GPH-MILF peace talks heading for an impasse

The MILF leadership, particularly its negotiating panel headed by Mohagher Iqbal, views the “3 in 1” proposal of the Philippine government for a peace agreement as “detached,” has “no connections” and has in fact “derogated the past agreements and consensus reached by the two parties in the past 14 years of negotiations.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Recent developments in Mindanao do not augur well for the prospect of peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Yesterday the MILF condemned the Philippine Army for its “deliberate” violation of the MILF-GPH ceasefire after “a platoon-size troop of its 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) under a certain Lt Col Espuelas entered and crossed over the perimeter defense post of the 107th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) – MILF at upper Pananag, Maasim” in Saranggani.

The MILF ceasefire committee reported the violation to its counterpart with the Philippine government, as well as the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which responded by going to the government troops and informing the soldiers of their infringement of the ceasefire accord in having crossed over to the MILF defense line. But in a report at luwaran.com, the MILF said, the Army troops “totally disregarded” all these.

The MILF viewed this act as a “manifestation of direct command responsibility that does not augur well with the present situation of the peace talks between the government and MILF.”

Increased troop deployment in other provinces in Mindanao had also been reported in the media. Aside from violating the two parties’ ceasefire agreement, the Philippine Army’s act, said the MILF, also violates the agreement and mechanism of the government and MILF for the interdiction and isolation of criminal elements as mandated in the GPH-MILF Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).


Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters man an outpost at the entrance of the office of the MILF Peace Panel in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao. The group recently rejected the peace plan offered by the government. (Photo by Karlos Manlupig / bulatlat.com)

This violation is similar to the alleged GPH violations of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), noted lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, a senior peace panel member of the MILF, in a round-table discussion with Moro-Christian People’s Alliance last week.

GPH may soon talk only to itself

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said in a media interview yesterday, the MILF “will not sit down in the GPH’s proposed talks early this month in Kuala Lumpur because the subject of the talks is not their proposed sub-state.”

The MILF leadership, particularly its negotiating panel headed by Mohagher Iqbal, views the “3 in 1” proposal of the Philippine government for a peace agreement as “detached,” has “no connections” and has in fact “derogated the past agreements and consensus reached by the two parties in the past 14 years of negotiations.”

In the light of the GPH proposed meeting with the MILF next week, Murad wondered what they would be talking about now, and which proposal would be used as “working paper” considering that the MILF and the GPH proposals “do not agree.”

The MILF leadership said the GPH proposal is “not comprehensive,” and that it is just “a framework for the integration of the Bangsamoro people tailored-fit to what was formulated with the GPH and Moro National Liberation Front Final Peace Agreement of 1996.”

“Integration is opposite to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination and self-governance,” Murad said in a report at luwaran.com.

Looking for ways to move forward

The impasse between the MILF and the Philippine government appears to have created a better opportunity for the so-called MILF faction led by Ameril Umbra Kato and the MILF to open to a dialogue, as Kato has reportedly invited his MILF brothers to a discussion. Kato has been one of the most vocal among MILF leaders in expressing disgust over the “never-ending peace negotiations that do not resolve anything.”

The MILF and the GPH have been talking peace for 14 years now.

To continue with the peace talks, Murad said it is now time for the ICG (International Contact Group), and the facilitator, to enter the talks, as “this is their role when there are problems.”

The ICG came into being in Sept 2009 as a condition for the MILF to reenter peace negotiations with the Philippine government after the latter “reneged” on signing their mutually-initialed MOA-AD (memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain) in 2008. Composed of representatives from interested parties in other countries, for example the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), and some accredited non-government organizations, the ICG is tasked to help build mutual trust for the resumption then of the talks between the MILF and the GPH.

Murad urged the GPH side to “discuss well your own proposal and that of the MILF, as that is what the MILF itself has been doing.” He said they are “looking for ways to bring the two proposals closer.”

Based on MILF leaders’ pronouncements, their proposed sub-state is already their minimum, which they cannot reduce or sacrifice further. As Murad explained on Sept 7, if the subject of their peace talks was compared to a commodity, the MILF had lowered and lowered some more their selling price to its very minimum, and that is the creation of a sub-state. But Murad charged that the Philippine government, on the other hand, has barely changed or adjusted its counter-offer.

The MILF scoffed at the government’s improved ARMM offer, saying in a Sept 5 press conference in their camp that the government can actually already implement that without the MILF. In fact, the MILF views the ARMM not as an autonomous Muslim territory, as its name says, but as a “Malacañang” territory used to enrich a few but not the people living in the territory.

“The MILF will not sign an agreement that will not solve the problem because even if we signed an agreement that is beneficial to us but not acceptable to our people then the struggle will go on,” said Murad. He added that “We are nothing if the Bangsamoro people will not support us.” ()

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