Binay Urges all Sectors to Back Mindanao Peace Initiative

Philippines vice-president lauds decision of Moro Islamic Liberation Front to drop its agenda of establishing an independent Moro state

Vice-President Jejomar Binay rallied all sectors to support President Benigno Aquino III’s call to bring peace and development to Mindanao.

“For decades, the secessionist conflict has taken its toll on the people of Mindanao,” said Binay in a statement upon his arrival from Sweden Sunday.

“It is a conflict that has taken innocent lives, both Muslims and Christians, and deprived the people of Mindanao their share of economic prosperity,” he added.

Binay lauded the decision of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to drop its agenda of establishing an independent Moro state, as he said that this decision “sets the tone for sincere and meaningful negotiations between the MILF and the Philippine government.”

“I am of the conviction that such negotiations will lead to the recognition of the just aspirations of our Moro brothers, and the sharing of Mindanao’s bounty under a regime of peace, unity and brotherhood,” he said.

Aquino broke established protocol and secretly met with leaders of the MILF led by its chairman Murad Ibrahim last August 5 in Tokyo, Japan.

Marvic Leonen, government chief negotiator in talks with the MILF said such a move by the President was necessary in order for the talks to move forward. The nearly a decade old peace negotiations had been weight down for long by legalities and formalities.

Leonen said that the MILF had ceased to be a sessesionist group.

“They are no longer a secessionist group because their proposal does not include independence anymore. They are not asking to be a separate state. And therefore the implications that you are probably imagining, pardon me, are no longer there,” Leonen was quoted by reports as saying.

With his, Binay said the MILF’s move eases one of the big challenges that the country is facing.

“This move by far by the President is indeed a positive one. At least the issue over sovereignty which dragged negotiations in the past has been surmounted already. An, if you can recall the Supreme Court has declared the unconstitutionalty of that kind of an agreement,” Binay said.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that any agreement that will lead into the break up of the country into separate states is against the Philippine Constitution and thus, illegal.
Earlier, some sectors, including allies of Aquino, said the President had been “ill advised” for meeting with the MILF leaders without the benefit of having a peace agreement signed between them.

Senator Francis Escudero in effect, said that by agreeing to meet with the MILF leaders, Aquino had reconised he status of the group as co-equals.


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