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Chiz calls government peace negotiators 'amateurs'

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero lashed out at government peace negotiators for seemingly trying to defend the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the midst of violence in Basilan last week.

In an interview with radio dzRH, Escudero branded as “amateurs’ and “bookish” government peace negotiators Marvic Leonen and presidential adviser Ging Deles in dealing with the MILF rebels.

He said he is not satisfied with Leonen and Deles’ handling of the current situation, especially when they described the killing of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan as an “isolated case.”

Asked if President Aquino’s call for all-out justice last Monday was an indication of the suspension of the peace agreement, Escudero said it is up to MILF top officials to access the President’s action since it entails the use of force against the perpetrators of the ambush against military men last week.

“I think all-out justice are just words. The President is trying not the use the (phrase) all-out war because it will definitely cause some furor among different sectors. But what does all-out justice really mean?” Escudero asked.

He said he thinks the MILF leadership had violated the thrust of the peace talks and that the rebel group is not sincere in its dealing with the government.

“For once, let us let the MILF complain if they want to complain. It should not be that our own negotiators who are complaining to the MILF. I lament that in the past few days, the government negotiators were the ones defending the MILF as if they are very afraid that the peace talks will be stopped,” Escudero said.

He said he doesn’t want an all-out war because it will tarnish the image of the country and the President was correct in his decision to avoid bloodshed.

Belmonte: Let’s rally behind P-Noy

At the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. supported President Aquino’s pledge to pursue all-out justice for the slain soldiers.

“What happened to our soldiers is a tragedy and we must bring the perpetrators to justice. It is precisely in avoiding more loss of lives that we are pursuing all paths to genuine peace,” he said.

Belmonte said the nation should not lose sight of the “big picture – the attainment of lasting peace with our Muslim brothers, which is the goal of the ongoing peace talks with the MILF.”

“It is only through the recent bold efforts of the President that the peace talks in Mindanao have been salvaged from the dustbin. Unfortunately, the initiative is now threatened by groups and rogue elements who, by their acts, have only shown an interest to sow violence in the region. We should not permit their acts to derail the peace efforts,” he said.

He urged all sectors – the government, the military, and the community – to rally behind the President in insulating the peace initiative from lawless violence.

“At the same time, the military and all the agencies of the government must take every effort to protect the community, especially the most vulnerable, from the adverse effects of this disturbance. We must also make sure that all those who nurture war and violence be brought to justice. Only through these can we advance the cause of peace,” he stressed.

Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada also expressed solidarity with the call for maintaining peace in Mindanao and for the President’s call for all-out justice against the MILF. – Jess Diaz, Celso Amo

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By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) Updated October 27, 2011 12:00 AM

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