MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - A woman now leads the peace panel that is tasked to conclude negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, University of the Philippines political science professor, is the new chair of the government peace panel, replacing Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced Friday, December 7.
Ferrer's appointment "signifies continuity and harmony" in the talks, Lacierda said. "Her appointment as panel chair is well-deserved given her competence and credentials as a peace negotiatior," he added.
Ferrer formally took her oath at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Friday afternoon.
Until her new appointment, Ferrer was adviser of the government peace panel's technical working group on the issue of normalization, which is considered the most contentious part of the talks with the rebel group. The next round of talks for the 3 annexes that will complete the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is set to resume this month.
Both sides signed a Framework Agreement in October that sets the stage for the creation of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao. Some sectors have expressed concern that Leonen's appointment to the SC would disrupt the momentum of the peace process, but Leonen has given assurances that his colleagues in the panel are just as capable to see it through.
Coronel just turned 53 last December 3. An accomplished academic and a longtime peace advocate, Ferrer was the director of the UP Third World Studies Center from 2000 to 2003 and a convenor of the Program on Peace, Democratization, and Human Rights of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies until 2005 before joining the peace panel in 2010.
In 2005, Ferrer was one of the 27 Filipinas who was included in the move to nominate 1,000 women for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
She was involved in the international campaign to ban landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize. She joined international fact-finding missions investigating violence in Cambodia and human rights violations in East Timor and Nepal.
Her areas of specialization include peace and conflict studies, human rights and international humanitarian law, and comparative politics of Southeast Asia, according to her profile from the AIDS, Security & Conflict Research Hub.
MILF and a female chief negotiator
Lacierda earlier hinted that the next peace panel chair would be a woman after revealing that MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had written a letter to Leonen stating that the MILF was willing to work with a chairperson "of any gender or ethnicity."
Deles has admitted that the issue of gender and ethnicity was "a real concern of the President" in selecting who will next lead the negotiations. Until last year, since talks started in 1997, the MILF peace panel has been an all-male group.
But Iqbal's letter has allayed fears that the MILF would frown upon the appointment of a woman to head the panel.
Ferrer earlier told Rappler that she interpreted the letter as a sign of trust in the administration.
"What this only means for the peace panel is that they have trust in the administration to carry on the process and other factors, such as gender or ethnicity will not come into the picture because they trust that this administration will continue the process," she said.
Ferrer graduated cum laude in UP with a degree in Philosophy. She has a masters degree in Southeast Asian studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.
Her father was the topnotch criminal lawyer, the late Dean Antonio Coronel. She is the sister of multi-awarded investigative journalist Sheila Coronel. - Rappler.com