Monday, February 21, 2011

What is Behind the New Peace Talks?

What is Behind the New Peace Talks?
By Erick San Juan

The first formal peace negotiation between the Government of
the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the
present administration was held last February 9 – 10 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It is the 20th formal exploratory talks and the first informal talks
was held last January 13, 2011.

The planned exploratory talks pushed through amidst the MILF
infighting and possibly another breakaway group in the offing through the leadership
of Ameril Umbra Kato. It was earlier cited that Kato is out to form a separate
military which he called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The alleged formation of a new armed group by Umbra Kato to
continue the struggle for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao
is somehow designed to disrupt the ongoing formal talks. Such infighting among
the MILF commanders should be taken seriously if the purpose of the government
is to resolve the age-old insurgency in the south.

Any development that the government will implement in Mindanao
would be in vain if groups like that of Kato’s will prevail. Remember that in
2008 Kato is one of the two MILF senior commanders who launched deadly attacks
across mostly Christian communities in Mindanao. The
said attacks happened after the Supreme Court released its decision that the
MOA-AD Bangsamoro Juridical Entity was unconstitutional. The attacks left
nearly 400 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, and a possibility of a
repeat of such incident is not far-fetched.

We could sense some underlying agenda here when the MILF
announced that they cut down the number of villages it wants to be included in
its proposed autonomous Bangsamoro territory in Mindanao
to 7 to 9 percent of its original
historical claim. Then the government through GRP chief negotiator Marvic Leonen somehow in defense
of the said proposal, said that “it does not seek independence or secession
from the Republic of the Philippines”
after he got back from Kuala Lumpur.

It could be perceived as pure rhetorics again in order to
justify another possible MOA-AD BJE in the offing. The rest of us should be
wary as to what is not being talked about here in the open and I smell
something fishy here.

As of this writing, there are clamors from different NGOs
and the Palace, to postpone the August 2011 election in the Autonomous Region
in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and pushing to
synchronize it with the national and local elections in 2013.

Under the bill drafted by MalacaƱang, the next regular
elections for the regional governor, vice governor, members of the regional
legislative assembly of the ARMM shall be held on the second Monday of May
2013. They will have a three- year term.

It also stated that the incumbent elective officials of the
ARMM shall hold office only until Sep. 30, 2011 when the President appoints officers-in-charge, who will
be in post until the next officials are elected.

Is this move to postpone the ARMM election has something to
do with the MILF’s agenda in the peace talks? There is still so much time given
here until 2013 and ample time to carry out whatever plans they have in mind. The
fear of some Filipinos of a possible balkanization of Mindanao
is not farfetched. Speculations are free as long as there is no transparency.

PNoy’s administration should live up to its promise of
transparency and most of all accountability. These are badly needed when the
sovereignty as one nation united is being threatened again by greedy

Be strong and steadfast, Mr. President or this country will end
up disunited and only a few will benefit in the process.

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