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Church criticizes Aquino, rebel talks

Prelates say 'secret' negotiations demonstrate a lack of transparency in the peace process

Church criticizes Aquino, rebel talks
President Benigno Aquino (right) with MILF leader Al Haj Murad Ibrahim. (Photo: Malacanang Photo Bureau) reporters and staff, Manila

August 8, 2011

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A “secret” meeting between President Benigno Aquino and Moro rebel leaders in Japan last week has not gone down so well among Christians and Catholic Church leaders, who say transparency and consultation is the way to lasting peace in Mindanao.

Aquino met Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss peace efforts, the details of which have yet to be released.

Abdulrahman Palcarey, Muslim convenor of the Muslim-Christian Alliance for Justice and Peace in the Philippines, hailed the meeting as a “big step forward in achieving peace,” but his Christian counterpart Gerry De Guzman voiced reservations.

“Though we welcome the meeting, we should be watchful and urge both sides to be transparent with regard to the public on the details, terms and conditions set forth in the talks,” he said.

In his response to the meeting, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz today told Aquino to “act as a president and not as a civilian.”

He said the meeting was "the first time I have seen a president sneak out of the country without informing the people."

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines' National Secretariat for Social Action, said Aquino must reveal what he discussed with the Moro rebel leadership.

“Genuine peace negotiations must involve stakeholders like the Lumads [indigenous people] and the Muslim and Christian communities because they are the ones who will be affected,” Bishop Pabillo said, adding that full transparency was needed.

Meanwhile, Marvic Leonen, head of the government’s peace panel, denied that a secret deal was reached by Aquino.

“There was no secret deal,” Leonen said, adding that the meeting was intended to “jumpstart the peace negotiations into coming up with fundamental agreements.”

Abigail Valte, Aquino’s spokesperson, urged critics of the meeting to look at the big picture, which is the importance of the peace process.

She said many on both sides have welcomed the historic move, which was only the second time that a sitting president has met with a rebel leader.

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