MILF peace panel chair Mohagner Iqbal gives a book to Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla after the meeting
Catholic bishops met with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines yesterday, ahead of the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
The rebel group invited the bishops as part of its efforts to consult with various parties in the peace process and gather support for its goal to reach a settlement with the government.
Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF peace panel, said his group wanted to “reach out” and explain to the bishops the “Moro question” and the conflict in Mindanao
He said the MILF wanted to present to Church leaders its draft proposals for a “comprehensive pact” with the government.
The MILF has been fighting for an independent Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines since the 1970s. The conflict has claimed around 150,000 lives, according to the government.
“We request you to examine it very closely; to see whether our proposal signals the demise of other groups, or whether it is framed around extremism that defies logic and moderation; or if it honestly prescribes living and letting others live in peace, love and harmony,” Iqbal told the bishops.
He urged the Church leaders to point out whether the draft or any of its provisions are “harmful.” But if the bishops find the proposal just and practical, Iqbal urged their support.
He admitted the consultation aimed to avoid a repeat of a botched ancestral domain agreement which the Supreme Court threw out in 2008 for being unconstitutional.
Iqbal said the meeting with the bishops was part of a series of dialogues that started on March 6 with non-Moro organizations and with Protestant pastors and lay workers on March 9.
Today, the MILF peace panel was set to meet with businessmen in Davao City.
After the meeting Archbishop Orlando Quevedo
of Cotabato said the proposals contain the same principles that covered the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.
He said the meeting should not be seen as either acceptance or rejection of the proposals.
“It is not for the bishops to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular provision. We are here to listen, make some observations,” Archbishop Quevedo said.