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PIA Press Release

Seguis assures bakwits they will soon talk with the MILF

by Romy Elusfa

By Romy Elusfa

Datu Piang, Maguindanao (6 June) -- Secretary Rafael Seguis of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has assured peace advocates they would double their efforts in ensuring that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would resume soon.

Seguis, who visited Datu Piang to verify reports of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) on the alleged food blockade implemented by soldiers against some relief organizations, told Fr. Eduardo Vasquez Jr.: "We should work even harder to encourage the MILF again to talk with no delay because there is a humanitarian crisis going on."

Datu Gumbay Elementary School, host to thousands of evacuees, is one of the evacuation centers visited by Sec. Seguis.

After visiting the evacuation sites here, among them is the elementary school at Datu Gumbay village located some 25 meters away from the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion of the Army, Sequis told Fr. Vasquez in a private meeting at the Sta. Teresita Parish Convent here: "We are meeting very soon." He was responding to the evacuees demand for government and the MILF to get back to the negotiating table that was relayed to him by the Oblate priest.

"We came here because of that media report, particularly the report of the MPC on alleged food blockade, which was denied by the Army," Seguis told Fr. Vasquez who responded by relaying to the OPAPP secretary his own experience when a truck-load of rice he was supposed to deliver to the evacuees on May 27 was blocked at a military check point.

Fr. Eduardo Vasquez Jr., parish priest of Sta. Teresita Parish of Datu Piang, submits his report to Sec. Seguis in a meeting at the parish convent today.

The accusation of the MPC, which was contained in a statement titled "Stop the Food Blockade" issued last week, Seguis said, was "strong allegation" that needs to be substantiated, but just the same, the OPAPP secretary said "we will do our best because things like this can't continue long."

On the demands of the evacuees for soldiers to be sent back to their barracks so the war stops, Seguis advised the peace groups to also ask the MILF to send its forces back to the barracks. Holding a copy of the report of peace advocates that was submitted to him, the Secretary advised them to also furnish the MILF of the same report.

The demand of the evacuees also included the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which Seguis described as an "MILF line." He added: "We could not sign the MOA because the Supreme Court has already declared it unconstitutional, though we can refer to the document during the negotiations."

Fr. Vasquez, saying the inclusion of the MOA-AD issue in their report was "just being faithful" to what surfaced during the consultations with evacuees, reiterated to Seguis the peace groups' demand for government to get back to the negotiation table soon, explaining that "the problem about rough MILF commanders is not only that of the government but the MILF as well. So addressing this can be discussed in the negotiating table."

Encouraging Fr. Vasquez to submit reports on what is happening on the grounds, Seguis told him: "We need something to confront, otherwise walang mangyayari."

He assured the priest, though, that the report submitted to him by the OMI Disaster Response Team, the Peacebuilders Community, Initiatives for International Dialogue, Bantay Ceasefire and the MPC will reach Malacanang officials. "I assure you na makakarating ito sa taas, but they also have the right to confront you." (Bantay Ceasefire Volunteer) [top]

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