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Moros reassure Church leaders

Properties and land will not be seized, rebels say

Moros reassure Church leaders
Bishop Orlando Quevedo (right) shares a light moment with MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (center)
Manuel T. Cayon, Davao City

April 1, 2011

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Moro rebels in the southern Philippines have assured Catholic leaders that the "property and integrity" of Church institutions will be respected if peace negotiations with the government are successful. Datu Michael Mastura, a former legislator who is now a negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the rebel group will not confiscate any land or properties under the proposed Bangsamoro (Moro Nation) state in Mindanao. "Don’t be scared about your dioceses because there is no [provision about] religious relations [in the proposed agreement],” Mastura told Church leaders attending a consultation with the rebels in Davao City on Tuesday. Mastura was responding to Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who asked how flexible the MILF was about its claim to territories in Mindanao, an issue that sparked violence in 2008 when the Supreme Court rejected a draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain. The agreement defined the juridical boundaries that would be under Moro governance after a political settlement is reached. Bishop Quevedo expressed concern that the so-called "comprehensive compact" proposed by the rebels will still contain the same territorial claim. Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said the proposed compact considered the sentiments of various tribal and regional groups in areas that will fall under the new autonomous region. Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the rebel peace panel, said the proposed “MILF Final Working Draft on the Comprehensive Compact” assures the rights of religious groups "to own properties and establish institutions." "The agreement is that your properties and the integrity of your institutions have to be protected," Lingga said. PM13827.1647

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