Present GRP draft for Mindanao peace “avoids pitfalls” of 2008 MOA-AD, says Seguis

April 20, 2010 7:47 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, April 20 — As two days of sessions on the Mindanao peace process begin today in Kuala Lumpur — with the Philippine Government panel explaining its fresh draft of proposals to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)— Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis reassured that GRP’s version is “well-crafted” and “avoids the pitfalls” that could lead it to be declared unconstitutional.

Seguis is joined in the sessions by GRP members Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Prof. Grace Rebollos and Indigenous Lumad leader Ronald Adamat. The MILF, chaired by Mohagher Iqbal, and the members of the International Contact Group (ICG) are also in the talks, as well as Malaysian Chief Facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak.

Seguis, who is also the head of the GRP negotiating panel, would not say, however, what and how specifically the revised draft addresses the issue of a political settlement on Mindanao, saying only that it “seeks to proactively address the concerns and aspirations of the two sides.” He described the 2010 version as “comprehensive and substantial.”

It was noted at the sessions that MILF negotiators have oft-complained that the GRP panel has been using the Philippine Constitution and legal processes as reasons not to agree to MILF’s proposal for a BJE.

MILF, in effect, advocates that a political settlement could be arrived at if constitutional constraints are set aside. The present Philippine Constitution does not provide a separate homeland for Filipinos Muslims.

But Seguis, in his opening remarks, urged the MILF to listen to what the GRP has to say on the GRP draft, reiterating that government “is bent on forging an agreement that is well-crafted — following extensive study, discussions and consultations – and meets all constitutional and legal tests, does not spell conservatism.”

”The government proposal avoids the pitfalls that resulted in the declaration of the previous Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) unconstitutional,” Seguis said in a statement released by the DFA.

At the sessions today, Seguis sought to mollify the MILF and reiterated that “the GRP Panel is not hiding behind the Constitution or existing laws. It is, in fact, open-minded about the possibility of recommending certain changes to the current constitutional and legislative set-up, as required by the dynamic and changing realities on the round and the larger aspirations of our peoples.

”But any change in the law or the Constitution has to be made through a process that follows and respects the existing legal framework. This is pursuant to the mandate given by President Arroyo to the GRP Panel, which I intend to uphold,” Seguis said.

The GRP-MILF negotiations stalemate on Mindanao was highlighted in August 2008 when the Philippine Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional what would have been a Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the GRP and the MILF, creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

The aborting of the signing of the MOA-AD in Kuala Lumpur led renegade MILF field commanders to take to the hills and attack mainly Christian villages in Central Mindanao, resulting in nearly a thousand deaths and injured victims and millions of pesos in lost property and livestock, and displacing villagers.

”The GRP’s proposal for a framework agreement, the Agreement on a Governance Framework under the GRP-MILF Peace Compact, deserves more than perfunctory reading. It is comprehensive and substantial, and we trust that the other side properly appreciates the intention and context of the draft,” Seguis said at the sessions.

The two panels met on March 3 for a Question-and-Answer Session on the MILF’s proposed draft. This time around, it was the GRP’s turn to present its side.

Seguis said that due to time constraints dictated by the termination of the Presidency of Macapagal-Arroyo on June 30, a final peace agreement may not be possible by then.

At the present rate of talks, the best that the two panels could produce, he has said many times, is an interim agreement that could be basis of work for a lasting peace in Mindanao by the next batch of negotiators under a new President. (PNA)

DCT/GJB

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