GMA dissolves peace panel

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — NOT only will the government no longer sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, it has dissolved its panel negotiating peace with the MILF.

President Macapagal-Arroyo cited recent violent incidents committed by lawless MILF groups as she called for a “new paradigm” on the peace process.

“We have refocused all peace talks from one that is centered on dialogues with rebels to one of authentic dialogues with the communities,” the President said in her speech at the Philippine Trade Training Center.

“There will be no peace through violence, no peace agreement can be or will be reached through intimidation. The way to peace isn’t through the barrel of the gun,” she said.

She maintained that any negotiation with armed groups will be in the context of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Ermita said a new peace panel may be reconstituted to include more stakeholders if the MILF would be able to convince the government of their sincerity to go back to the negotiating table. He said this is if the MILF abides by the ceasefire agreement, commits no other violations and surrenders its renegade commanders.

But he also raised the possibility that some members of the peace panel could be retained. The government negotiating team is composed of retired general Rodolfo Garcia, chairman; Prof. Rudy Rodil, vice chairman; and Sylvia Paraguya and Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman as members.

Despite the dissolution of the peace panel, Ermita said the ceasefire remains in place and operations against lawless elements of the MILF continue.

Ermita denied the dissolution of the peace panel was a rebuke of its members even as he said the the signing of the MoA was “too formal” making it appear that it was already a done deal when it was just an agenda item.

“For some reason they lost their perception…Too much formality brought the attention of people…It became an attraction for the TRO to be filed,” he said.

“If we did not have much fanfare in signing e di sana, kami we never had informal signing of the consensus agreement,” he added.

But he said the Palace is not faulting the peace panel members knowing that they acted with the best of intentions.

“Di natin minamasama ang ginawa ng GRP panel,” Ermita said adding that the need to redirect the peace effort was the reason for dissolving the panel.

He said the decision to scrap the government peace panel was reached at Tuesday’s meeting of the National Security Council Cabinet group.

He said the President tasked Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to go on an official mission to Kuala Lumpur to explain the developments to the Malaysian government.

Pending the reconstitution of the peace panel, Ermita said Esperon will carry out a thorough review of all peace initiatives.