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Peace process between Philippine gov't and NDF, MILF now imperiled

06-03-2011 15:47 BJT

MANILA, 3 June (Xinhua) -- Hopes have dimmed for the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to craft separate peace pacts with the two main rebel groups in the country, the communist New People's Army (NPA) and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

On Thursday, Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political front of the communist rebels, called for the postponement of the scheduled resumption this month of formal peace talks until his jailed comrades are freed.

In a letter dated June 2 to Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla, head of the government panel negotiating with the NDF, Jalandoni said that the talks should be suspended until such time that the Aquino government would release 17 of their jailed NDF consultants in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).

The JASIG, signed in 1995 by the government and communist peace panels, guarantees immunity from arrest to NDF members, consultants and staff who are part of the negotiating team.

Jalandoni warned that the continuing failure of the Aquino government to stand by its commitment for the immediate release of jailed rebel consultants in compliance with the JASIG "seriously prejudices" the outcome of the peace talks.

Among the jailed communist leaders are Allan Jazmines and Tirso "Ka Bart" Alcantara who, according to the military, are both members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The government panel has yet to formally respond to Jalandoni's proposal but some quarters are already calling for the scrapping of the peace talks with the communist insurgents.

In the House of Representatives, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) Party-list Representative Pastor Alcover said that the ongoing peace talks with the communist rebels is doomed to fail because of what he called as the insincerity of the communists in working for peace.

Alcover accused the CPP-NPA-NDF of using the peace talks to pursue its goal of eventually overthrowing the government. "It would be best to stop this wasteful exercise where no one benefits but the CPP-NPA," he said.

The decades-old communist insurgency in the Philippines has left thousands of people dead and has cost the national government hundreds of millions of pesos.

According to the military, NPA fighters are now down to 4,000 but the CPP claims that the NPA's current strength is one for every 10 military or police personnel by enjoying the support of the people.

The Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police each have around 120,000 officers and men.

When Aquino took power in June last year, he vowed to solve all armed insurgencies in the country.

While the communist rebellion is scattered throughout the archipelago, the Moro uprising, now led by the MILF, is limited to a compact area in Southern Philippines.

The MILF has submitted its draft proposal for the creation of Bangsamoro substate in Mindanao during the resumption the talks in Kuala Lumpur last April 27-28.

University of the Philippines Law Dean Marvic Leonen, who heads the government panel in the MILF negotiations, has said that the government would submit its counter-proposal on the substate arrangement when the two panels meet again in Kuala Lumpur on June 27-28, 2011.

Just like in the case of the NDF, there are now concerns expressed by some sectors, particularly the huge Christian population in the Southern Philippines, on the substate proposal.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo noted that the proposed territory of the proposed Bangsamoro substate covers areas that are presently the subject of the implementation of the 1996 agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government, which is the present territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Quevedo said that if the substate plan would be approved, this would create collateral problems such as the status of the peace pact with the MNLF and the future of the ARMM, which is a constitutionally mandated body.

Some political analysts have said that substate idea is not dissimilar to the Bangsamoro juridical entity contained in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was already initialed by the MILF and the Arroyo government in August 2008 but was eventually junked by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

There is no guarantee, they said, that the high tribunal would not also reject the substate formula.

President Aquino has set one year as target date to sign the peace compact with the NPA and the MILF. But as things have developed, this would just be a wishful thinking.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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