COTABATO CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) declared the deactivation of its peace panel until the new Aquino administration completes the composition of its own peace panel.
The MILF's Central Committee said the decision was arrived during a special meeting of the highest governing body of the Muslim secessionist group last June 23 and approved by chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.
In a report posted on the MILF website, Luwaran.com, MILF secretariat head Muhammad Ameen said that functions of the MILF peace panel related to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the ceasefire will be handled or coordinated by the MILF peace panel secretariat.
Ameen said the entire panel will be reactivated as soon as Aquino decides to formally continue the peace talks and appoint a peace panel.
The MILF peace panel was comprised of Mohagher Iqbal, chairman; and members lawyer Michael Mastura, Lanang Ali, Maulana Bobby Alonto, and Musib Buat.
Aquino earlier declared that the government's position has not changed and that his administration will continue with the peace talks and dialogue.
The President however said that the negotiations must be characterized with transparency and trust, and that those who were not involved but who should have been involved must be involve and must learn from the lessons of the past.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles meanwhile said that the first order of business is to reassess the current state of peace talks with the MILF Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
Deles said that she will recommend to the President the formation of the new government peace negotiating panels, which will give fresh energy and fresh perspective for the peace process.
"I want as early as possible to give the clear message that we are serious in the negotiating table, and the first sign of this is the names we will give out (to compose the new peace panels). We will need great creativity, seriousness in crafting peace agreements," Deles said.
Deles said the Aquino administration will set up a compensation fund for the thousands of internally-displaced persons in the Mindanao armed conflict.
She said potential foreign donors have already expressed interest in contributing to the pool of money, although the specifics of the fund have yet to be worked out.
"(The fund) will be spent on housing, immediate livelihood and of course on health problems still lingering and whatever else is needed so they have a place to go home to," Deles said.
"There is a lot of international support going to this area. Some of them (the donors) have already spoken to me," she added.
Deles said the immediate beneficiaries would be the estimated 25,000 families still displaced after separatist MILF rebels launched attacks in Mindanao in 2008.
The attacks came after the Supreme Court rejected a proposed deal that would have given the MILF control over territories it claims as part of its "ancestral domain."
More than 700,000 people were displaced at the height of the fighting, triggering a humanitarian crisis.
About 400 civilians and fighters from both sides were also killed.
The 12,000-strong MILF has been waging an insurgency to establish an independent Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978.
Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, had engaged the MILF in peace talks but failed to reach an agreement with the rebels during nearly 10 years in power.
Aquino has blamed Arroyo for the 2008 violence, saying the collapse of the land deal was a direct result of behind-the-scenes negotiations that excluded leaders from the communities affected by the agreement.
Meanwhile, officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) led by acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong expressed full support to efforts leading to a peaceful settlement of the decades-old Moro rebellion, even as they hoped for direct participation in peace negotiations.
"The Armm governance is a major stakeholder in the peace negotiations with Moro insurgents. It is just proper that elected Armm officials are given direct role peace talks," Regional Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said. (Ben O. Tesiorna of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)