Former North Cotabato governor heads MILF ‘top spoilers’ list | Inquirer News
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Former North Cotabato governor heads MILF ‘top spoilers’ list

/ 05:39 PM September 01, 2011

ILIGAN CITY—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has come out with a list of 10 people who it considered as “top spoilers” of its peace talks with government.

The list, which was posted Wednesday night on the rebel group’s official Web site, is topped by former North Cotabato Governor Manny Piñol and includes former President Joseph Estrada, two mayors, two Roman Catholic bishops, two newspaper columnists, one congressman and a senator.

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It said the people on the list were individuals “whose only motive is to undermine and destroy the peace process for their own selfish end” and were listed according to the intensity of their alleged opposition to the peace talks.

“They believe the emerging peace threatens their power, world view, and interests,” the MILF said.

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It added that “hatred of Moros, religious bigotry, or jealousy of the MILF’s successes” were also factors that influence the so-called spoilers’ stance against the peace process.

“Sometimes, some even resort to violence to stop the process from succeeding,” the MILF said.

In coming up with the list, the rebel group looked into the individuals’ “past actuations during the controversy on the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)” in 2008, and their current attitude toward its proposal for a “sub-state” and the meeting between President Aquino and MILF chief Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan.

The list is then ranked “in the order of intensity” of an individual’s opposition.

Topping the MILF list is Piñol, also the province’s immediate past vice governor who  led a Supreme Court petition in 2008 to block the signing of the MOA-AD.

The aborted homeland deal, the high point of what had been until then an 11-year process, ignited year-long clashes between government and MILF troops that engulfed communities in Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Piñol, who has also stated his objections to the MILF’s sub-state proposal, is leader of a new group called Christian Leaders Convergence, which has expressed opposition to any expansion of the area currently covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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The proposed sub-state, which will be a special region with increased powers, calls for the inclusion of Moro-dominated villages contiguous to the present ARMM territory upon consent of majority of residents in a plebiscite.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Piñol said he was not a peace talks spoiler.

“I am now a private citizen. How can I even spoil the peace talks? Are we not even allowed to share our views and thoughts on the current negotiations?” he said.

Piñol said the MILF should “stop looking for scapegoats in their failure to convince President Aquino to give in to their demand for a sub-state in exchange for their promised ‘peace in Mindanao.'”

“How presumptuous could they be assuring us ordinary stakeholders of peace when they could not even have peace among themselves,” he added, referring to renegade MILF leader Ameril Umra Kato.

Apart from Piñol, others on the list, according to “intensity”, are Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, former President Joseph Estrada, Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Cotabato City Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Malaya columnist Ducky Paredes, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, and Senator Francis Escudero.

Lobregat and Cruz joined Piñol in the 2008 Supreme Court petition and supposedly continue to doubt the workability of the current MILF proposal.

Estrada had cautioned Aquino against the MILF’s sub-state proposal as leading to an independent Moro state.

In Zamboanga City, Mayor Celso Lobregat denied he was a peace spoiler.

“I am for peace and I am a peacemaker. I am a peace lover,” he told the Inquirer by phone.

“I am reiterating the position that peace talks should be within the realm of the Constitution. Would that mean that I am a peace spoiler?” Lobregat said.

In August 2008, Lobregat, along with Isabela City Mayor Cherrylyn Akbar and former Zamboanga Sibugay Governor George Hofer staged a protest opposing the MOA-AD.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said he was saddened by the MILF’s description of him.

“I am really very sad and very hurt. I was just speaking the general sentiments of the people, be it Christians or Muslims, because I wanted the people to be heard,” Jumoad said.

Jumoad said the Church promotes the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) “where peoples’ voices have to be considered before deciding any actions that will define the future of the people, the future of the communities.”

“I am very hurt because I am not a peace spoiler. I am for peace. I am for dialogue. I am for equality and respect and we never failed in reminding the MILF to go down to the grassroots level and conduct real consultation and that the peace talks must within the framework of the Constitution,” the prelate said.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz also denied the accusation.

“I am not a spoiler to the peace process,” Cruz told the Inquirer in an interview.

“What I’m fighting for is for Iligan’s territorial integrity not to be compromised,” Cruz said.

Several villages of Iligan City were included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity under the MOA-AD.

The MILF also clarified that it still considers Lagman and Escudero as “not hardened spoilers… because their comments are more politically motivated rather than their deep-seated biases or antagonism against the Moros of Mindanao.”

Khaled Musa, deputy chairperson of the MILF committee on information, noted the dropping from the list of transportation and communications secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and former Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin because of their current silence about the peace negotiations.

Musa added that the rebel group does not want to engage in a word war with Roxas but would rather “build new bridges.” Reports from Ryan D. Rosauro, Julie S. Alipala, Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Insurgency, Manny Piñol, MILF, peace process, rebellion, Regions
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