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COTABATO CITY—A senior Moro rebel leader on Monday demanded a genuine Muslim autonomous state not subservient to Manila, and President Benigno Aquino III indicated Christians and Lumad would be given a choice of whether they would want to join a new autonomy setup.

Civil society groups warned against a military-civilian “third force” which, they said, could sabotage a peace deal between the Aquino administration and the Moro insurgents.

Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), denounced the 21-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a “fake” autonomy symbolizing mendicancy.

Jaafar reiterated the current MILF leadership would no longer push for a separate Islamic state and was ready to settle for a “Bangsamoro state” under the Philippine government.

For the first time after he met with MILF chair Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo four days ago, the President gave some details of what he and Murad talked about in their secrecy-shrouded meeting in Tokyo.

Talking with reporters in Manila, Mr. Aquino made it clear that a future peace deal would not be a purely executive agreement but “probably will take congressional action also.”

He also said “one of the things agreed upon is, how do we define territory.”

“At the end of that is a plebiscite, which is also my point,” Mr. Aquino said in Filipino. “The people who will be affected should be the one to say if they want to be part of [an autonomous region] or not.”

He added: “We will come up with a proposal that we will present to the people.”

Third force

In the face of scanty details released by the Palace, the leader of an alliance of prodemocracy Moro civil society groups—dubbed Maradeka—said the government and the MILF should be wary of military officers and local officials who might try to undermine a final deal.

“We’re worried about the third force—the spoilers of the peace agreement in the ranks of military officers and local politicians,” Maradeka secretary general Nash Pangadapun said in a phone interview.

Maradeka sat in as an official observer in the 2006-2008 talks between Manila and the MILF.

Another group, called the Mindanao Peaceweavers, also warned against such “spoilers.”

“We pray that the peoples of Mindanao and the rest of the country become ever more vigilant against ‘spoilers’ from all sides who will brook at nothing to scuttle anew the peace at hand,” it said in a statement.

The Peaceweavers is an alliance of peace advocacy groups composed of Christians, Muslims and Lumad.

System of mendicancy

“We do not recognize the ARMM as a solution to the problem of the Bangsamoro people,” Jaafar said in an interview. “We want a Bangsamoro state where its people are empowered to decide for themselves, charting peaceful ways and means to improve their social, economic and religious life.”

Jaafar said the ARMM was a “fake” setup because it “does not have autonomy, power… Up to now the region is still poor if not the poorest in the country.”

“(We) would demand empowering Muslim Mindanao, unlike the present setup of mendicancy,” Jaafar added. “We rely too much on the national government for practically all the region’s needs. This is an insult to… autonomy.”

Jaafar said the Bangsamoro state that the MILF was proposing would cover the present ARMM region with possible expansion.

“That’s the content of the Proposed Comprehensive Compact Agreement we submitted to the government. It’s good that President Aquino believes that we are sincere in talking peace,” Jaafar said.

He refused to give details of the MILF proposal.

Splinter group

MILF negotiators previously proposed the setting up of a so-called “substate” similar to a US federated state. It would perform all government functions except those pertaining to national defense, foreign affairs, currency and postal services, which would be left to the central government.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pinggoy expressed concern about the emergence of an MILF splinter group.

“Are we assured there will be no group organized after the signing?” Pinggoy asked, referring to groups like that headed by Umbra Kato.

Kato severed ties with the MILF early this year, accusing the Murad-led group of veering away from the struggle for self-determination espoused by founding chair Salamat Hashim.

Kato, who has formed a group called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), had expressed hope the Aquino-Murad meeting would conform with Salamat’s battle cry of an independent Moro homeland.

Kato doubted any agreement with Manila would be acceptable to everyone.

Kato has been the target of a manhunt for leading attacks on civilian villages in 2008 after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a government proposal for a Bangsamoro homeland as part of a peace package with the MILF.

Aug. 22-24 talks

Palace officials said the envisaged peace agreement would not be like the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain—or MOA-AD—that was forged during the Arroyo administration.

The MOA-AD, which detailed the areas belonging to a so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008.

Mr. Aquino said the two sides agreed on the need to define what “territory” means in their talks to be held Aug. 22 to 24 in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Mr. Aquino also said the ARMM would figure in the talks.

“The best thing I heard from Murad was when he said that our negotiating panels should be problem-solvers and not adversaries. We are here to solve the problem,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said no agreement had been reached so far, when asked how much autonomy the government intended to give the MILF.

“The bottom line is, we will make known to all stakeholders and even prospective ones as this is not a Muslim problem alone,” he said, pointing out that these included the Lumad and the Christians living in the so-called Bangsamoro homeland.

“Will it (ARMM) be expanded or will it be contracted? This will be discussed by the negotiating panel,” the President said.

Outside the justice department in Manila, members of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) urged the administration to take advantage of the “improving environment of peace talks” and release about 300 activists who had been jailed for alleged criminal offenses.

Carrying whistles and handbells, around 30 PM protesters reminded Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of her promise to work for the release of detainees held in jails nationwide. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Philip C. Tubeza

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  • http://www.facebook.com/serge.imperio Serge Imperio

    here we go again: after that initial euphoria over that meeting, everyone comes out with his own version of the outcome of the peace talks. how hard is it really to govern a people with different expectations and perspectives. as much as possible the government would like to consider the expectations of all the groups involved, but it might be impossible to grant all of them from the practical and political point of view. sleepless nights are ahead for pnoy and the negotiators 

  • alfred sanchez

    walang pinagkaiba sa hamas at hizbola gusto ng independent state dapat bombahin ng israel ang mga milf na ito

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7V3LRKVRNZAHKZKPRLAFIJXA5E Ming Mow

    palpak na naman si Penoy, natakot lang kase ang MILF kay Kato kaya nagpatawag ng peace talk sa gov’t para maprotektahan sila against Kato. Penoy talaga puro na lang pa media, wala naman nagagawa. haay. mga pinoy nga naman na bumoto kay penoy wala na ngang nagawa sa senado at congresso binoto pa dahil namatay ang nanay.

  • Anonymous

    and they will impose shariah and aim for the entire philippines for them to conquer
     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHOD5EA75DBBUH53UKLRXRK764 Mang Teban

    If I was to compare P-Noy to a chess player, he is one who makes a lot of blunders.
    Kung talaga pa lang exploratory talks yung secret meeting in Tokyo, bakit parang ayos na ayos kasi hindi pa man, heto comment ni pangulong Noynoy – “one of the things agreed upon is, how do we define territory.”

    Yari tayo riyan. Hetong Spratley islands ayaw natin bitawan pero itong Mindanaw, plano nang ipamigay ang ibang parte..walang kahirap-hirap.

    We will need not only Congress to approve this proposal but it needs a referendum from the people practically providing for an amendment in the definition of two terms: sovereignty and territory.
    Sovereignty cannot be exclusive as we now have to make an exception to an Islamic state. Akala ko ba “separation of church and state”? O, ano, mga magagaling humusga sa Simbahang Katolika, ano masasabi ninyo sa gusto ng MILF – a pseudo-ideological organization that is actually a religious one wishing to slice part of Mindanao for their masjid (temple)? Merdeka! Merdeka! instead of Mabuhay! Mabuhay!

    Why would Congress agree to let another independent “Bangsamoro republic ” reside inside the territory of the Republic of the Philippines? Can I trust our congresspeople and senators to fight to deny MILF their request? I am afraid that personal greed and illusions of grandeur will determine their votes.

    From the looks of what is going to happen next, P-Noy is already CHECKMATED.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4BSNMXBJCHKDSPR37C7ZHPSM44 AL

    Very sensitive issues… MILF demanding to have a genuine Muslim autonomous state, at first MILF is not a political party but considered as an outlaw due to their act of armed rebellions against the People of the Philippines… why will Philippine National Government will hid to their demands.  They can’t even put discipline to their ranks… one leader will play decoy to get what they wants from the government after which another splinter group will spring out from the same group of people and will say that they’re different from MILF… these is already an act threachery… why we need to trust and believe these people again… before we are dealing with Bangsa Moro, after which a splinter group came MNLF. After dealing with MNLF another splinter group came under the name of MILF, then Abu Sayyaf, but these are the same group of people from Bangsa Moro.  These people is abusing our generosity for them to live peacefully with us…  If only we had a corrupt free AFP we will not have to engage to this kind of problem… clean the AFP and stop these dream of the southerner…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4BSNMXBJCHKDSPR37C7ZHPSM44 AL

    New group spring out of MILF again (as what as i expecting to my earlier comment) that was named Bangsa Moro Islamic Liberation Fighter… see that attitude, they’re trying to outsmart our softness due to humanitarian reasons but they abusing it… Once we brought the battle at their doorstep they will shout to the whole world that we’re committing genicide, massacres what ever lies will come out to their mouth… these people speaks religiously of equality amongst mankind… but they don’t know what’s the meaning of it nor how to do it without pointing a gun on someone else’s… The new administration of Aquino should disarmed these people forcibly and let them be tamed back to school for them to know that hostilities is not an act of bravery or manly behaviour of a true warrior of God… what they doing is bullying and terrorism, they only act like a fierce fighter but without fashion to humanity…  

  • Anonymous

    It’s STUPID for Mr. Aquino to trust the bandit group MILF.  Let’s count the days before Bangsamoro declares independence and we will have to thank Noynoy for breaking our country apart.

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