Manila (AsiaNews) – This morning Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced the cancellation of the peace deal with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf). The decision was taken as a direct consequence of the escalation in violence in recent days, in particular on the island of Mindanao in the south.
Since the beginning of the week, over 40 people have been killed in clashes between the army and Muslim guerrillas, many of them civilians. Behind the decision the government’s unwillingness to cede to the offensive launched by a fringe group belonging to Milf, who hope to gain the upper hand by force on the eve of the signing of the memorandum of agreement (Moa). Speaking to AsiaNews last Monday Fr. Gianni Sandalo, PIME superior in the Philippines confirmed that the clashes between the army and troops from the Moro Islamic Front appeared to be more a “show of force” rather than “out and out war”. Today the governments answer arrived, with the cancellation of the peace deal.
The document at the heart of negotiations between MILF and the government was set to establish the Autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao Mindanao (Armm). Muslims are demanding the annexation of 1000 villages, while the government wants to concede only 700, which then will have to choose annexation to Armm by popular referendum. On August 5th both sides were set to sign the Moa thanks to the mediation of the Malaysian government, but a Philippine Supreme Court ruling blocked the accord considering it “unconstitutional”. The Moa was heavily criticised by many leaders of Philippine society, both Muslim and Christian, who accuse it of being “unclear in its terminology” and elaborated “in secret, leaving aside the will of citizens who are completely in the dark regarding its real contents”.
“The cancellation of the memorandum of agreement is a painful step in our collective effort to come to an agreement with the MILF," Lorelei Fajardo, a spokeswoman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said. He went on to underline that “the president will seek a new agreement” with the rebels, but “will not allow adventurism by MILF forces to pressure government to sign any agreement even if it is for peace."