THE country's two leading rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People's Army, welcome the peace gesture of the new administration.

On Sunday, the MILF said it will form a negotiating panel as soon as the new government finishes the reconstitution of its peace panel.

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In an interview with Sun.Star, Mohagher Iqbal, former chairman of the MILF peace panel, urged Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita "Ging" Deles to reveal the names of the candidates for chief negotiator.

"As soon as the government forms its panel, we can constitute ours. So far, the ball is in the hands of the government. I just hope the government will reveal the names of those that are part of the shortlist for chief negotiator," he added.

Deles declined to reveal the names of the candidates for chief negotiator pending consultation with President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Last Friday, the MILF deactivated its peace panel to give way for the government to form its own negotiating team.

No unsolicited advice

For his part, former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said he will not give any "unsolicited advice."

"I believe Secretary Deles has already made the choice of composition of GRP panels. I don't want to give unsolicited advice to her," he told Sun.Star in a text message.

Seguis is the chief negotiator of the government peace panel during the last few months of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The MILF and the government experienced on-and-off negotiations since 1997 as Deles mulled the review of the peace negotiations especially during the nine-year Arroyo administration.

On his inaugural speech last week, Aquino said his government will be "sincere" in dealing with all stakeholders in Mindanao.

"We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all-may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian," he said.

Fresh start

Meantime, the communist rebels welcomed Deles's statement that the government is willing to go back to the negotiating table.

In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political arm National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) said Deles's plan to the review problems that plagued the peace negotiations with the CPP-NDF was a "welcome development."

The party, however, asked the government to lay down its commitment to previous agreements that deal on the framework of the peace talks, human rights, among others.

"The Aquino government needs to commit itself to all previous agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 which set the guiding principles, framework, agenda and procedures for the talks, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),"

The CPP also asked Aquino to address the cases of abduction, enforced disappearance and illegal detention allegedly carried out by the Arroyo administration.

Government peace negotiations have remained stalled since 2005 when the NDF accused the government of not exerting enough efforts in convincing the United States and its allies into removing the CPP-NPA-NDF from their list of terrorist organizations.

Newly installed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo David made a self-imposed deadline to crush the communist insurgency in three years, reminiscent of Arroyo's failed directive to security forces to end the same problem in June 2010.

Peace talks were to resume in Oslo, Norway last August but the NDF backed out after the government declined to release its negotiators and consultants who are facing criminal cases.(Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)