Some smart moves from Seguis.

I don’t know much about the current chair of the re-constructed Philippine government negotiating panel in the Mindanao “peace process,” Ambassador Rafael Seguis, but his latest actions seem to be right on track.

On VeraFiles.com, veteran journalist-blogger Ellen Tordessillias reported last week that Seguis has, during his courtesy call on the Malaysian foreign minister, requested the removal of Othman Abd Razak as facilitator on the grounds that he was biased to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

According to Tordessillias’ “highly-placed” sources, it was Othman who advised the MILF to demand 95-5 percent sharing of the resources of the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) during the negotiations that resulted to the drafting of an unconstitutional Memorandum of Agreement that, had it not been stopped by the Philippine Supreme Court, could have created a de-facto state for the MILF within the Philippine state.

In the MOA, the government and the MILF settled for a 75-25 sharing agreement, which was still unfair. I have said on this blog that such an agreement would mean that the MILF could utilize a lion share of the area’s resources to fund its armed secessionist campaign.

Also, Seguis requested that the Philippine government be allowed to shoulder the accommodation expenses of the Philippine panel in Kuala Lumpur so that Manila could have a say on logistical matters like the Filipino panel’s lodging. There have been allegations that the rooms the Philippine panel occupied were bugged by the Malaysians, enabling the MILF to learn of the government’s strategy.

Allegedly, the government of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi frowned on the request, viewing it as a breech of the ASEAN’s non-intervention policy. This is ironic, of course, for it is in fact the Malaysians who have been intervening in the domestic affairs of the Philippines. But at any rate, Badawi has been replaced last week by Najib Razak, which means that Othman, like all the other Malaysian officials, might really be replaced.

Seguis’ requests were valid. For Malaysia to successfully facilitate the peace process, both sides must have confidence on the individuals on the ground who are acting as major stake-holders in the negotiations. If Kuala Lumpur wants to prove its good faith, it must approve Seguis’ requests.

But then again, only the naive would believe that Malaysia is acting in good faith in the negotiations. It is clear that Seguis’ work is constrained by Malacanang’s policy of “internationalizing” the Mindanao question. But I’m certain that the career diplomat in Seguis knows that it is in the interest of Malaysia, who in the first place was instrumental in the creation of the major secessionist groups in Mindanao, for this conflict to either be extended or be resolved in the secessionists’ favor.

The Philippine government has given too much concessions to these secessionist groups. The negotiations have only succeeded in creating a vicious cycle of conflict, peace talks, re-armament, and conflict again. And the biggest blunder of the Philippine government was its decision to enlist foreigners as “peace facilitators.” This has only legitimized the rebellion in the eyes of the international community and made the rebels gain more political capital.

Seguis is indeed making some smart moves, but unless this government changes its Mindanao policy and implement genuine reforms, his actions would be in vain.

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