From the Website of OPPAP
GPH Panel condemns BIFF violence, aims for success of peace talks
The GPH Panel, in a press briefing today, condemned the rise in violent incidents committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). “The BIFF attacks show a total disregard to human life and a wilful desire to block the progress towards achieving a peaceful resolution of the armed conflicts in Mindanao,” said GPH Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
From July-September, the government panel secretariat tallied a total of 48 violent incidents, including shootings, explosions and fire fights in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Basilan. Some of the incidents in Basilan involved alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf group.
“These acts show that the BIFF and their cohorts are bent on disrupting the peaceful option, and have no qualms to use violence against civilians in order to achieve their political objectives,” Coronel-Ferrer added.
The BIFF attacked last week a civilian outposts in barangays Rangeban and Tugal in the town of Midsayap in North Cotabato province. As they withdrew from the area, the BIFF split into groups that led to the spread of fire fights to barangays Malingao, Mirasol and Palongoguen in the same town. In the process, the BIFF abducted a total of 15 civilians including teachers and used them as human shields. Another group killed two other civilians, one of whom was beheaded. The following day they attacked a plantation in the town of Tulunan.
On September 26, the tower of Transmission Line #141 of the National Grid Corporation in Kabacan, North Cotabato was bombed by unidentified men, causing prolonged power shutdowns in parts of Central Mindanao.
“The Government will apply the full force of the law against those who cause violence and havoc on civilian communities, similar to what the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari forces did in Zamboanga City,” former Agriculture Secretary and government negotiator Senen Bacani said.
Negotiations with the MILF
According to government negotiator and presidential adviser on Muslim Concerns Yasmin Busran-Lao, “The peace process in Mindanao aims to isolate those who use violence from those who are ready to take the nonviolent, civilized path to social and political reform.”
She emphasized that while the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aims to “strengthen the partnership with the MILF as a peace partner in building effective and responsive autonomous governance” in the Bangsamoro region, it is open to all who wish to participate in non-violent political change.
“The peace agreement will allow for a fresh start of governance institutions in the Bangsamoro. There will be space for all those who wish to participate based on fair rules. We are optimistic that the Bangsamoro will grab this opportunity and will transcend personal, tribal, or organizational interests to bring about good governance for our people,” Busran-Lao added.
Asked about the “exclusion” of the MNLF in this process, the head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Secretary Mehol Sadain clarified that similar tracks are being pursued with the different MNLF groups and personalities who will commit to renounce violence.“
But the government panel member added, “The unity of the MNLF and the MILF cannot be imposed by the government. They need to build the bridges among themselves.”
“We will support such initiatives but we cannot force it upon them,” Sadain added.
GPH Panel Consultant Undersecretary Chito Gascon, meanwhile, noted that the government negotiators “realize the tremendous responsibility on their shoulders in ensuring that the peace negotiations with the MILF will bring about processes, mechanisms and institutions that will be appropriate to the complexity of the situation in Mindanao, effective, inclusive and participatory. But it cannot achieve this alone. All of us will have to stand up and condemn political violence, and support peaceful reform.”
On the recently released SWS survey showing a decline in June 2013 in the percentage of people hopeful that a peace agreement with the MILF will be released, panel chair Coronel-Ferrer said that the survey was done during the lull between the signing of the first annex on the road map in February and the second annex.
“People were naturally disappointed by the delay in completing the Annexes and the rise in violence in-between,’ she said. The Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing was eventually signed in July.
“The 70 percent who remained hopeful show that the majority want the talks to succeed,” Bacani added, “This expressed hope motivates the parties to work harder in order to reach common ground on the remaining issues in the Power Sharing and Normalization Annexes.”
The Power Sharing Annex provides a list of powers that will be devolved to the Bangsamoro Government or exercised jointly or concurrently with the Central Government. The Normalization Annex will address the security concerns such as the decommissioning of IFL weapons and combatants, and measures that will bring about reconciliation and justice.
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