SPECIAL REPORT on MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS: Saudi alliance of Muslim and Christians appeals to P-Noy: “Resume peace talks with MILF, NPA after Ramadan”

Antipolo City, August 13, 2010—Saudi-based Muslim-Christian Alliance for Justice, Peace and Democracy in the Philippines (MCA-PDP) urges the Philippine government to start  the peace talks with Muslim insurgents, after the commemoration holy month of Ramadan.

Imam Abdulrahman Parcarey, spokesperson of the MCA-PDP, said that Ramadan is an opportune time for Muslim and non-Muslim alike to press the Aquino government to commence peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a separatist group fighting for an independent Mindanao, immediately after the Muslims’ days of fasting and penance.

“[The] observance of Ramadan is an affirmation of [the Muslim’s] continued adherence to justice, peace and democracy; and a country that is not just, could never attain peace and democracy,” Parcarey explained.

While not conformed to the MILF’s “gathering of strength,” in preparation for war against the Aquino government if the peace negotiations would not push through, the Islamic teacher said that the success or failure of the peace talks depends on “the Aquino government’s decisiveness.”

Parcarey also furthered that President Aquino must “keep his promise and must be true to his words about the resumption of peace talks, [or] otherwise his [declaration about the importance of the peace talks] is all but pretensions.”

“Not only the peace talks between the government and the MILF would push through but as well as the peace talks between the Aquino government and the left-wing Communist Party of the Philippines’ New Peoples Army and the National Democratic Fronts of the Philippines based on its previously agreed and signed declaration like the Hague Agreement and Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” the Muslim leader said.

Moreover  Parcarey  said that in order the government peace talks with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF to commence, the Aquino government must set-aside its self-imposed preconditions as it would be a big factor that would cause a delay or lead the collapse of the peace talk even before it started.

Meanwhile, the MILF Information Department had assailed the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) for allegedly exaggerating its report about the MILF’s readiness to launch another war if the Philippine government fails to resume the pending peace negotations.

“Don’t exaggerate and don’t opinionate or editorialize what otherwise are straight facts from a particular event or happening like the interview with Chairman Murad during the MILF-FOCAP Forum on the Peace Process last August 10,” says Mohagher Iqbal, MILF’s chief information officer and chair of the deactivated MILF Peace Panel in a statement published in luwaran.com, the MILF’s official information website.

He said that PDI’s banner story is “ill-timed for the Ramadan where Muslims are fasting to restraint themselves from any wrongdoing, and it creates an impression that the MILF is not only the villain but also blood-thirsty even during Ramadan.”

Iqbal said that during that press conference, the MILF chairperson merely answered a question from one of the newsmen during the forum about the number of MILF combatants and firearms at its arsenal, which he had described as a normal provision of a real revolutionary organization like the MILF.

The MILF, according to Murad, has 100,000 trained personnel, and around 60,000 of them are armed. The purpose of the armed wing of the MILF is “for the defense of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people.”

“This obvious [information] spinning, [that has] prompted the military to issue a quick and highly-charged response,” he said.

It was Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, who has said that the MILF could not use their claims of strength and weapons arsenal as leverage.

“If they are ready for war, we are also prepared to go to battle,” Cabangbang said.

“We will not permit them to gain more guns while we have peace talks. They must show they are sincere.”

But this is not the first time that the one of the Philippines’ major daily had “spinned” its news about the MILF.

The MILF leader recalled that during the deliberation of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in July and August 2008, the PDI was almost unrestrained in the publication of news articles, views, and comments that intensified opposition to the signing of the landmark deal on ancestral domain.

“The two sides of the MOA-AD were not given a fair coverage; only the negative side was over-emphasized,” Iqbal further said.

Iqbal said that he is appealing to Mr. Nestor Alconaba Jr., Bureau Chief Mindanao, and to Pergentino Bandayrel Jr., PDI National Editor, who have the final say on how a particular news item is to be handled, to be circumspect and balance in their approach in writing the news about the insurgency in Mindanao. (a shorter version of this appeared in CBCPNews.com)