GPH, MILF condemn violence by Misuari-led MNLF forces

A day after the violent attacks by elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) associated with Nur Misuari in Zamboanga City, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed peace negotiations on Tuesday with a shared commitment to “pursue the peace process to its just and rightful conclusion.”
“We open our 40th Formal Exploratory round of talks today with firm resolve that as we seek to hurdle the difficulties we are facing in the negotiations, we will also overcome the security challenges confronting us in various parts of Mindanao today,” GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in her statement during the opening of the ten-day formal exploratory talks in this Malaysian capital.
On Monday, around 400 MNLF forces attacked communities in Zamboanga City, where six people died, scores wounded, and dozens taken hostage. The Misuari-led group recently declared independence and faulted the government for not including the MNLF in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the GPH and MILF in October 2012.
Coronel-Ferrer said “there are groups and leaders who are waiting for this process to fail,” but the government and the MILF will work together to succeed in forging and implementing a comprehensive peace pact that is inclusive of the interest and welfare of all in the Bangsamoro.
“We cannot allow this process to fail,” she added. “We have to show to one and all that through reason and compassion, through dialogue and cooperation, we can create the process and the institutions that will enable one and all, exercising their free will but refraining from the use of all forms of violence, to rebuild their societies and polities.”
The agenda in this round of talks is to complete the two remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization. Two annexes have already been signed this year, namely the Annex on Transitional Arrangements on Modalities, signed in February, and the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, signed in July. These four annexes, together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, will comprise the comprehensive agreement which the parties aim to sign within the year.
“We know that the fire fights are exposing the GPH-MILF talks to criticism. But our response is simple. Will aborting this negotiation make other groups happy and stop their violent acts? Will preventing ourselves from finishing our work enable peace to prevail? Not at all. The opposite in fact may be truer,” Coronel-Ferrer stated.
Even with previous strings of violence, both peace panels expressed shared resolve to not allow spoilers to derail the peace process.
MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal reiterated on the need to fast track the peace negotiations. “The longer the peace negotiations drag on, the better they believe it is good for them. They may really feast on our perceived failures. However, the noises they are creating nowadays do not mean they are getting stronger. Their very nature and the message that they are exposing is not appealing or attractive to the vast majority of the people especially their view that their civilian casualties are given in war.”
“Therefore, the best way to deprive them of any opportunity to put into play their anarchist agenda at the expense of the peace talks is for the parties to conclude their negotiation and without delay sign the comprehensive peace agreement. There can be no other antidote to these rumblings except through this way,” he stated.