DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – The Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels signed Monday evening a memorandum of understanding on ceasefire-related functions to ensure a peaceful mid-term election.
The MOU was signed at a hotel in the city in the presence of the government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, MILF peace panel chief Mohagher Iqbal and members of the International Monitoring Team.
Brig. Gen. Cesar Sedillo, chair of the government’s CCCH, said the MOU is a positive measure in support of the previous agreements signed by the negotiating panels.
“This is also very important because as we have observed there are other stakeholders that are not part of the parties. The government and MILF showed another milestone to extend protection to the entities especially to the Board of Election Inspectors,” Sedillo added.
For his counterpart, Said Shiek, Al Haj, pointed out: “Clearly, this is not an election-related function but an undertaking for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the GPH-MILF ceasefire accord.”
Shiek added that both panels signed substantial agreements and it is a sacred duty to safeguard and transform these into a credible political solution.
This is the third time that both parties signed the same guidelines to help ensure peaceful elections. The first was in 2007 and then in 2008.
“This cooperation shows heightening collaboration between GPH and MILF in various ways such as development undertaking, election and good governance, capacity building and most important is promoting the primacy of peace process,” the MILF’s CCCH chair explained.
The MOU says the government and the MILF shall abide by the gun ban as stated in Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9561, the GPH-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities in July 1997, among others.
It also aims to strengthen both parties’ cooperation and further define their roles in ensuring peaceful elections next month in order to safeguard the ceasefire and the peace process.
“Here we see in motion our Ceasefire Committees doing its share in making our electoral institutions stronger so that these are able to deliver to us the blessings of democratic elections and at the same time ensuring that our own process is not disrupted,” Coronel-Ferrer said in her message at the event.
She added that the joint undertaking is a “valuable initiative to protect the integrity of the GPH-MILF Ceasefire Agreement and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro while the government ensures the conduct of honest, orderly and peaceful elections on May 13.”
The government panel chair added that the signing the MOU serves to “honor and actively protect the valued processes and commitments between the GPH and the MILF as peace partners” as well as “safeguard the people’s freedom to choose their leaders” during elections.
Her counterpart, Iqbal, also lauded the initiative saying the underpinning principle does not undermine the “hands-off” policy of the MILF during elections.
But he said the mid-term election is significant in relation the GPH-MILF peace process.
“Whoever is placed in the saddle of ARMM will have direct relation to the conduct of the negotiation, especially if we will sign the comprehensive peace agreement,” he stressed.
Anyone who does not believe in the primacy of the peace process, Iqbal added, and in the policy of President Aquino, could pose a problem.
He added the elections are also significant at the provincial and municipal levels “because if they (politicians) don’t support the primacy of peace process, it can hinder the small implementation of what has been or what will be agreed by the panels.”
Iqbal, however, said he does not want discredit any of the candidates. “I cannot judge them, I cannot speculate.”
“This is very significant, although we maintain a hands-off policy. But short of violating that policy, we appeal to our people to vote wisely and intelligently who can support the peace process,“ he said. (Keith Bacongco / Mindanews)