Esperon on the MOA, 2 days before the hostilities erupted

The plebiscite will be highest form of consultation.

Peace adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr: The plebiscite will be highest form of consultation.


On August 14, 2008, Peace Advisor Hermogenes Esperon Jr. briefed FOCAP on the peace talks. At that time, he was hopeful about the peace talks. Notes on his FOCAP briefing.

i’ve just come from meeting with governors of mindanao presided by national pres, gov leo ocampos and attended by 22 other govs of mindanao. presented briefing there, had open forum attended by dnd teodoro, claudio, garcia and me as members of panel. would have wanted to present briefing presented in that gathering…just leave hard copies and soft copy of that for your reference. meantime not know if you have received message of governors…issued statement supporting peace process, calling for sobriety and asking that the option of war be not taken as an option at all. ..moa on ad is not final peace agreement, only tackles last of 3 substantive aspects of 2001 tripoli agreement, which is mother of peace talks…june 2001 pres signed that agreement as one of first acts of new admin, remembering events of year 2001…as 0ne of the brig commanders in north cotabato, occupying attacking milf camps. bec that was the national policy…not just land…respect and acknowledgement of bangsamoro…working title…could be expanded armm…could be federal state…or just the armm…as it is now. but of course there are the six towns of lanao norte which voted yes in 2001 plebiscite but unable to join armm…any expansion of territory would have to be by plebiscite which milf agreed to just recently. after moa, go to final peace talks to come up with final peace agreement…if there will be plebiscite congress will have to enact law that would authorize congress itself…congress will have to come up with parameters by which plebiscite will be conducted…try to give copies of moa and annexes…(if sc finds it unconstitutional) remain optimistic sc will decide in favor of us signing the moa. if tro will not be lifted, pursuit for peace will not stop. we cannot give up on this. we will have to come with a more harmonious moa. yes (renegotiate) it’s two way we have to get their side, now we know what will be allowed…but that is going beyond what will happen tomorrow. we will be at the sc tomorrow morning. (since aug15, when you came back, talks, interaction with milf since tro issued, what talk other firing of guns) difficulty of renegotiation we will have to be confidential about a lot of things bec we have to keep close to chest negotiating position. we have been meeting, talking to them..when we were in kl, by some means or another. they are disgusted, they claim it’s a done deal, and we claim it’s not a done deal until it is signed. i think we can feel that they would not want to openly disagree with sc although they have statements that it’s an internal matter to us…we have not given up on the moa. but the rule of law must always be upheld. it is never an embarrassment to uphold the rule of law, the powers of the sc. it is a universal truth that the judiciary is independent of the executive branch of govt. to them it might not be bec they are not a formal govt. to us..we cannot violate that. we will be at the sc tomorrow, we will get into the oral arguments tomorrow. by initialing it we have protected the document, the contents, words, annexes, so that when actual signing we are sure it is none other than has been agreed upon. by having initialized that docu we have to come to a meeting of minds, that is a big step after four years and seven months of intense nego after jan 2004 (criteria for inclusion of 735 villages) the orig position of milf was to include more than 3,500 bgys by executive fiat. that is maximum position. we have 735 bgys subject to plebiscite…category b, areas outside of proposed bje…we don’t know how it will turn out…whether they want to join the area later on would be up to them…gov ocampos…when he said, in the end si juan pa rin ang tatanungin…criteria…735 are now adjacent or contiguous to the present armm. there is a substantial muslim population. third, they won in the 2001 or 1989 plebiscite but were not included because the system was, the provincial vote was the determining total. even if the six towns of lanao voted to join but total provincial did not allow them to join, the provincial vote masusunod. the controversy is there…even if towns and bgys want to join but majority do not want you to join…do we recognize that, the voice of the minority. when you consult the majority, the majority wins against the minority…(run into present armm setup)…bec we are a group of island…there should be somewhere they could connect to…maritime areas inbetween those provinces could be considered maritime area which may be under their exclusive jurisdiction or jointly with the national govt, they call it the central govt…terms of reference…in the middle would be tripoli agreement…final peace agreement of 1996…the sept 2 1996 final peace agreement with mnlf…last paragraph tells us that all provisions of agreement must conform to phil constitution. you will not see phil constitution in moa itself, but para7, page10…these are the provisions resolved in last days of nego…any provisions of moa requiring amendments to existing legal framework…there’s the legal framework…territory…paragraph 2d, page 3 of the agreement…this is the paragraph that broke off talks last july 25…when they arrived we immediately went back to kl to renegotiate and this is the final wording…conduct and deliver, what do you mean by deliver? that is why we said legal…alangan namang hindi sila sumangayon sa legal measures. (in tomorrow’s oral argument, what could be strongest points) embargo and subjudice. (why positive) i do not want to be pessimistic about this. after moa signing we will convene for formal peace talks, we will endeavor to finish that in 15 months (give us picture of whole peace process, explaratory talks…memo…after the signing, supposed to go into comprehensive compact. after the compact…should go to aug 2009 plebiscite) compact comes 15 months after moa. plebiscite comes 12 months after moa. when we are negotiating final peace agreement, we would have done the plebiscite if congress passes the enabling act…i feel that because of positive momentum that we have gained, kung hindi sana na-aberya, if it was not aberrated, there would have been a positive momentum, we could even advance the final peace agreement itself so that before 12 months we would have finished the final peace agreement. (after compact) there will be a need to go to congress to ask for enabling laws…for congress to allow agreements or to have change or amendment in constitution if you are going towards federal state. we are happy to tell you there is joint reso in congress proposes for 11…11 federal states plus one admin region. if that is passed then the bje we are talking about could very well fit into that. it’s even a more comprehensive solution…not solve only bangsamoro problem but could give rise to a lot of opportunities. (bje council) would have to be part of final peace agreement (if 735 bygs vote against) that’s the voice of the people. if they don’t want to respect it what would be your mandate…don’t you think by that time we would be justified in doing more operations like we will in north cotabato? if juan would have said, the people have spoken. that means even mi would have to agree with the people (did they say) do we have to ask them that. i do not even have to ask them that it might be too premature adversaries as they are opposite of the table we do not want also to kill their aspirations. they are an impt sector of phil society, why tell them you will not succeed? we do not have to debate about that, let mr juan decide that…(those that critize gov for not being transparent enough about moa…before signing date) that could be valid but by our records we have 104 regional for a where we took this up, one 6 hours with city council of zamboanga city…another visit to zambo. on record that at least 104 consultations were done. when i came in june 12 already in northcot and maguindanao…make arrangements july14…met council…brief them..asking for ammunitions..and that’s when trouble with my kumpadre started…allow security forces…must have faith in them…in that sense i said we cannot support you in that…this is no longer year 2000l..attacked all camps here in northcot…cannot do that anymore because that is not the national policy. today the national policy is support the peace process…did we abandon people of northcot? there might have been some…but that’s the nature of…because these are nego…anyway if there is a lot of info and consultation, all these things will go into congress anyway. there will be hearings, consultations…the plebiscite will be the highest form of consultation…(drilon and roxas saying that this agreement creates state within a state, gives bje more powers than federal state…power to establish trade missions in foreign countries) aren’t provinces, cities have trade missions in other countries? of course i respect them. drilon is respected lawyer. but we have to read down the line of moa, if indeed moa gives powers beyond current armm…that is the aspiration of the other side, that’s why we put in provisions of agreement…go back to page10, para 7…shall come into force upon signing of comprehensive compact…and upon effecting necessary changes to legal framework…anything that would violate the constitution would not be allowed. para1 on general guidelines in peacetalks…march 1 2001…nego conducted in accordance with mandates of phil consti, rule of law..sovereignty of republic of phils…para could be violative of provisions of law but the constitution itself is our safety net. provided for in moa..in another language…legal framework but tor there is abundance of reference to phil consti. not final peace agreement, only stepping stone to agreement. (is malaysia pulling out of imt at end of august) the term of imt always ends aug 31st. every year since they were put in place in 2004…their letter when they pulled out…the composition of imt is 41 malaysians, 10 brunei, 8 libyan, 1 japan. japan has doubled its contingent. they are now two. their note verbale to kl charge of the phils said effective may10 we are starting our pullout and this will be finished by aug31. so we take it from there…(changed mind) no official communication…we have written malaysia thanking them for their…dfa written malaysia thanking govt for providing us 41 members of imt and expressing hope they could retain the 12. that is the only official communication we have. that’s may i think. i have not seen their answer. maybe if we ask them they might rethink their position. that’s one of the things we have to talk about very soon, but how can you talk about imt now when there is tro. we were supposed to talk about imt last aug5 after the signing. do you think it would be appropriate to talk about these things…(tro for retention of imt) we would have talked about it but the tro came…(no clear decision on whether or not…) we have but i won’t tell you…we have remedies to that. imt will always be needed. (just talking about malaysian) they have not pulled out…don’t worry about that, we have good friends in the malaysians (consultations…result of consultation is what) when you consult somebody which one will be followed? (what was opinion) many of them did not want (majority) no not really (idea of stand) i have no record of that as of now at the same time do not want to say that past panels did not do it. there were consultations. but after consultation if your recommendations are not followed, then what? zambo no, north cot, no, all others no, so what do you want, you go to war? no. you still go to nego. war is not an option here. because of their inputs the 3,009 were trimmed down to 735. from 3,009 to 735. davao norte, oriental, may mga bgys pa dun. how could that be ang layo naman nun. suriago norte, butuan…(right in understanding that gov is willing to make amendments to constitution) we’ll cross the bridge when we see the bridge…(want to sign moa, then later see what are the laws that need to be amended…) after all the moa is just a step towards the formal peace talks. in the formal peace talks…end result is final peace agreement…(some were concerned about allowing the bje to have representative to asean and un…)as part of phil delegation, yun ang essence nun. if indeed they are the only federal state, wouldn’t it be nice (cordi) o di humingi din sila. this opens up a lot of opportunities for other areas. senate reso 10 bec one sweep resolution to all these things. (plebiscite without charter change) no. never. cannot be. (milf can’t control own people, what guarantee even if after peace agreement signed) if you would have the milf as part of the new bje and probably in the end team up with mnlf and all other people in area, why don’t you leave that problem with them? they have to prove their leadership also. one thing is very clear. when we found out they were illegally occupying several bgys, decision made by pres to get them out from those bgys. employed existing ceasefire mechanisms…ccch was there, asking umbra kato to get out. on first day, moving into several areas to dungguan. that’s the pier in liguasan marsh…when you are already gathered, 300 or 200 of you, sop sa afp yan…lalagay ka ng security mo dyan…wherever you harbor, you have your security. in one of security detachments, that was fired upon by cvos who thought that was a group that would attack them. ang ginawa nila sa dungguan, nag-dig in. hindi muna kami aalis, pinuputukan kami…of course your soldiers will do as mandated, but with some effects…160,000 people displaced. 50 rounds of artillery, times 30,000. ganun napupunta yun. (in dungguan for over a month) that is why the ccch is always going there. for establishment of joint monitoring team outpost where have milf, afp lgu and ngos. that is what we did in midsayap jan 2007 up to march where we have all those incidents from midsayap going to datu piang of maguindanao…35km of stretch of road, fighting all over…jmat in rangaban..interagency, resolved all the land conflicts…

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