COTABATO CITY -- The present leadership of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) is not keen to become a member of the government panel holding peace talks with the Moro rebels.
Acting Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong and his Cabinet recently hosted a meeting with a 24-member delegation from Thailand led by Ambassador Kulkumot Sighara Na Ayudhaya.
The group of the ambassador solicited ideas about the history and mechanism of an autonomous governance in the Muslim Mindanao.
During that meeting, Armm executive secretary Naguib Sinarimbo, who spoke for acting Regional Governor Alonto-Adiong, clarified that they only wanted the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to listen to the concerns of the constituents in the autonomous region.
"We don't push for direct participation or membership in the government peace panel in talks with the MILF. We would want the National Government, the MILF and other decision-makers in the impending resumption of the peace talks to listen to us as we speak out the aspirations and concerns of the Armm constituents," Sinarimbo said.
This clarification came amid reports that Dr. Hamid Barra, former Armm education secretary and incumbent chair of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines (NUCP), is already a new member of the panel.
The government peace panel is led by Marvic Leonen, dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.
The other two panel members are UP Professor Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, a peace activist; and former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani. The government is yet to name the fifth member, who will most likely come from the indigenous people in Mindanao.
The Adiong administration, which came into power after the November 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists in Maguindanao, has intensified an assertive role in representing the voice of the autonomous region to the protracted peace negotiations.
Adiong has launched lately region-wide relevant consultations, which invited representatives from various sectors, including the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The field consultations were conducted in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi last month.
A regional peace summit in Cotabato City is set after the Ramadan, the Muslim's month of fasting, as well.
Sinarimbo said the Armm peace summit would collate data gathered from the field consultations. The Adiong administration will later submit the collated data as peace agenda to Malacañang for possible adoption in the latter's plan to resume peace talks with the MILF under President Aquino's policy of "justice and peace for all."
While the Adiong government appeared assertive in the conduct of the consultations, Sinarimbo said it should not be taken as a campaign for direct membership or a slot in the reconstituted government peace panel.
At the launching of the summit's provincial consultation in Marawi City early last month, Adiong told visiting newsmen he was "100 percent confident that the Aquino leadership will listen to the sentiments of the Armm people towards the peace talks with the MILF."
Previous Armm administrations had asserted "active role" in the negotiations with the MILF, as well as in the implementation of the 1996 peace accord with the MNLF, invoking the regional governance's right as a "major stakeholder" in the processes.
Incumbent officials said the Armm governance has insufficient budgetary support and power due to the failure of the National Government to devolve functions and resources of line agencies accruing to it.
Stringent laws, including the Armm charter, compound the problem, they added.
The MNLF had once managed the affairs of the regional autonomous government but failed to fully harness it towards its expectation. But the MILF has persistently rejected the regional set-up, saying it is a showcase of "failed autonomy."
In its oft-stalled talks with the government, the MILF demands for the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in lieu of the Armm system, which the Cory Aquino regime established 1989 in purported pursuit of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
The unified Armm governance replaced the two autonomous regions created by former president Ferdinand Marcos in its attempt to satisfy the Tripoli accord. (BOT)