Government backs out of MOA on ancestral domain

Government officials brief the diplomatic corps on the latest in Mindanao and the peace talks.

Government officials brief the diplomatic corps on the latest in Mindanao and the peace talks.

The government is backing out of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain. Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said that was the gist of the petition the Solicitor General filed with the Supreme Court. One diplomat asked about land mines, and AFP chief of staff Gen. Yano said yes, land mines were used by the MILF rebels in some areas in Mindanao. Asked to assess the situation, Yano said it was “fluid and very volatile.” Read on for more raw data.

Briefing for diplomatic corps

Esperon: I will be presenting a briefing I had earlier presented to diplomatic corps earlier, with updates on how we are doing in view of hearings that will be held at the supreme court on the 22nd…..the social cost of Mindanao conflict…in 2000 alone, almost a million persons had to flee due to the all-out war…2003, more than 400,000 were displaced…in terms of foregone investments…the investments’ growth rate plunged from 17% to -5% from 2000-2001…It never recovered…especially again when we had the offensives in 2003. Considering the explicit and implicit losses…we suffered from P5b to P10b annually. The armed conflict…led to the econ marginalization of Mindanao…from aquino admin to present, the majority of people rate themselves as poor…damage…compelled a political settlement to the problem…govt under fvr succeeded in concluding grp-mnlf…major de-escalation of armed conflict…armm given more importance and substance as a tool of governance. Shortly after signing, govt opened talks with milf and this led to signing of ceasefire agreement in 1997….so that in 2001…gma brought new life to nego through signing of grp-milf agreement on peace…three aspects: security, which constitutes agreement on cessation of hostilities…humanitarian…commitments for rehab of affected communities, third ancestral domain aspect…with the talks we hope to address single question posed by milf in 1997, how to solve the bangsamoro problem.

Security: in Mindanao today we have our existing ceasefire related mechanisms….ccch…imt, that monitors implementation of ceasefire agreements…manned by composite group of representatives…ad hoc joint action group…since the above mechanisms were established, armed skirmishes reduced to negligible levels from 2004-2008. When we have ceasefire in place, only 15 incidents from 2004. Never went up more than that..peaceful climate encouraged more econ activities in Mindanao…on the second aspect, the rehab and devt aspect of the talks, currently have Mindanao trust fund reconstruction and devt program…supported by wb, us, Canada, eu…devt programs for bangsamoro devt institute…long term socio econ template for conflict communities with assistance of jica.

Ancestral domain – grp and milf panel agreed to segment issue…concept, territory, governance…4 years and 7 months…

Arroyo wrote badawi on may 6 2008 to update pm on status of grp-milf peace nego: pres arroyo emphasized principle of self determination preclude any future interpretation that would include independence. Also states that issues of constitutional nature excluding independence can be taken up with congress itself when these become necessary. At that time pres was thinking federal setup can accommodate..pres further stated federalism possible because several senators had signed resolution for consti change…this prospect was seen early this year. We could be seeing a different scenario now that some senators have withdrawn their support….not final peace agreement. The culmination of last aspect…only signals commencement of formal talks…the concept of ancestral domain not only about land and proprietary ownership…more of respect and acknowledgement of bangsamoro entity…ensures Christian lumads free to choose…present armm at its core, and 6 territories of lanao de norte that voted yes…and of course only upon passing of an enabling law by congress. These areas wherein a plebisicte has been proposed to be held, has been greatly reduced from previous position of milf…category b areas…those outside the juridical entity…affirmative socio-econ development assistance…maritime…become part of internal waters. Juridical entity joint jurisdiction in areas within 15 km but between 10-20 baseline…

Under the moa, existing licenses, agreements, will continue to cooperate and they wil be respected. These will not come into force…need for future discussions…not be view as end in itself. The constitution is not static. Article vii provides it can be amended through legal means.
Moa stalled by tro and we intend to overcome tro during the sc. If the two panesl cannot meet before 195…as things now stand we might not be able to meet the target. So the path to realization of mindanao’s sspri

Manifested to sc that we willp

Yano: current situation in Mindanao
We start with opns 2 weeks agon foriclby occupied by elements of 105th brigafde….residents to leave and evacuated..asked ccch for them to convine milf to leave …24 hour deadline too short bec we had to exhaust all hre…our troops no other recourse but to launch…just reoocupied the area…ongoing activity bec there were some sporadic harassment even after. Violation of ceasefire agreement and laws of the land. Background about the lanao del norte operations…18 august 2 a.m. maasin sanranggani…along coastlines of saranggani prov, harassed series of attacks on some..fierce fighting ensured in various areas between. About noontime we were able to push back to…70 hostages used as human shiiedls. Also iligan kulambugan road, connecting iligan city towards capital. Continuing in security and defense situations in coastal tllks…

Open forum:

(chances panels will meet before august 31 to discuss imt) just arrived yesterday from kl, able to talk to facilitator and our initial understand is that if we will find a time between now and aug 31, there will be a meeting between the 2 panels. Because the tor are decided upon by the two panels. Could not be a unilateral decisions. Trying best to find way to meet amidst the situation presently obtaining in Mindanao. But both of us have expressed optimism we could be meeting anytime. Minus that we will not have a new term of reference..lost services of the imt…just retain imt members present on ground…
romulo: you are saying hopefully the two panels can meet to determine the tor?
Esperon: yes
Romulo: but if no tor is arrived at and agreed, in the meantime the 12 malaysians and others will remain as international monitors.
Esperon: it lapses when aug31 comes and no new tor, in case of Malaysia they will pull out…because there is no term of reference, delegations will have to pull out.only hope is for two panels to meet. Without the imt we do not have the third leg of what is sustained in ceasefire, we will have to make do with what we have if we do not meet. Our agreement is we will find a way to meet before aug 31st.
Romulo: you have two legs…and other local monitoring teams. Third is international monitoring team.
Dureza: worst case scenario…no meeting..if want to continue, ccch are on ground…from experience the local monitoring team had proven they could be a big help in securing…everybody should not think it is the end of ceasefire when the international component is no longer functioning. Hopeful that inspite of the lapse, if there is desire on both sides, for milf and grp to continue working and keeping the ceasefire, al is not all..

Dureza: aug15 signing did not take place…case pending filed by vice gov pinol…on a very simple prayer, we’d like to get a copy of draft agreement. In compliance esperon provided copies…other petitions brought to sc issue of constitutionality. We felt that the issue has not yet ripened into a judicial issue that would necessitate the sc to make a ruling as to its constitutionality. There is no reason for sc to make a ruling on that particular issue on constitutionality. The sc conducted oral arguments….agreement not self-executory, still need to go to congress to pay laws…a federal setup is the trajectory. Need to be put to constitutional…initia statements by justices indicated they have their own doubts about it. There were issues…we are giving more than we should have given. Govt filed pleading with sc now stating that the position of govt is this: with all the views given by the members of the sc, and there is no ruling as yet, that we taken into account views they have presented…considered view of rp govt now that it is best we can continue negotiate on that particular agreement, that we negotiate until we come up with a final settlement. Govt at this present time will not sign that agreement in its present form. If the sc will dismiss case on bases of initial position that there is no case at all, it will not mean that govt will proceed now without restraining order.does it mean we are throwing away nego? We will further nego because there is no other alternative peace to war. Primacy of peace process has not changed but there are many paths to peace. Peace talks is only one. The others are inculcating culture of peace, peace educ, strengthening institutions, devt…the peace efforts will continue. Peace talks will have to have a little setback bec there will be a lot of work we have to do now. Why is present Mindanao situation a factor in signing? Because of the conduct of 2 commanders of milf. Umbra kato and bravo. Govt will have to continue reviewing this because there is position given by milf clearly, they have not authorized these attacks. If you pursue the statement, gives us a little doubt if we sign agreement in present form, and there are two of these commanders not complying with orders of leadership, no point in signing agreement. If you sign and there are those 2 commanders doing action, it will not bring peace to Mindanao. There are those saying milf sending 2 to threaten…this is also an indication that there is no point getting into an agreement where you see a group where govt is very sincere but they threaten govt by way of violent actions on ground. All these things will have to be taken into account. That is why we say we have to further negotiate with milf.

(in line of that scenario…from gen yano the security situation in the next few days, weeks…people working on aid projects) general situation…feel very fluid very volatile particularly in lanao provinces and north cotabato and surrounding areas bec there are ongoing operations and we expect skirmishes bet the two groups. At least 2 encounters in surrounding areas….volatile and very fluid…considering that operations are ongoing.

(encouraged to hear that govt of phils had three major agenda…security, overcoming tro in legal way and…all these three are very encouraging sign. We are also encouraged very much by restrained reaction from afp in situation. But perhaps my question…regarding the security situation…I know the afp I now operation to track down the perpetrators…in the process of pursuit, do you expect much strong reaction from their side so that there can be a possibility of escalation of use of forces during these processes) still optimistic we will confine problem to base commands. We feel whatever actions, pursuit operations, punitive actions against these 3 base commands are focused and will not affect base commands in other areas. We hope that is understood by hierarchy that our operations are focused…to enforce the law against those who committed these crimes.

(milf said they will not allow pursuit by govt of perpetrators..in briefing by esperon there was reference to ajag that’s supposed to take care of criminals and terrorists…any idea intention to use mechanism which is already built in in agreement with milf in pursuit of these criminal elements)
dureza: when umbra kato and bravo attacked innocent civilians, burned houses, massacred people, destroyed public properties, especially against civilians, they have brought themselves out of ambit of peace process and must answer for these. They must not go unpunished. Brought to bar of justice, our normal processes will be pursued, charges will be filed, warrants issued, if they resist arrest our forces will take appropriate force to implement arrest. There is P5 million reward for their arrest. Track against specifically bravo. Mechanisms of peace process will have to take back seat. We will not allow the peace process to shield them from the application of the law.

(hope operation itself not create new escalation of violence) if leadership of milf voluntarily bring to govt and submit bravo and his group to answer for law, that is the best scenario we would like to happen

bert Gonzales: there is a mechanism within peace process…what is clear now is we have classified bravo and umbra kato as criminals. That would be the ideal situation if we can have milf and phil govt pursue together the arrest of these two.

(we are all very mindful of efforts of govt…humanitarian consequences as well of present unfortunate set of events…pres and dswd working on ground…expected for govt to make larger international appeal for humanitarian support)
dureza: the answer is yes. Convergence meeting of Mindanao stakeholders at metco in davao to work on humanitarian aspect. The Mindanao working group is working very hard..in due time we are going to issue a call after we get our acts together. Govt will have to take the first shot…after that…social cost of this conflict is tremendous we don’t know how this will end…govt more concerned now to take measures necessary to minimize social costs to our people. We have realigned…upon my direction during the last week, to shift gear from peace building and capacity building towards immediate assistance to our people on the ground.

(landmines mentioned…any info on extent of landmines….cooperation staff traveling in these areas…)yano: yes after we have occupied…part of series of efforts to clear area of landmines. Two of our personnel victimized and injured. There were landmines planted in some of these communities. Part of our operations to clear not only milf elements but landmines, ieds…we had to deploy explosive ordnance teams and bomb sniffing dogs…to make sure before the civilians go back the area is clear of these landmines.

Romulo: have consulted with ermita and will have another diplomatic briefing next week. More clear picture on what is happening on the constitutional challenge raised in sc…these issues discussed like humanitarian issue, much clearer picture…as well as operations undertaken by military and criminal acts we will also have an update.

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