(OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) (PNA) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has expressed his government’s desire to have a final peace agreement on Mindanao “cemented within the remaining months of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term" which ends on June 30, 2010.

This was noted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as it reported the first-day results of the two-day Mindanao peace talks which have resumed in Kuala Lumpur. The talks were formally resumed on Tuesday, December 8, after a stalemate of close to 14 months due to legal wrangling on the issue of ancestral domain.

”My government looks forward that a final peace agreement could be wrapped or cemented even with five months left of President Arroyo’s term," the Prime Minister said in remarks read by Kuala Lumpur’s Chief Negotiator Datuk Othman Abdul Razak.

"Although time is not on your side, I am confident that all parties recognized that major concessions and consensus have been made by both sides over the many years of tough negotiations," the Malaysian leader continued.

Malaysia is the facilitator of the talks on the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), chaired respectively by DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and Mohagher Iqbal.

The talks ended on Wednesday, December 9, with diplomats involved in the negotiations and members of the international contact group (ICG) jubilant that the stalled talks are “back on track.”

Prime Minister Najib sent a message to the panels congratulating President Arroyo for “her fortitude and continued commitment to forge a just and enduring comprehensive peace accord with the MILF.”

Congress joint session begins to tackle Proclamation 1959 MANILA, Dec. 9

(PNA) -- As joint session of both Chambers of Congress -- the Senate and the House of Representatives -- started Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Prospero Nograles assured that the only topic that lawmakers will discuss would be Proclamation 1959, which placed Maguindanao province under martial law.

"There will be no extraneous matters to be taken up except the report (which was submitted by Malacanang in connection with the declaration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of martial law in Maguindanao)," said Nograles in a press conference before the start of the joint session.

He stressed that the only motion that would be entertained is the motion to revoke Proclamation 1959.

A majority vote from Congress, which will be voting jointly, is needed to revoke Proclamation 1959. With 268 House members and 24 senators, at least 147 votes are needed to lift martial law in Maguindanao.

Congress' joint session started 4 p.m. Wednesday with 192 congressmen present. Nograles said discussions can run for five hours a day for four days -- December 9, 10, 14 and 15, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Based on the rules of procedure, each Chamber will be allotted 10 hours to interpellate key government officials who were summoned to attend the joint session.

The government officials summoned included Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, and Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.

So far, Nograles said, around 20 congressmen from the majority bloc and four from the minority bloc have requested to be included in the list of interpellators.

Asked if he expects long debates, the Speaker said, "It depends. When the lawmakers have become engrossed in discussions, we don’t know when to finish."

He, however, stressed that each Chamber will have to stick with the maximum 10-hour limit for the deliberations.

"There will be no other extraneous matters that will be taken up except the report. The only motion to be entertained is the motion to revoke after we close the question and answer portion," he said.

Nograles said that no motion to revoke would be entertained unless the discussions are through or when everybody is satisfied. (PNA)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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