VP kept Aquino informed on talks with Misuari
It appears that “the fog of war and politics” that the Inquirer alluded to in its Sept. 16 editorial has obscured the perspective of its editorial writer.
Let us look at Vice President Jejomar Binay’s words that the editorial writer so conveniently twisted to fit a version of events far removed from reality.
“There was a good start. Both were for peaceful settlement. But the President did not accept the conditions [that Misuari set for a ceasefire].”
When the Vice President said that President Aquino did not accept the conditions that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari had set, it clearly meant that the decision rested solely on the President’s hands, that the Vice President was merely a go-between.
The editorial incorrectly assumed that the Vice President “agreed to the terms of a ceasefire without clearing them with the President, or aligning them with government objectives regarding the Zamboanga crisis.”
Let us look at the facts.
The Vice President informed President Aquino as early as Wednesday evening (Sept. 11) that he had access to Misuari. The MNLF chief indicated he was open to discussing a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Zamboanga. The President told the Vice President to take extra precaution. “Mag-iingat ka,” were the President’s exact words.
The next day, Thursday, Sept. 12, the Vice President spoke with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
The secretary informed the Vice President to put on hold any talks with Misuari as Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco was currently in discussion with the MNLF.
Friday, Sept. 13, around 10:30 p.m., the Vice President reestablished communication with Misuari. At that time, the local-level talks had apparently bogged down, and heavy fighting had already displaced thousands of civilians. The Vice President feared for the lives of hundreds of hostages being held by the MNLF.
After talking with Misuari, the Vice President then discussed the proposed ceasefire with Secretary Gazmin. The defense chief agreed with the qualification that government forces will fire back if they are fired upon. Secretary Gazmin was with the President at that time, and said the information will be relayed to him. “OK na,” were the secretary’s words to the Vice President.
Around midnight, the Vice President announced the ceasefire agreement. Information reaching the Vice President said the ceasefire held until 4:30 a.m. Saturday when fighting resumed.
Saturday, Sept. 14, the Vice President flew to Zamboanga for a meeting with the President. During the meeting at Wesmincom (Western Mindanao Command) headquarters, the Vice President got in touch with Misuari. He relayed to the President the terms of the MNLF chief for a peaceful settlement, and he relayed to Misuari the terms of the President. No agreement was reached and the Vice President flew back to Manila.
The Vice President pursued the talks with Misuari with the knowledge of the President. Secretary Gazmin agreed to a ceasefire Friday night in the presence of the President.
The Vice President’s actions were aligned with government’s desire to explore all avenues to settle the Zamboanga conflict peacefully. The Vice President emphasized from the start that his role was merely to relay the terms of Misuari and advice the President on options. The final decision rests with the President as commander in chief.
chief, Media Affairs Division,
Office of the Vice President
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