Press Release
December 14, 2008

Pimentel backs creation of advisory council on peace talks

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the administration's plan to form a congressional advisory panel to help in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a positive step which deserves bipartisan support.

Pimentel stressed that the government should pursue the negotiation and hammer out a peace formula even without the assistance or intercession of another country or foreign organization.

"That is a good move. Still, what is important is that as Filipinos, we should take hold of the negotiation - not rely on foreigners to do it for us," he said.

Reports emanating from Malacañang said Pimentel, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Rodolfo Biazon are being eyed to represent the Senate in the Advisory Council. From the House of Representatives, the prospective Council members are Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong and Shariff Kabunsuan Rep. Didagen Dilangalen.

"I want to emphasize that I am not seeking to be appointed as a member of the Advisory Council. I have no monopoly of what is good for our people in Mindanao," the senator from Mindanao added.

Pimentel said the government is facing a difficult task in restarting the stalled peace talks in view of the stand of the MILF to resurrect the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was voided by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

He noted that the Palace has issued statements that it will try to forge a new accord on ancestral domain but without the provisions or features that were adjudged by the high court as unconstitutional.

"We welcome the move of both sides to return to the negotiating table. But the task will be tougher and complicated. The MILF is insistent on reviving the botched agreement on ancestral domain," he said.

The senator from Mindanao observed that even MILF leaders were skeptical if the moves to revive the peace talks with prosper and yield tangible results. Mohaguer Iqbal, chief negotiator of the MILF panel, was reported to have asked "what shall we talk about?" in view of the government's stand on its demand.

Pimentel said the Supreme Court invalidated the agreement on ancestral domain because the Muslim Juridical entity envisioned by the accord will give it the attributes of a sovereign state such as control of territory, establishment of its own security force and representation in the United Nations and other international bodies.

He said the new negotiation will not yield any tangible result unless the government can offer something new, a proposal that will live up to the aspiration of the MILF and Muslim Filipinos for genuine autonomy.

Pimentel said the creation of a BangsaMoro federal state will suit the expectations for a peace formula acceptable to both side. But he said the BangsaMoro federal state can only be established as a part of a federalized Republic of the Philippines.

The adoption of a federal system is embodied in Senate Joint Resolution No. 10, authored by Pimentel and signed by a majority of the senators. The resolution seeks to convert Congress into a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution.

Pimentel expressed the hope that newly-designated chief government negotiator, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, and other members of the new government panel, will see the wisdom of offering the federalism proposal as a long-term goal for lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.

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