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Binay: Ceasefire terms unacceptable

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay believes talks for a truce in Zamboanga City failed because the terms of Nur Misuari were not acceptable to the government.

Speaking on GMA-7 television, Binay said in the meantime he will no longer mediate between government and the MNLF.

“Since they (government and MNLF) did not agree with the conditions, I decided to return to Manila,” he said.

Binay said he initiated and recommended to President Aquino for him to mediate between Misuari and the government to end the week-old fighting.

Following the go-signal from Aquino, he talked with Misuari and National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he added.

Binay said Misuari and Gazmin agreed on Friday to a ceasefire on the condition that the MNLF will stop firing at government troops.

“However, the ceasefire did not last long because according to Secretary Gazmin, the MNLF continued to fire at government troops,” he said.

Binay said Misuari had authorized him to make representations with Aquino on ending the fighting peacefully.

“Both parties agreed on peaceful settlement, but they did not agree on the terms and conditions,” he said.

He had personally relayed the conditions of Misuari to Aquino, he added.

Binay cried foul over criticisms of his efforts to end the conflict in Zamboanga City peacefully.

“I am also a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.

“I can also advise or recommend. But it’s the President who will make the decision. I just want to put on safety the civilian hostages and the victims of crossfire in this conflict. I never thought that I will be the one to decide. It’s the President who will decide.

“I was the one who relayed the message of Nur and President Aquino as well.”

Binay confirmed that Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla had a fight, but he did not elaborate.

At the House of Representatives, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. urged Binay yesterday to stop meddling in the fighting in Zamboanga City and let Aquino handle the crisis.

“It was good that our soldiers did not let their guard down on Friday night when the Vice President announced that he had brokered a ceasefire,” he said. “Otherwise, the consequences might have been catastrophic.”

Barzaga said Binay should have quietly communicated his proposal to Aquino and should not have flown to Zamboanga City when the President rejected it.

He was willing to give Binay the benefit of the doubt that he did not try to “insert himself into the picture,” he added.

At the Senate, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III yesterday again called for an immediate ceasefire in Zamboanga City.

“The peace we seek is more than the stilling of the guns,” he said.

Pimentel called on the MNLF to spare children, women, the elderly and other non-combatants caught in the crossfire.

Both parties should negotiate for an immediate truce in good faith because bullets will not ensure the resolution of the problem, he added.

Pimentel said the government and the MNLF should go to the negotiating table to discuss the terms of a lasting peace agreement or seek the help of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when domestic talks fail.

If they get no resolution at the ASEAN level, the MNLF could still elevate the issue to the United Nations, he added.

Pimentel said the first sign that an attempt to stop the fighting broke down was the continued exchanges of fire.

“The paramount interest at the moment is the safety of the civilian population,” he said.

– With Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez

AQUILINO PIMENTEL

AQUINO

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

AT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

AT THE SENATE

BINAY

GOVERNMENT

MISUARI

MNLF

ZAMBOANGA CITY

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