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PEACE ACCORD SIGNING: MILF hits govt’s delaying tactics

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Friday said it was frustrated by the tactics being used by the government to delay the signing of their comprehensive peace agreement. Group vice chairman Jaafar Ghadzali cited the latest statement of Teresita Quintos-Deles, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, urging the rebel group to be patient as the government peace panel was trying everything to resolve pertinent issues in connection with the peace agreement. “The MILF is frustrated about what is happening to the peace talks now,” Ghadzali said. “We’re very much concerned about what is going on. In other words we are not happy, especially our leaders and commanders on the ground. “Until now, the signing of the Comprehensive Compact Agreement has been continuously delayed, and the feeling of some of us is that the government is deliberately delaying the signing of the agreement.” Ghadzali made his statement even as the Aquino administration and the MILF appeared to be running out of time to sign a comprehensive peace agreement as a result of their disagreements on its annexes, including those on wealth- and power- sharing. The government and the MILF are also at odds over the alleged illegal arrest of four of the group’s members by security forces in Mindanao recently. The administration on Friday admitted there had been delays in the resumption of the formal talks with the MILF, but said the government negotiating panel remained confident a comprehensive peace pact could be signed before the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address on July 22. Government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said the administration was “trying [its] best to come up with compromises,” especially on the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing. “Our goal is still to sign the agreement before the President’s SONA,” Ferrer said. But she said “if it is hard to agree on certain provisions, certainly the signing will take longer.” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said formal talks could not resume because the government had flip-flopped on its initial commitments on the three remaining annexes. “We could not agree so there is nothing to talk about. The government panel keeps changing its position on the annexes. Wealth-sharing and power-sharing are the real essence of autonomy,” Iqbal said. “The problem here is that we have a time line. Maybe the government is not serious. They have to be firm and decisive and they must carry a mandate when they face us.” A well-placed source in the peace process noted that the government and the MILF panels “initialed” a draft document on wealth-sharing that provides for a 75-25 formula in favor of the Bangsamoro. However, after the initialed draft was presented to the Palace, the government negotiating panel asked the MILF to reconsider the formula and pushed for a 50-50 “compromise.” Both panels have barely five weeks to complete the annexes on wealth- and power-sharing as well as on normalization. And the government panel will have to evaluate the merits of the complaint of the MILF’S Central committee that the security forces arrested four of the group’s members illegally, and so must be freed. “I can confidently say that between the results of the May 13 elections and the President’s next SONA at the opening of the 16th Congress in July, the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro will be the next big event marking the mid-term of President Aquino,” Ferrer said in an earlier statement. Ferrer said she also expected the Transition Commission, the body tasked to recommend a framework that will create the Bangsamoro political entity, to complete its work before the end of the year. “The draft basic law will be submitted to Congress and will be certified as urgent by the President,” Ferrer said. “The scenario is that by early 2014 or mid-2015, we will be able to pass the law after which a plebiscite will be held in the areas that will be defined in the law.” The President earlier said he wanted the Basic Law to be enacted by 2015, with an interim authority in place a year before the 2016 national elections. “We need the organic act enacted into law by 2015,” Mr. Aquino said. “This will be passed through Congress and approved in a plebiscite and we hope to install the new government with a mandate after 2016 elections. There will be an interim authority from 2015 to 2016.” With Florante S. Solmerin and Francisco Tuyay
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