Arroyo’s DDR policy OK, says MILF


But secessionist group wants item last on agenda if peace talks resume

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday said it was amenable to having the government’s “DDR policy” be a guiding principle should another round of peace negotiations be held anew but said that it should be the last item to be taken up in the talks.

The rebel group, which has been fighting for a homeland for Muslims for decades, said it was willing to go back to the negotiating table but there should be no prerequisites of the kind Malacañang had set.

Malacañang has announced it would only talk to the MILF again if the latter agreed to disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR).

The peace talks with the MILF collapsed after the Supreme Court ruled against the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that would have allowed the group to carve out a homeland for Muslims in the South, and the subsequent armed incursions of rogue MILF groups in several provinces in Mindanao, provoking a counteroffensive by government troops.

“The DDR should be tackled as the last item in the stalled government and MILF peace negotiation, in case it resumes,” Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chief, said.

Jaafar said the MILF central committee had firmed up its stand during a recent meeting.

“For the MILF to lay down its arms, by force, as a precondition for the resumption of the talks would be construed as the government using its military might rather than the political approach that most civilized countries use,” Jaafar said.

He said the MILF also wanted the word “rehabilitation” in the DDR changed to “reintegration.”

In a five-point policy statement called the “MILF Declaration Manifest” that was officially released on Friday, the rebel group described President Macapagal-Arroyo’s DDR as “the new government road map to peace” that many countries in the world use in resolving armed conflict with the underground.

Jaafar said the MILF acknowledged that the DDR “forms part of the comprehensive peace settlement.” But, he said, it should be the last item, and not in the forefront, of the talks.

“When the DDR is taken up ahead of the comprehensive peace settlement, it is interpreted to be a military approach. Not in the way of a political approach that President Arroyo promised in 2001 when she replaced the all-out war policy of President Joseph Estrada to the all-out peace policy,” Jaafar said.

Peace groups alarmed

Renewed hostilities in Mindanao have alarmed peace groups, who said they could lead to a full-blown war.

An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Saturday admitted that the renewed conflict in Mindanao “has been extremely violent.”

“Mindanao has suffered its worst fighting since 2003,” Dominik Stillhart, ICRC deputy director for operations, told reporters here.

Stillhart flew in as the ICRC stepped up assistance to displaced civilians. He said the number of the displaced could run up to half a million people.

Deteriorating situation

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported that the number had exceeded 200,000 individuals from Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Maguindanao as throngs sought safety from the resurgence of violence.

“I visited evacuation sites and seeing the deteriorating situation of the IDPs (internally displaced people), we see it fitting to step up our aid,” Stillhart said. He visited the village of Libungan Torreta in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, on Friday.

“We could see in their eyes that these people have been displaced many times over,” Stillhart said.

More Red Cross workers

Bai Fatima Sinsuat, the local Red Cross official, said the number of people working in the Red Cross relief operations center had been increased in the face of the need for greater evacuation assistance.

Perry Proellochs, in charge of ICRC relief operations for Central Mindanao, said the number of Red Cross field personnel had also ballooned to about 50 from only five or six before the armed conflict started in July.

“There were so many people that need humanitarian aid and that’s our main concern, their health, hygiene and food,” he said.

Suara Bangsamoro, a militant Moro group, said the only way to prevent hostilities from spreading was to resume the peace negotiations. Charlie C. Señase, Edwin O. Fernandez and Jeoffrey B. Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

===========

My Take:

At least the rebels are still willing to talk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: