“At this point the study on the consensus points as part of government’s exercise of due diligence is at concluding stage,” Garcia told members of the Moro rebels during the launching of the Bangsamoro Management and Leadership Institute in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan on June 4.
“In due time the government negotiating peace panel will present to our principal– President Gloria M. Arroyo and her Cabinets officials— the result of the legal team study and come up with acourse of actions to move forward the GRP (government)-MILF peace process,” Garcia added.
Although, top leaders of the Moro rebels viewed Garcia’s announcement as a positive step in the 11-year old peace negotiation, some still expressed apprehension on what will happen after Garcia will present their proposition to President Gloria M. Arroyo and her Cabinets officials.
“The legal team consumed more than 100 days already since February 22, when the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain was settled by the [both] parties. How long again will President Arroyo and her Cabinet study the findings of the legal team?” asked Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat, in a statement.
The government in February requested the MILF to give it time to further study some points of the ancestral domain agenda before the two parties will sign it.
Garcia said the government is very careful in studying the last three strands—concept, jurisdiction and control of resources, and the building of institutions— of the ancestral domain agreement, which he said are very essential to the implementation of any forthcoming accord.
He also admitted that the some points in the ancestral domain agenda could go against the ambit of Philippine Constitution and so requires additional time for them to find remedies like amending the Constitution. But the MILF is against the constitutional precondition and accused the government of not sticking to the original concepts.
“What if Arroyo and her Cabinet sit on the study result for months, and how will the government explain it? There is really credibility crisis here,” Musa said. MILF’s top leaders have blamed hawks in the Cabinet for derailing the peace process.
Malaysian facilitators brokering the peace talks and civil societies in Mindanao have advised the government not to tie down the talks to constitutional issues.
The agreement on the ancestral domain will be part of the whole final peace agreement. Other agendas have earlier agreed are security, and rehabilitation and development, as part of the Tripoli agreement in 2001.
Moreover, negotiators of the both parties admitted the need to resume the talks before the expiration date of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to save the five-year ceasefire agreement.
Garcia earlier told PeaceWorks that government is targeting to resume the talks before the August-31 expiration tour of duty date of the multi-national truce observes.
“If the IMT leaves, the ceasefire would be in shambles and the peace talks eventually freezes,” Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat. He added that decision to extend the tour of duty of the IMT is a bilateral decision and only during meeting of the peace panels, and agreed by the Malaysian government, as facilitator of the talks, as well as other contributing countries.
Malaysia, who led the IMT, has recently decided not to extend the tour of duty of its peacekeeping forces in Mindanao due to the slow pace of the 11-year old negotiation it has been hosting in Kuala Lumpur.
The withdrawal of Malaysian peace-keeping forces started last month.