GPH peace panel to hold more dialogues in Mindanao on peace process with MILF

May 21, 2012 10:36 pm 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, May 21 -– After more than 70 public consultations in the past few months, the government peace panel will conduct more dialogues with stakeholders in Mindanao before the resumption of exploratory talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set in Kuala Lumpur late this month.

Marvic Leonen, chair of the government peace panel, said on Monday a survey is also being conducted to feel the pulse of different sectors in southern Philippines on their views and opinions about the peace process.

The government peace panel had just held public consultation in Zamboanga City over the weekend.

Leonen assured the people that that the government is exercising “due diligence” in its negotiation with the MILF as issues are expected to become more difficult in the forthcoming negotiations.

The panel chair said that the government is carefully examining substantive issues, particularly legal aspects such as the creation of a new political autonomous entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the power-sharing and wealth-sharing that are contained in the Decision Points on Principles signed by both parties during the 27th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last month.

The consultation in Zamboanga City was attended by civil society, business groups, security sector and the media.

During the dialogue, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles explained the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles which contains 10 common stand points mutually identified by both parties to serve as a framework for the final peace agreement.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat attended the consultation.

Leonen reiterated that the peace negotiation with the MILF is conducted within the framework of the Constitution.

He said the creation of a new political autonomous entity is allowed as stated in Article 10, Sections 15 to 22 of the Constitution.

Section 15 states that “there shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao…(in) areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Further, he said “the basis of autonomy is democracy.”

“In the national politics, there will always be a minority whose views and concerns cannot be always accommodated because they could never become a majority. Thus, the only way to guarantee a level of democracy is allow them to govern in one region, but still remain in the entire Republic of the Philippines,” Leonen said.

In her message, Deles underscored that the government fully recognizes the concerns of the people, saying "that’s why we are here. The panel conducts consultations in order to directly listen to the views of the public.”

On the same note, Leonen said that the GPH panel “takes to heart the concerns” of the people and consider them on the negotiating table.

He said the panel has already conducted more than 70 consultations.

During the forum, Fr. Bert Alejo of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University asked “what constitutes valid and sufficient consultations” in view of the peace process, taking into account the lessons of the 2008 MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court due to lack of public consultations.

It may be recalled that the aborted signing of the MOA-AD had triggered renewed fighting between government forces and the MILF in some parts of Central Mindanao four years ago.

Leonen agreed that “sufficient consultations” should be clearly defined, adding that consultations are not only one set and not always a formal one.

He said “it may be a bit too legalistic” to qualify valid consultations while falling short of “looking behind its spirit.”

Leonen also said that “consultation means listening earnestly, trying to understand the points raised by various sectors, and reflecting it as best as we can in order for persons making the political decision (from the different branches of government) to be properly informed.”

The GPH panel is set to conduct more consultations with key stakeholders before their next round of formal meeting with the MILF panel by the end of this month. (PNA)

DCT/scs/RBC/jsd

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