Arroyo knew MOA details — Esperon

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:35:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was aware of the details of the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain that he initialed in Kuala Lumpur early last month.

Esperon, speaking to reporters during the 15th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), explained that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) involved consultations with the Cabinet and guidance from the “top leadership.”

Malacañang backed out of the peace agreement after its constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Any product of negotiation (is) always submitted to the President for further executive action or for further guidance to the negotiating panel,” Esperon told reporters.

Asked if the President had seen the MOA, Esperon replied: “Yes, of course, the President knows what the panel has been going through.”

When told that his statement ran counter to the claim of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera before the Supreme Court that Ms Arroyo had “never” seen the document, Esperon clarified his remarks.

The President had not seen the MOA “in its entirety,” Esperon said. “I mean, in the end, we will always seek the guidance of the President, not exactly expecting that she knows word for word the MOA itself. But the guidance would come from the top leadership,” he said.

Esperon flew to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to explain to Malaysia, which moderated the peace talks for more than 10 years, of the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Esperon said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed disappointment over the collapse of the peace talks.

One of the members of Esperon’s now-defunct peace panel, Rudy Rodil, declined to comment.

Former peace adviser and now election commissioner Rene Sarmiento, also present at the OPAPP event, told reporters a peace process “takes a lot of patience.”

He said the country had learned a lot from the issue of the MOA itself, such as the importance of the involvement of civil society, being stakeholders, in discussions.

Esperon said that even if the government would no longer sign the MOA, the document could still be used as a “major reference,” particularly its “substance,” in future negotiations with the MILF.

“The MOA represent a meeting of minds. It also contains consensus points and therefore by that alone, as a product of four years and seven months of deliberations—long deliberations, long negotiations—it cannot just be put aside and so it becomes a major reference,” Esperon said.

Esperon said that while he already had a short list of possible members of a new peace panel, its recomposition “is not our main concern right now.”

Esperon said the government had asked a Malaysian facilitator to relay to the MILF that the peace process would continue but they (the rebels) should surrender the two commanders responsible for recent attacks in central Mindanao—Ombra Kato and Commander Bravo.

Esperon said the government was shifting to a direct dialogue with communities which would “not only provide the ideas for resolving the conflict but will also definitely provide the constituency for peace.”

“That is actually the shift in the paradigm. For so long a time, we have been conducting dialogues only with the armed groups,” he said.


My Take:

Hmmm.. interesting remarks.  Maybe the Supreme Court should comment on this.

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