SWS: Fewer Pinoys hopeful of peace deal with MILF

Most Filipinos remain hopeful of a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but their numbers have been declining

MANILA, Philippines – They still constitute a a majority, but Filipinos hopeful of a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been decreasing in number, said a recently released Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The survey, titled “Extent of Hope for a Government-MILF Peace Agreement,” appeared on the BusinessWorld website close to midnight Wednesday, March 27.

Most respondents, or 62%, expressed hope that the government and the MILF will reach a peace agreement, based on the SWS survey conducted from Dec 3 to 7, 2011.

The figure, however, represented a decline from figures that SWS previously recorded. In June 2011, 83% showed hope in the government-MILF peace process. Three months later, this figure declined to 71%.

Fewer Filipinos also think that both parties will reach a deal within the term of President Benigno Aquino III, at 38% from September 2011’s 52%.

PEACE TALKS. Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen greets MILF panel member Mike Mastura, among others, before the start of their 26th formal exploratory talks. Photo from the OPAPP website

The survey, which involved face-to-face interviews of 1,200 around the country, did not state reasons for the decline.

“We can understand that people get more anxious as time passes without an agreement,” said Teresita Quintos Deles, secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in a text message.

Deles, however, explained that “very difficult” issues now lie on the negotiating table. “Issues of political settlement are now being tackled with no more recourse to generalities or ambiguity,” she said. 

The President, she added, intends not to make “false promises.” “Thus, negotiations are thorough and rigorous, and there will be no quick fixes.”

“In this light, the good news is that both sides appear intent to stay on the table, to lock horns on the negotiating table rather than in the battlefield,” said Deles, who also urged the public to support the peace process.

Near ‘stalemate’

Last week, the government said it remains committed to a peace settlement with the MILF despite encountering difficulties. 

Earlier, the government warned that negotiations with the MILF are approaching a “stalemate.”

“Perhaps we can both keep an open mind. We could convince ourselves that there are goals more appropriate rather than sticking to our encrusted positions,” said chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen in a statement. 

In a lecture last month, OPAPP’s Deles said government-MILF peace talks have reached a “substantive” stage but should remain consistent with ground realities. For one, she expressed concern that violent actions on the ground alongside peace talks, in general, “create a sense of ‘disconnect’ in the public mind.” 

“People begin to have the sense that the parties are just playing games… Once people lose their trust in the process, it means serious trouble for any peace table,” Deles said. – Rappler.com

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