MILF Is Losing Patience With Manila Over Delay In Peace Talks

April 9, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 09, 2008) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim separatist rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), accused Manila on Wednesday of delaying the peace talks.

Manila is negotiating peace with the MILF, an army of about 12,000 rebels with millions of Muslim supporters in the Philippines. Peace talks were stalled after both sides failed to sign an agreement on the Muslim ancestral domain.
A senior MILF leader, Khaled Musa, accused Manila of deliberately delaying the signing of the agreement on ancestral domain, which he said had been approved by rebel and government peace negotiators in February.
“The peace talks could have resumed immediately after the Holy week but the government introduced another delaying tactic by creating a legal team to study the draft document on ancestral domain,” he said.
“The only purpose of this is to make a mockery of the peace talks and delay its resumption while the government works to secure as many funding for the rehabilitation of Mindanao, which, however, fall mainly into the pockets of corrupt government men.”
Musa said the delay in the peace talks is a government strategy to pass the Muslim insurgency problems to next president of the Philippines. “It is a practice consistently pursued by all changing president in this country,” Musa said.
He also criticized President Gloria Arroyo’s peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, over a statement he made during the recent 4th Asia-Pacific Dialogue in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Musa said Dureza’s statement about the peace talks with the MILF in Cambodia was an empty rhetoric that has no meaning at all, except to deceive the international community and to create a false hope.
Dureza, who previously headed the peace panel negotiating with the MILF, was quoted as saying that Philippine government’s commitment has remained strong in upholding the primacy of the peace process, particularly in Mindanao.
“As a long-term strategy to sustain the gains of the peace process, our government has embarked on various programs and initiatives involving the participation of civil society groups, including the school and media,” Musa, quoting Dureza, said.
“What primacy of the peace process Dureza is referring to?” Musa asked.
Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said the Philippine panel agreed late last year on the scope of the ancestral domain, but later reneged on the accord that will constitute a separate homeland for more than 4 million Muslims and indigenous tribes in Mindanao.
Iqbal said the MILF is consistent with its demand for a Muslim homeland. He said the government peace panel must honor its commitment and previous agreement so the talks could resume.
The MILF said government peace negotiators headed by Rodolfo Garcia completely disregarded the agreement on the Muslim 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.
The Philippine charter prohibits the dismembering of the country. But Dureza previously said there is a proposal to amend the Constitution and introduce a federal system of government.
It is also what many opposition politicians fear because Arroyo’s 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, who deposed President Joseph Estrada in a people power revolution in 2001, is allowed only one six-year term.
In the charter change proposal suggested by her political allies who dominate Congress, she can be elected as prime minister should Congress approve a proposal to dissolve the Senate and change the system of government to parliamentary.
The MILF earlier warned that hostilities may erupt in Mindanao if the peace talks fail. The Philippine military previously demanded MILF rebels to lay down their weapons before peace talks could resume.
Malaysia which is brokering the seven-year old peace talks warned it would pull out its truce observers deployed in Mindanao if there is no progress in the slow pace of the negotiations. (Mindanao Examiner)

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