Ceasefire with MILF, Return to Peace Talks Urged

Article excerpt

Byline: GABRIEL S. MABUTAS

Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) yesterday urged the government to forge a ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before proceeding with Palarong Pambansa (National Games) in Tubod, Lanao del Norte.

Pimentel made the proposal following the decision of the organizers of Palaro, with Malacanang's blessing, to postpone the national games from May 4-11 to May 18-25.

"A ceasefire between the government and MILF will relieve everyone of the lingering fear that the separatist rebels may disrupt the Palaro. It will enhance the success of the athletic event," he said.

The senator from Mindanao said the restoration of the ceasefire agreement, forged by the government in Tripoli, Libya, in 2001, should be worked out by both sides when they hold another exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia scheduled in the second week of May.

Unless the truce is forged, Pimentel said he is afraid that the Palaro may be imperiled which may force organizers to look for another venue or hosting province where the games will be free of security problems.

Ceasefire

Senators urged the government yesterday to go back to the negotiating table with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and forge a ceasefire to draw up a lasting solution to the ongoing conflict in Mindanao, which has already taken toll on the lives of numerous individuals, including innocent civilians.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senate national defense committee chairman Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and Senators. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Gregorio Honasan said that the government is left with no other remedy to the conflict, than to negotiate anew with MILF for a lasting peace package.

Drilon said that peace process should resume right away unconditionally, and the government should initiate a ceasefire to pave the way for it.

Magsaysay called on the Department of National Defense (DND) to draw up a lasting solution to the continued attacks being launched by the MILF on government forces and civilians.

He said the loss of innocent lives and the injuries inflicted especially on civilians in recent gunbattles between the two opposing forces should be the last thing to happen in the continuing conflict.

"We received reports that the MILF still wants to talk peace with the government. …