Inter-Faith Approach in Coming Peace Talks with MILF Urged; Bishops, Ulamas as Truce Monitors Urged

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Byline: DAVID CAGAHASTIAN

Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. yesterday urged the adoption of an inter-faith approach to the upcoming peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Guingona said that now the bilateral ceasefire has been established, respected Catholic and Protestant bishops and their counterpart Muslim ulamas in the Inter-Faith Peace Commission (IFPCom) can act as advisers to the peace talks and independent monitors of the ceasefire.

Their neutrality and independence can help not only in monitoring of the truce, but also in building up the confidence and sincerity of both sides, Guingona said.

The IFPCom, formed last March, is composed of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Ulama League of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Council of Christian Bishops of the Philippines, Iglesia ni Cristo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, Filipino-Muslim Advisory Council, United Methodist Church, Bishop-Ulama Forum, and the Apostolic Catholic Church.

Guingona said the participation of the inter-faith leaders in the peace process will not violate the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and State as this aims to achieve peace.

We believe this initiative can be most acceptable to all concerned as the IFPCom represents the nations reservoir of moral and spiritual resources, the pillars of faith and wisdom whose advice and credibility cannot be shaken, Guingona said.

Guingona said that while earlier discussions between the government and the MILF has tackled the social, political, and economic problems of the Bangsamoro people, the cultural and religious dimensions have been overlooked.

We must promote real and meaningful peace that can stand the test of time, not an empty peace, he said.

Among the concerns of the Bangsamoro, Guingona said, is the implementation of the Islamic Sharia law of which only the civil aspects have been recognized by the Philippine judicial system.

He said that the criminal aspects of the Islamic law that do not violate the Constitutions prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment should be allowed to be implemented within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Legarda

Legarda

Senate Majority Leader Loren Legarda expressed confidence yesterday that the government and the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would keep an open mind at finding a lasting solution to the Mindanao problem.

Legarda welcomed recent developments that could pave the way for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the MILF, including the suspension by a court of the arrest warrants issued against MILF leaders in connection with the bombings in Mindanao last year.

Peace is the only option. War has no place in civilized societies, said Legarda. It is my fervent hope that good faith would mark this peace process for our people in Mindanao have suffered for so long now

In view of the lifting of the arrest warrants, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had issued safe-conduct passes to MILF leaders Hashim Salamat, Ibrahim Murad, Aleem Aziz Mimbantas, Ghadzali Jaafar, Eid Kabalu, Abas Mogagher Iqbal, Lanang Ali, Omar Pasigan, Nurudin Ibrahim and Toks Ibrahim.

The interior department had likewise suspended the cash rewards for their arrests.

Legarda said its good that due process had been followed in removing the remaining obstacles towards a negotiated end to hostilities in Mindanao that the executive department rightfully allowed the judiciary to decide on the issue of the suspension of the arrest warrants. …