Get ex-presidents on board–Honasan
MANILA, Philippines—What better way to show the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the government’s good faith than by inviting all surviving former presidents to join the peace effort, Sen. Gregorio Honasan said Sunday.
The senator, who led several coup attempts to topple the government, said former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were not necessarily on the same page, but the administration could tap their insights and experiences in dealing with the rebel group.
“With their combined individual experiences, their inputs become very important since they were once in a position to decide on the matter,” Honasan explained.
However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, known to be a close ally of Honasan, had a different view. He said the MILF had chosen the path of war, undercutting the need for further talks.
Honasan recalled that Ramos was the first to initiate comprehensive peace talks that culminated in the proposal to create the National Unification Commission.
During Estrada’s term, the MILF’s Camp Abubakar fell to government hands after he launched an all-out offensive against the group.
Arroyo, however, chose to talk peace with the MILF and even granted them areas of temporary stay in a show of goodwill.
“It is a non-issue whether (the former presidents’ opinions) are favored by the administration. No law requires Malacañang to follow whatever they suggest but we must put politics aside for now to address our serious problems,” Honasan said.
The senator noted that the National Security Council only included several Cabinet members in aiding the President to form policies that might affect the MILF, and suggested an enlarged panel might be called for.
Council of State
“The President can convene a Council of State that could include the Chief Justice, the Senate President and the Speaker because definitely there will be constitutional, security and legislative issues that would be discussed,” he said.
Honasan said the government could not afford to deal with the MILF issue by itself “when clearly, all of us are affected.”
“I am not an apologist for the present administration but I think it is important that we show the MILF we operate in good faith. That despite the deaths of the 19 soldiers and the bloodshed in Zamboanga Sibugay, we continue with the peace talks. That would keep us on high moral and political ground,” he said.
For his part, Enrile appeared to be no longer convinced that the government should still negotiate with the MILF.
Enrile said the MILF’s massacre of the soldiers and its continued demand for a substate were indications enough that the rebel group was determined to make the government appear weak.
“That’s my impression,” he said. “If the MILF continues to demand a sub-state, that means war. They are not talking of peace. In effect, they are challenging the government.”
“This is because the MILF knows the government cannot accommodate that request. It is unconstitutional. Many of its members studied law. They know that,” he added.
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