Aquino meets with Moro rebel leader in Tokyo


MANILA, Philippines—Three years since the collapse of a controversial homeland deal, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front met in historic hush-hush talks in Tokyo in hopes of moving forward protracted peace negotiations between the state and the secessionist group.

President Benigno Aquino III quietly flew to Tokyo on Thursday to meet with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in a suburb in Tokyo and they agreed to settle negotiations within the current administration.

“Both agreed to fast track the negotiations,” a Philippine government statement said after Aquino met Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Murad Ebrahim on Thursday near Tokyo’s Narita airport.

It was the first time in Philippine history that a meeting of such a high level took place abroad between a sitting president and the head of an insurgent group, said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.  Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said Aquino “sought the meeting” as government prepared its agenda for official talks.

While accompanied by officials on both sides, Aquino and Murad met one-on-one, joined only by note-takers for documentation, Leonen said.

Leonen described the meeting as “cordial but consisted of a frank and candid exchange of their views about the frames of the continuing peace talks and some possible approaches that the parties can take to bring about a peaceful settlement.”

“Both agreed that the implementation of any agreement should happen within the current administration. Both agreed to fast-track the negotiations,” Leonen said. Aquino’s six-year term ends in mid-2016.

Besides Leonen, the government party in the talks included Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Members of the MILF Central Committee joined Murad in the “informal talks.

MILF vice-chairman Ghazali Jaafar said it was a “fruitful meeting.”

“The government is serious in looking for genuine solution to the problem,” Ghadzali Jaafar, political affairs chief of the MILF, said by phone.

“Both leaders talked about the Bangsamoro problem as well as possible solutions to the problem,” he said.

“The government is serious in looking for (a) genuine solution to the problem,” said Jaafar, who did not travel with Ebrahim.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been waging an insurgency for more than three decades to carve out a separate Muslim state in the mostly Catholic country’s southern island of Mindanao.

The rebellion has killed over 150,000 people and stunted economic growth in the mineral rich but impoverished southern region.

Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, failed to sign a peace deal with the MILF during the nearly ten years she was in power.

Large scale fighting erupted in 2008 when rogue MILF commanders launched attacks in response to the Supreme Court outlawing a proposed peace deal that would have given them control over vast tracts of land.

More than 750,000 people were displaced at the height of the fighting, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

About 400 civilians and fighters from both sides were also killed.

After Aquino came to power last year, peace talks resumed between the two sides in Malaysia, with the last round held in June.

The government said Friday that the Japan meeting was the first time a Philippine president had held face-to-face talks with the MILF chairman in 14 years of on-and-off peace negotiations.

The official negotiating panels of the two sides are now expected to head back to Malaysia to continue the talks in the middle of this month, both parties said.

The MILF broke away in 1978 from the Moro National Liberation Front, which launched a bloody separatist uprising in Mindanao in 1971 before signing a peace treaty with the Philippine government in 1996.

The treaty created a limited self-rule area called the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that has so far failed to uplift the condition of Filipino Muslims, who remain among the country’s poorest.

The MILF is the largest rebel group in Mindanao, but the area is also home to a small band of Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants, as well as other armed groups who conduct kidnappings and extortions to raise money. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao; Agence France-Presse

Originally posted at 3:44 p.m.

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  • joboni96

    congrats pres noy
    for the initiative and courage
    to al haj murad too

    now we can be stronger
    to face the tsina seagrab
    and foreign control of
    our economy
    towards better quality of life
    for all pilipinos
    specially in mindanao

    • Anonymous

      My parents were the early settlers in South Cotabato a partitioned province of a large Cotabato province before World War II. As long a the govt will ask the residents of our province either by plebscite or referendum prior to agreement I think this will advance the peaceful settlement in Mindanao as whole.. We all want Mindanao to be a land of peace but we should not be sold just because we want peace with the MILF..  

      • Tommy Romuros Pangcoga

        Mindanao is not to be sold. The issue is ancestral rights over proprietary rights. all lands legally acquired will never be contested. giving to the moro their right to self determination will not “sell” mindanao to the moro. ancestrally it is theirs and the lumads by right. but at this day and age, an accommodation of the rights of settlers and originals of mindanao must be set up that is mutually agreeable to all. then let the ball of fate roll after that. any “carving” would still be under philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity (refer to hong kong and china, aceh and indonesia, etc, etc). what is important is that animosity is mitigated, reconciliation is promoted, impartial justice for all is upheld, and real development is made to take root in mindanao.

    • roy

      I just hope that the Muslims are,,true to there has been 30 years..has been any change to what they want or another joke to us?? Are they honest ot what??

      • Tommy Romuros Pangcoga

        Muslims roy? Is it a war between Muslims and Christians? Is that what you think? Boy do you have your facts straight or what? I suggest you read more history books about mindanao. para naman macorrect yang perception mo. its very disturbing to think na may mga ganyan parin ang pag iisip.

    • roy

      it has been 30 years…are they really serious or what??

  • Anonymous

    good news  sana naman  magkasundo na para matapos na ang hinwa-ang ito  since from the beginning of this trouble in mindanao elementary pa ako  hanggang ngayon  lolo na ako  i have not seen a development on it puro  patayan  nobody benfited on it  walang nakinabang  ang biktima at taong bayan  yon mga nakatira sa mga lugar  na nndoon ang mga MILF, MNLF, NPA,MGA SUNDALO  CAFGU  at kung ano ano pa  ang laging kawawa ang karaniwang tao  lalong lalo na yong mga kapatid natin mga muslim sa mga liblib na pook kawawa ang mga bata  matanda  na hindi nila alam kung ano talaga ang nangyayari  they are being blind  by the time   so i pray  na matapos na sana ito…………………

  • Herbert

    “quietly flew”? Something smells fishy with this. By the way why is Mr. Aquino negotiating with a terrorist group who’ve killed hundreds of innocent Filipinos plus foreigners? Isn’t this terrorist group needs to be exterminated instead?

  • Anonymous

    I congratulate the president on this bold move. I commend the initiative to bring the rebels into the fold of law. The MILF has to reciprocate this action though. The Philippines does not have much resources to begin with and a significant portion of these resources is wasted fighting the rebels where nobody benefits. MILF should realize that the current government’s initiative may be the last already. Sri Lanka has provided a model on the progress a country can have when the rebels are crushed. It is easier to settle political differences through negotiations but the rebels must also realize that a military solution is not off the tables if they don’t come to terms with the government. The country can’t be on a holding pattern with the rebels forever.

  • Anonymous

    hindi ba natin pwede ibigay na lang ang pinas sa kanila? kung ayaw nila maging part ng pinas eh di wag. sumama na sila sa borneo.

  • Mang Teban

    Our president was ill-advised on this one. Or, if he decided on his own, it is not the time now to talk to the rebels. As a matter of fact, it only emboldened the rebel group, MILF, and we will see further “talks” that do not end up in peace but in concessions to grab more lands in  Mindanao and ask for more autonomy. What more is there to talk about? Why does our government talk to rebels in time of peace? What war is going on? Is the ARMM not enough “bending backwards” from the government to accommodate these rebels that do not represent the Islamic community in the Philippines as a whole? Instead of integrating the Muslims and uniting “cultural, ideological, and religious” differences, the direction our government is going is to appease and give in to the demands of the small rebel organizations to “quiet down” and stop armed conflicts. Can beheaded Marines and tortured ASG suspects quiet down the personal vendettas?

    Questions like these are basic premises on what P-Noy should have thought about before rushing to Tokyo for a “hush-hush” informal talks. What about the NDF? Is our president going to fly to Europe to make another wasteful, ill-advised negotiations?

    From my point of view, these rebel groups, Muslim extremists and communists and plain criminals, are enemies of the State. Change the outlook of our soldiers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and our crime-busters in the Integrated National Police
    A) FROM one that is afraid of “human rights” cases slapped on them by CHR and filed by noisy provocateurs affiliated with these shadowy “cause-oriented” organizations holding endless “kilos protesta” on anything and blaming US imperialism – an old trick to put the Philippine president on the defensive;
    B) TO that which our defense troops will do their individual functions to preserve peace and order and devoid of pressures from the Leftist groups. Trabaho lang, walang personalan.

    All that the president has to do is IGNORE these law-breakers and ORDER full force to run after criminals, Muslim extremists, armed communists, etc that rock our peace and harmony and drive down our economy in helter-skelter. We have given so much allowance for negotiations. Tigilan na po ninyo sana.

  • Jorell

    Sana matapos na ang matagal na sigalot sa Mindanao para naman umunlad doon.  

    • Anonymous

      Subukan ng gobyerno pabayaan ang magbuo ng pwersa ulit ang ILAGA. …muslim area lang naman ang di maunlad sa Mindanao.

  • Anonymous

    Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, it was Cory, the president at that time, who flew to Mindanao and had a talk with Nur Misuari for a proposed peace talk. First time din yun, kaya lang dito lang sa Pinas ginawa ang usapan.

    Sana pagkatapos ng peace talk, hindi na manganak ang MILF tulad ng MNLF nanganak ng MILF pagtapos maikpagsundo ang MNLF sa pamahalaan.

  • John Chameleon

    What about the BIFF under the violent and criminal Umbra Kato? Will the MILF help stop this murderer along with his rogue members?

     After a peace negotiation with the MILF will be consummated, expect the BIFF to get active and ululate political demands like what MNLF and MILF did before. They will hold merciless attacks and raids, burn villages, kill the residents including children. And afterwards when the government feel helpless because they cannot quash the war-freak BIFF, here comes another negotiation. As precedents demostrated, the BIFF will ask for another land area they will declare as ancestral domain.

    And then another Moro rebel group will emerge and again demand more and so on. This must be considered now by trashing the BIFF to the end.

    I also agree with Mang Teban. Why fly to Tokyo just to meet the MILF leader? That is giving credit to their rebellious deeds.

  • Serge Imperio

    let’s give peace a chance for the sake of the younger generation- they who suffer the most because of the continuing conflict in mindanao

  • John Chameleon

    The foreign media scooped this news much, much earlier than the Philippine press. It showed that they knew all along the negotiation while the local press are kept blinded. Not a single person of the many secretaries on communications announced this talk. Carandang is busy with his demand from Congresswoman Magsaysay for an apology.

  • Anonymous

    Parang napakahina naman ang ating gobyerno.
    Wala bang tugon dyan ang Muslim Community like OIC ?
    …sana mali hinala ko na funded ng OIC ang MILF.

    Sana may gumawa ng tutuong documentary film tungkol sa Mindanao para malaman ng lahat kung ano meron. Ang Media kasi namimili ng ibalita, yung bang malagim ang dating para patok at kikita ang adds. hayyss…kaya tuloy ang Mindanao = Magulo. dapat si Erap ang hahawak peace process para durog yang rebeldeng muslim.

  • Anonymous

    It remains to be seen what the final substance of the peace agreement will be. I think everyone should wait for that, and not jump into conclusion based on a single meeting on neutral ground. If the talks happened in Malaysia, then we should be concerned. If the signing of final agreement, such as the cancelled MOA-AD, happens in Malaysia, then we should also be concerned. If Umbra Kato’s group remains an undisciplined bunch, then we should be concerned, and it is the side of MILF that should prove that they can control it.

    While transparency is indeed the ideal, nobody should be too naive to think that no secret meetings are happening.

  • Ofel Tactac

    peace in mindanao is a fantasy, as long as poverty, lack of education, loose firearms and militants abound, any peace agreement will be nothing more than on paper. MILF renegades and abu sayaff members will continue to cause havoc and will be supported and tolerated by elements in the MILF mainstream solely out of the fact that they share the same religion. They will stab the government in the back given the chance and opportunity.

  • Anonymous

    as what gov. pinol said before, “the peace talks with the MILF should not be open ended”.  If for any reason it cannot be solved through diplomatic means then I definitely believe that an armed resolution will be supported by the majority of the Mindanaoans.  Sri Lanka got rid of the Tamil tigers, same thing should happen to the MILF.  Cut their funding, go after the financiers, isolate them and run them down.  They’ve caused a lot of misery to the ordinary folks already.  Remember Lanao del Norte where innocent residents were hacked to death, houses burned and looted. 

    Time will come when the majority of the people in Mindanao will stand up and fight.  

    • Tommy Romuros Pangcoga

      history has two sides. i suggest you read the atrocities of the majority to the moro as well for the past century and beyond. disrespect to ancestral land ownership, disrespect to distinct way of life, disrespect to identity and integral development (the way they want to grow). history is not only monopolized by Zaide and Agoncillo. Let us be impartial and objective if we are to be treated as credible

  • Anonymous

    a head of state like Pnoy is ill advised to meet with a belligerent group in a foreign setting because that in itself is conferring recognition to that group or head of that group equal footing as a head of government. that is in political public international law a symbolic act of tacit recognition. it is like Obama meeting with the Muslim head which means recognition of him as of equal footing with Pnoy. this maybe an impeachable offfense even if it is not the true intention.

    • Tommy Romuros Pangcoga

      Japan is neutral ground. A meeting of the principals of the parties in conflict on neutral ground is but part of the process of a negotiation. normal. SOP.

  • Donald Klaus

    Philippines needs to help the people and plan changes that make the environment a better place to live. Also, better school structure for little kids and upgrade the technology in classes.

  • Tommy Romuros Pangcoga

    GRP MNLF final peace agreement was signed in 1996. Organic Act RA 6734 creating the ARMM was enacted in 1989. The peace agreement did not brought about the creation of the ARMM. The ARMM is a creation of government. RA 9054 is an attempt to harmonize the Organic Act and the 1996 peace agreement. but the final peace agreement and RA 9054 have provisions that are inconsistent to one another. There is no harmony between the two documents, so to speak. The attribution of ARMM to the GRP-MNLF agreement should be corrected.

  • Anonymous

    Magandang panimula at hakbang ito na ginawa ng ating pangulong Aquino at
    ang grupo ng MILF,sa ipagtatagumpay ng usaping pangkapayapaan na
    matagal ng suliranin ng bansa.Panahon na para magkaisa ang mga Moro at
    mga Kristiano tungo sa pagkakaisa,pagbabago at pag unlad ng Bansang

  • Anonymous

    peace! nakakasawa na..f gusto ng peace..start na lng sa kids kc wala pang hatred sa heart nila kc wala pa experience..ang gulo sa mindanao d lang dahil sa mga rebelde…ang bombings ba rebelde lng may gawa? ung sa davao nun..inamin ni trillanes un at iniiutos ni gloria para isisi nam a milf..ibng xtians kc makitid..ang alm lng muslims ang masama..ang galing nyo mag turo pero d nyo nakikita mali ng kapwa xtians nyo..dag2 hatred namn un..f talagang k ang taga gobyerno..kht npa wala rin sana…may militar pa na xtian na nag pa convert sa islam kc sawa na sa war na xtian missionaries naga pondo..s ramos member rin ng elite group na ang laro ay gaya america..gusto war para may pera..hinayaan nya lng palakas ng pwersa ang milf nung time nya..he will bring indonesian war sa mindanao daw..ganyan america..war para maka kuha ng oil kht wala namn weapon of mass destruction..mahirap kc sa ibng xtian ang lilinis eh kasamahan nyo nagdadala ng war sa mindanao…ayaw nyo lng tanggapin kc malinis talaga kayo..pwera sa d makikitid at true smart..f d umuunlad ang pilipinas..d lng dahil sa mga rebelde..puro xtians ang sa taas..kurakot namn..d rebelde pero dami naghihirap dahil sa kanila…f seryoso sila na ubusin ang mga rebelde..nun pa sana..nagawa ni erap pero nilag2 namn xa ng generals nya kc nawalan sila ng negosyo..ngaun..rebelde lng ang naga joke?.kaya pinaalis nila si erap para d mahalungkat anomalya nya f si gloria na..pinalaya ni gloria si erap kc kala nya manalo at safe xa..pnoy ang nanalo..ngaun khit d rebelde si pgma..marami namn xa naipapatay na activist at civilians dahil s war…itong ibng xtians na makitid kala mo kung sinong magaling..turo ng turo..pansin nyo 3 fingers nyo nakaturo sa inyo..ask nyo mga xtian liders f talagang malinis..baka sila pa terorista..d ung limited alam nyo sa totong laro ng liders nyo…PEACE! PEACE!..sana true sincere din liders MILF..pera2 namna lahat..asar..ibenta na lng nila sarili nila, ung mahilig sa war at makikitid..ang matira peace loving xtians and muslims para masaya..hehehe..peaceeeee!

  • Guest

    Hail to the President and the Chairman of the MILF!  Let the MILF start with ARMM and let us see it from there.

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