Gov't confident talks with MILF will resume soon

August 24, 2009 9:45 am 

MANILA, Aug. 24 — Malacanang today expressed optimism that the stalled peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resume despite the recent bloody gun battle in Basilan.

Deputy Spokesperson Anthony Golez said in a press briefing the Basilan incident is an isolated case and it will not affect the peace process between the government and the MILF.

Malacanang, according to him, remains committed to achieving final peace resolutions with the MILF.

The Basilan firefight left 21 Abu Sayyaf members and nine MILF rebels who joined the gun battle, dead. A total of 23 soldiers were also killed in the fighting that occurred near an MILF base in Basilan.

Asked why Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro was absent in the recent Senate hearing on the case, Golez said Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) officials cannot attend congressional hearings without the approval of the commander-in-chief. He cited a recent Supreme Court hearing on the matter.

“Most especially that the issue at hand in that particular Senate investigation would be pertaining to military operations in Basilan. This is precisely what our law is protecting with regard to military operations in order to protect the lives of our military personnel in the battlefield,” Golez said.

Teodoro and the AFP officials, he added, find it prudent not to attend in order to protect the safety of military personnel.

The GRP-MILF talks were suspended a year ago following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The peace negotiations started recently after the government suspended the offensive military operations against the MILF to give way for the resumption of the stalled peace talks. (PNA)

DCT/OPS/utb

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