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Gov’t woos MNLF as peace prospects with MILF hang in balance

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To pursue full implementation of ’96 peace deal

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:05:00 08/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — With prospects of peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hanging in the balance, the government said it will work for the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“We have to clutch at points of certainty, and that is the Tripoli agreement and the 1996 agreement and all other subsequent agreements that can be made as terms of reference,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

“While at the same time, we cannot proceed on the other side, on the MILF, because we don’t know what their position is,” he said.

Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno met with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who is also MNLF chairman, on the disarming and demobilization of MNLF fighters and their integration into the military and police.

Sema, who was at the news conference, also denied allegations they connived with MILF forces who staged attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao that triggered ongoing hostilities in the south.

The fighting erupted after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and MILF which would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The ARMM was created under the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

“We begin by going back to the 1996 peace agreement, I don’t think well have a problem within the MNLF. What were trying to do is complete the obligations for everyone and ensure compliance of everyone to the terms of the agreement,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Teodoro said the MNLF has “kept its peace, kept its side of the agreement,” and government would “make it work in the face of uncertainty.”

Referring to the Central Mindanao fighting, Teodoro said the MILF has not made its position on the “authority of the government to enforce its law” and on the “countenancing or non-countenancing of atrocities committed by some of its members.”

The military is pursuing two MILF commanders — Ameril Ombra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo — blamed for the North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte attacks, respectively.

“Our message to the MILF is to surrender Bravo and Kato. If they don’t, we will get them,” the defense chief said.

Puno explained that “disarmament” and “demobilization” were not the exact wordings of the 1996 agreement but that these meant MNLF members’ turning in their firearms and their integration into the government security force.

While no estimate of armed MNLF members was given, Puno said 1,600 former rebels have been integrated into the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 5,000 others into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Denying that the MNLF was in cahoots with the MILF in the current hostilities, Sema said: “We would like to say that there is no truth to that. The MNLF remains to be a partner of the] national government in the implementation of peace and development for many, many years until today.”

While he admitted that his organization was not consulted when the government and MILF negotiated the terms of the MOA-AD, Sema said he hoped that the government would find a way to “harmonize” any agreement with the MILF with the one it forged with the MNLF deal.

“There was no consultation with the MNLF, we were not party to the talks, we were not involved. We [are] not opposed also to the peace efforts of the government,” he said.

“As to when finally there will be an agreement with government and the MILF, if it will work, how it will work with the present agreement between the MNLF and the government, ask the government, because we have to harmonize if ever there will be an agreement,” he said.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-08-29T09:32:54+00:00UTC08bUTCFri, 29 Aug 2008 09:32:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

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