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Aquino shows humility in meeting with MILF Chair Murad in Japan sans protocol

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Of all the virtues, humility is the most difficult to practice in thought and in deed.

But President Benigno S. Aquino III shows he has the quality of being humble, both in deed and in spirit, by shrugging off protocol when he decided to meet Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, the chairman of the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Tokyo, Japan on Thursday with no other agenda in mind but to push the peace process forward so that the Philippines will attain a genuine and lasting peace which has eluded the mineral-rich Mindanao region for over 40 years.

Whatever his critics say, the action of the President to meet the MILF insurgent leader in a foreign country at that -- in the name of peace -- shows his sincerity to resolve the long-drawn Mindanao armed conflict.

It was his most daring move since coming to power a year ago when he traveled under a veil of secrecy to meet the MILF leader in a bid to speed up the 14-year off-and-on peace process with the hope of signing a peace agreement on or before 2016 when his six-year term ends.

It was also the first time in Philippine history that a sitting President met with a top rebel leader in a foreign land in the absence of signed peace pact.
The President’s mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino, also disregarded protocol when she met Nur Misuari, the chairman of the original rebel group, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in Sulu in 1986.

President P-Noy and Murad and their note takers were inside a meeting room at the ANA Crown Place Hotel during the two-hour one-on-one unofficial talk in the suburb of Tokyo.

The short trip of the President to Japan was kept under wraps until he returned to Manila on Friday morning.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in a statement, said that the President discussed with Murad “possible approaches in moving the peace process forward.”

Marvic Leonen, chair of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel negotiating with the MILF, said that “the informal meeting, which lasted for two hours, was cordial but consisted of a frank and candid exchange of their views about the frames of the continuing peace talks and some possible approaches that the parties can take to bring about a peaceful settlement.”

“Both agreed that the implementation of any agreement should happen within the current administration. Both agreed to fast-track the negotiations,” he added.

The chief negotiator said that "it was the President himself who sought the meeting prior to the government's submission of its own agenda for the talks."

He said the Tokyo meeting facilitates progress of the formal negotiations between the GPH and MILF panels.

Both panels met last June 27 in Kuala Lumpur where they discussed the possibility for the meeting between President Aquino and Murad.
Leonen said that the MILF viewed the government’s offer for a meeting as a “grand gesture.”

“The meeting helps the formal negotiations between the panels of both sides. It will facilitate its progress,” he said.

“We thank Japan for providing the facilities consistent with their long-standing commitment to peace as shown in their membership in the International Contact Group, as well as the Malaysian facilitator for assisting with arrangements between the two parties for this historic meeting,” Leonen said

The President was accompanied to the meeting place by the Secretaries of National Defense, Budget and Management, Finance as well as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Presidential Spokesperson and the Chair of the GPH Negotiating Panel.

On the other hand, Murad was accompanied by some members of the Central Committee, the chair of their negotiating panel and some base commanders.

“To ensure the security of the participants and provide the necessary environment free from any agenda which would cloud the discussions, the meeting took place in the suburbs of Tokyo,” Leonen added.

The President arrived in Japan at about 6 p.m. Thursday and was back in Manila at 10 a.m. Friday. Leonen said the President’s trip to Japan was unofficial.

The GPH and MILF panels will hold their next formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur on August 22-24.

By sheer coincidence, the meeting between President Aquino and Murad occurred on the same date on August 4, 2008 when the signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the MILF was aborted after the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. That incident angered the MILF.

As an offshoot of the Supreme Court’s decision, heavy fighting broke out between government troops and MILF rebels in Central Mindanao that killed more than 400 people and displaced over 750,000 civilians. (PNA Feature)

By Ben Cal




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