Fighting casts shadow on talks, but optimism staysPhilippine Daily Inquirer
ILIGAN CITY—The continuing clashes between breakaway Moro rebels and government soldiers are pushing government negotiators to reach a peace agreement soon with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“These incidents serve no other purpose than to strengthen our resolve to find a credible, workable and just political settlement with the MILF,” said Marvic Leonen, chief government negotiator, in his opening statement for the 30th exploratory meeting between government and MILF panels in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
“Our negotiations are proceeding with undeniable momentum. We will certainly not pause because of unreasonable violent acts from those who cannot see that the just way to resolve our conflict is through patient and candid dialogue,” Leonen added.
Under the cover of darkness, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) elements harassed Philippine Army outposts near midnight of Aug. 5, prompting military action but displacing thousands of residents of three Maguindanao towns.
“The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will also be able to fully unmask those groups that do not do justice to the many sacrifices of the many to find a just solution to the Bangsamoro question,” Leonen said.
He said the attacks “were suspiciously timed to coincide with the opening of the 30th formal exploratory talks between the GPH (government) and the MILF.”
“Clearly, this group of Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato is one of the few that are willing to go to lengths to deny our communities and our peoples the benefit of a just and lasting peaceful settlement to our armed conflicts,” Leonen said.
“Clearly, they have lost the moral high ground. They have put communities and civilians in harm’s way for amorphous and illegitimate objectives,” he added.
Leonen lauded the MILF for “expressing their disapproval and noninvolvement” in the BIFF attacks.
He said the BIFF, especially Kato, is not covered by protection offered by ceasefire agreements between the government and MILF, and is a legitimate military target.
“Now, more than ever, we are presented with the most viable conditions for concluding our agreements,” said Leonen. Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao