Opening Statement of GPH Panel Chair Marvic Leonen on the 30th GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks
Bismillah hir Rahman hir Raheem.
The honorable facilitator His Excellency Tengku Dato’ Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed. Our most esteemed counterparts led by His Excellency Mohagher Iqbal, Datu Michael Mastura, Professor Abhoud Lingga, Mr. Abdullah Camlian and Datu Antonio Kinoc who is standing in for Mr. Bobby Alonto, may he get well soon. The members of secretariat of the Malaysian facilitator, also the secretariat of the MILF. The honorable members of the technical working group of the MILF. The members of the International Contact Group, both of the state and non-state representatives.
At close to midnight of August 5, 2012, small units of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFF-BIFM) engaged in unprovoked but coordinated attacks on several army detachments along the national highway from Barangay Bagan, Talayan to Barangay Kauran, Ampatuan and in Barangay Tugal, Midsayap, Cotabato Province. The length of the engagement was short and sporadic, consistent with the conclusion that they were mounted to simply harass army outposts.
The Army, under the 601st, 603rd and 1st mechanized brigade, all of the 6th Infantry Division, repelled these attacks with almost no casualties. Government forces are, as of this time, engaged in clearing and punitive actions against this renegade group while being consistent with our ceasefire mechanisms and our protection of the civilians. We understand that coordination is happening closely amongst our Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities. We also understand that the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have ordered their troops to stand down and not to be involved in the ongoing operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We are appreciative of statements that have been made by Mr. Von Al Haq, the spokesperson of the BIAF, and Mr. Ghadzali Jaafar, Vice Chair of the MILF clearly expressing their disapproval and non-involvement of the MILF in these particular activities.
These attacks were suspiciously timed to coincide with the opening of the 30th Formal Exploratory Talks between the GPH and the MILF. Where the passion is high that there may be an agreement this year.
Clearly, this group of Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato are one of the few that are willing to go at lengths to deny our communities and our peoples the benefit of a just and lasting peaceful settlement to our armed conflicts. Clearly, they have lost the moral high ground: they have put communities and civilians in harms way for amorphous and illegitimate objectives.
The BIFF as well as Ustadz Kato and his commanders are not covered by any ceasefire agreements. They will be the subject of continued operations with all the sensitivities required by the rules of engagement to protect civilians as well as respect for the ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF.
These incidents serve no other purpose than to strengthen our resolve to find a credible, workable and just political settlement with the MILF. The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will also be able to fully unmask those groups who do not do justice to the many sacrifices of the many to find a just solution to the Bangsamoro question. The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will be able to do our joint advocacies so that our partnership can effectively deliver on our mutual promises.
Our negotiations are proceeding with undeniable momentum. We will certainly not pause because of unreasonable violent acts from those who cannot see that the just way to resolve our conflict is through patient and candid dialogue.
In this month of Ramadhan, where our priorities are made clearer by our individual sacrifices, may we see a clearer path ahead for an agreement, again this year.
We have no illusions that the next stages of our negotiations will still be as complex. We are certain that the presence of technical working groups will aid us in no small measure to break down these issues. Also, as we mentioned during the last round of talks, our principals will be confronted with issues that will require difficult decisions. And I am sure that our principals will be willing to make them and communicate them through us so that we can both work on these concerns.
At this point may I just introduce the members of the technical working group of the GPH. For power sharing, we have with us Mayor Ramon Piang of the Teduray, who have also served with us, with the panel during the previous negotiations, Atty. Joe Lorena is also in the power sharing technical working group and we have with us Usec. Chito Gascon, who just arrived a few hours ago and braved the floods just to get here. Usec. Gascon was also a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, then representing the youth. The official adviser of the power sharing technical working group is Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
For the wealth sharing, Sec. Senen Bacani will chair the working group, Asst. Sec. Anselmo Abungan of the DENR is here with us, Dir. Ma. Lourdes Lim from NEDA is also with us. Panel member Ms. Yasmin Busran Lao will also join their working group.
Now, more than ever, we are presented with the most viable conditions for concluding our agreements and having concluded them, to start yet a more challenging phase: the implementation of our commitments to each other.
Again, I speak for our entire team when I say, it is indeed an honor again to be here–hopefully for some of the last few times – and to be part of history.
Thank you very much.
Source: OPAPP Press Release