While it may have lost its chief, Mario Victor “Marvic” Leonen, to the Supreme Court, the government peace panel is on track to forge a comprehensive agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by the end of the year, Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles said Thursday.
As speculation swirled over who would take over from Leonen as chief peace negotiator, all eyes appeared to be on a colleague, professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who handles the “most challenging” job on the panel.
“Justice Leonen will be the first to say it’s never a one-person job—it’s teamwork,” said Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, by phone, on the impact of Leonen’s appointment to the Supreme Court on the peace process.
President Aquino on Wednesday named the 49-year-old Leonen to the high tribunal just as a fresh round of negotiations ended with the MILF on the framework agreement’s annexes on wealth and power-sharing, and normalization.
Speaking at the CODE-NGO national congress Thursday, Mr. Aquino admitted feeling apprehensive about pulling Leonen from the peace panel because it might jeopardize the gains attained with the MILF, but he was assured by Deles.
“I was a bit worried because I was letting him go before we could complete the talks. I recalled asking Secretary Ging, ‘Can we now let Leonen go? Do we have a replacement for him? The peace talks might end up getting derailed.’ While she’s forced to, Secretary Ging is assuming all responsibility so that the final settlement would get fast-tracked,” the President said.
“Marvic did a good job in fostering understanding,” he added.
Deles said the bulk of the next discussions with the MILF would center on the annex of normalization, since the discussions on power- and wealth-sharing began even before the Oct. 15 signing of the framework agreement on an autonomous Moro homeland called Bangsamoro.
“As far as we can see, the decisions to be made have already been identified. We are working hard to deliver within the time-frame set in the agreement,” she said. “Where the talks are now, we’re confident we can reach it.”
The talks will resume middle of December, with Deles saying the panel is on track to seal a comprehensive agreement with the MILF by yearend. Much of the government panel’s confidence comes from the MILF side’s statement that it could work with any chair.