Philippine president appoints law professor as chief peace negotiator with MILF

12:31, July 15, 2010      

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Philippine President Benigno III has appointed Marvic Leonen, dean of the University of the Philippines' (U.P.) College of Law, as the government's chief peace negotiator with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a statement issued Thursday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said Leonen's "varied and rich experience and expertise in advancing people's rights" will help in the government's peace talks with Muslim rebels.

Leonen is a known expert in constitutional and international law. Shortly after obtaining his law degree from the U.P. in 1987, he co-founded the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LNRC). The LNRC is a legal and policy research and advocacy institution and provided legal services for upland rural poor and indigenous people's communities. He served as the LNRC's executive director for 15 years.

The new peace panel headed by Leonen will be directly reporting to Aquino and Deles.

In a statement issued Thursday, Aquino said he has directed the new peace panel to review the past agreement to ensure that the government can understand and finally ensure peace in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

The MILF is the largest group battling for self-rule in Mindanao. The Philippine military estimates that the group has 11, 000 fighters and has been waging a war against the government for the past 40 years.

A final peace agreement is expected to end the protracted war in Mindanao that has claimed at least 120,000 lives, brought massive destruction to property, and crippled the region's economy.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF bogged down in August 2008 after the Philippine government and the MILF failed to sign the controversial Memorandum of Understanding on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD). This spurred two MILF commanders and their men to launch deadly attacks on mostly Christian communities in Mindanao. The accord was challenged by Christian politicians for fear that they would lose land, power, and clout to minority Muslims.

Aquino expects the peace talks to resume soon. He assured that consultations with various stakeholders including local officials and community members will be conducted prior to signing another pact with the MILF.

"We will do our part to bring about peace and justice. We hope that all our people will respond with the same intentions," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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