ferdinand Marcos with 35% and Joseph Estrada with 16%. Former presidents Fidel Ramos with 5% and Corazon Aquino with 1% came in at the bottom of the list.

The Philippines is also perceived to be among the world’s most corrupt countries and ranked 131st out of the 180 nations studied, with a 2.5 rating, together with Burundi, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Nepal, and Yemen, according to the annual Corruption Perceptions Index released recently by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International.

The index score ranges between 0, which is highly corrupt, and 10, which is very clean. (Mindanao Examiner)

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