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Peace deal with MILF to go on, say chief Philippine negotiator

Publication Date : 27-10-2012


Marvic Leonen has no qualms about leaving his job as the Philippine government’s top man in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the event that he is appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, as he was assured the peace negotiations were in safe hands.

Leonen, who is among the eight nominees to fill the vacancy left by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, was interviewed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Thursday.

President Aquino has until November 23 to appoint a new associate justice under the JBC rules.

When grilled by JBC member and lawyer Milagros Cayosa on his role as chief negotiator with the MILF, Leonen made it clear that the framework agreement between the government and the rebel group was a collective and team effort by the five-member panel that included him.

“Any of the four (members of the panel)… can succeed being chair,” he told the panel. “I would like to think that the framework agreement is bigger than Marvic Leonen.”

Confident with deal

Leonen added that President Aquino was the main “principal” in the peace process, with the framework agreement containing “most of his words” and he was confident that the deal would be able to “move forward”.

After the interview, Leonen told reporters the peace talks will not be affected in the event he is appointed by the president to the high court.

The “road map to the peace process is already established” through the framework agreement, he said.

In the event the agreement moves forward to the prime goal of achieving peace in Mindanao, Leonen said his possible stint at the high court will hopefully see him focusing attention on helping bring justice to areas of armed conflict.

Face of the panel

Over dinner with some reporters the other night, Leonen said he was merely the face of the negotiating panel.

“I think there are a lot of potentials for government. The chair of the panel, whoever that person is, should also be able to survive the implementation. My core competence is legal. (MILF chief negotiator) Mohagher Iqbal’s core competence is political. So there has to be a chair that would be there during the implementation and understand all of it. I think it is important that the right person be at the right place,” Leonen said.

Earlier, the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked Leonen if he preferred to stay on the government negotiating panel than be appointed to the Supreme Court. Leonen replied, “I will go wherever the President wants me.”

Complete by year’s end

Leonen expressed confidence that a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the MILF would be completed before the end of the year.

He said two of the three annexes that would contain details of the peace agreement—power sharing and wealth sharing—are halfway done as the technical working groups for these annexes have been meeting for the past three rounds.

Work on the annex on normalisation, which aims to ensure human security in the Bangsamoro and includes the policing structure in the Bangsamoro government, has only begun this week.

An ad hoc inter-agency team on normalisation has met to discuss the need to “harmonise agency capabilities and the Framework Agreement’s provision on normalisation,” the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a recent statement.

During the JBC interview, Sereno asked about Leonen’s assets, to which he replied, “It’s more than what I declared when I was professor at UP but definitely much less than others may have to declare.”

Also interviewed by the panel were Adoracion Cruz-Avisado, Magdangal De Leon, Isaias Dicdican, Andres Reyes Jr., Jose Reyes Jr. and Noel Ticam.


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