Erap questions Malaysia's role in Moro peace talks

By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 19 2012 12:56 AM | Updated as of Oct 19 2012 10:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Although hoping that the framework agreement signed on Monday will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity, former President Joseph Estrada questioned yesterday Malaysia’s role in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Estrada told The STAR the Philippine government must not allow foreign governments to intervene in the country’s “internal problems.”

“We should prove to them that the Philippines is a sovereign and independent country. We are way ahead of Malaysia in terms of independence,” he said.

The government and MILF peace panels conducted 32 formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, with Malaysia as the chief facilitator.

“I am against the Malaysian government intervening in Philippine affairs. You don’t have to ask foreign countries to intervene and encroach on our sovereignty,” Estrada said.

Estrada also expressed concern that the framework agreement will give rise to another breakaway group. He cited the emergence of the MILF when the administration of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos signed the Tripoli agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari in Libya in 1976.

“That is what I am afraid of. That it might create another breakaway group like what had happened in the MNLF, which gave birth to the MILF,” he said.

“I hope not because we will then be back to zero, back to square one,” he added.

Estrada said the cycle of breakaway groups in the Muslim secessionist movement must be stopped.

“Even my administration engaged the MILF in a ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks. For the past several decades we have done this. But nothing happened. That is why I was prompted to launch an all-out war against the MILF and managed to overrun 46 of its camps, including its biggest camp, Camp Abubakkar,” Estrada said.

Peaceful resolution

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army urged Misuari to raise his concerns about the Bangsamoro framework agreement through peaceful means.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said people are tired of violence and are looking for a peaceful environment.

On Oct. 10, 1977, MNLF rebels in Sulu murdered Bautista’s father, then chief of the 1st Infantry Division, and 33 others. They were made to believe that a ceasefire deal would be discussed before they were shot to death. Only one soldier survived the massacre.

“He (Misuari) can voice out whatever views he has regarding the peace agreement. The government panel can discuss the issues. We hope all of us resort to peaceful means in resolving our issues and conflicts,” Bautista told reporters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. – With Alexis Romero