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Dureza: Atrocities scuttle peace talks

By Joyce Pangco Panares | Mar. 13, 2013 at 12:01am
Malaysia's role as a neutral facilitator of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now “blown to pieces” following the reports of summary executions and human rights violations against Filipinos in Sabah, a former government chief negotiator for the peace talks with the MILF said Tuesday.

“One of the major casualties of the Sabah incident is the MILF peace negotiations,” Jesus Dureza said.

“Evidently, events have overtaken the MILF peace talks.”

Dureza made his statement even as two lawmakers—Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan—on Tuesday said they were alarmed by the reported abuses being committed against the Filipinos in Sabah who had nothing to do with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his claim to Sabah.

Dureza said the “violent operations against Filipino Muslims in Lahad Datu” had cast a shadow of doubt on Malaysia as a credible peace talks broker.

“Even the MILF’s claim for a Bangsamoro ancestral domain and right to self determination, without factoring in the Sabah claim, will not fly anymore,” Dureza said.

Even Malacañang could not give a definite answer as to whether Malaysia would be replaced as a third-party facilitator and head of the International Monitoring Team that is overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

“That’s not been discussed yet,” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said when asked if Malaysia would be dropped.

“While there are some sectors that say that this may affect [the peace talks], the government’s primary concern has been to still find the peaceful resolution to what has happened,” Valte said

The MILF leadership has already said it will not issue a policy statement on the Sabah conflict.

“That’s a very sensitive issue. We cannot issue any statement on that,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

Malacañang had earlier condemned the reported inhuman treatment of the Filipinos in Sabah as Malaysian forces continued their crackdown on Kiram’s supporters.

“This kind of treatment of our Filipino nationals is unacceptable,” Valte said earlier

One of the Filipinos deported from Sabah, Amira Taradji, claimed that Malaysian police ordered Filipino men to run before shooting them, and that her brother was among those killed in Sabah.

Despite the exodus of some 1,500 Filipinos from Sabah, however, the Philippine government has refused to refer to the situation there as a humanitarian crisis.

Instead, the government is stepping up its efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis to prevent an influx to Mindanao of Filipino refugees from Sabah as a result of the fighting there.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas yesterday has met with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Trade Undersecretary Zeny Maglaya, Maritime Industry Authority head Nic Conti, and National Food Authority Administrator Orlan Calayag to to discuss how to ensure the welfare of the evacuees in Mindanao.

Roxas said he expected the number of evacuees to increase in the coming days, but Soliman said there was still no crisis at the moment that the government remained on top of the situation.

The Palace has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to talk with their Malaysian counterparts on the reported harassment and summary killings of Filipinos in Sabah.

Kiram last week announced a unilateral ceasefire following the calls for a dialog by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak rejected the UN-backed ceasefire call.

Before the reports of the brutal killings in Sabah surfaced, the Palace appeared reluctant to appeal Najib’s decision.

“The decision has already been made by the Malaysian government. Prime Minister Najib has already spoken on that matter,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Friday. With Maricel Cruz and Franciso Tuyay
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