'Sources' claim most MNLF members still back peace pact
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Philippine Star) - Most members of the Moro National Liberation Front, including thousands now serving in the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces, remain loyal to the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement, according to leaders of the group and public officials.
More than 7,000 members of the MNLF have been integrated into the PNP and the Armed Forces after the signing in 1996 by Nur Misuari and then President Fidel Ramos of the now 17-year peace accord.
“We and our parents adhere to that peace accord with honor. All our elders want is the completion of the tripartite review of the peace agreement. We love it still more than ever, just the way we respect the Philippine Constitution,” a Tausog Army captain, integrated into the Philippine Army in 1999, told The Star Tuesday
An ethnic Maguindanaon Army major, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the issue, said most MNLF members, including those who belong to its largest, most politically-active faction led by former Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, remain focused on the peaceful resolution of all issues involving the peace agreement.
“Chairman Sema and his followers in the MNLF’s more than 20 `revolutionary states’ scattered across mainland Mindanao, the southern island provinces, and Palawan continue to adhere to the September 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF peace agreement. They are for the peaceful resolution of any misunderstanding with Malacañang,” the Army official, also an integree, said.
Senior officials of the MNLF signed in Zamboanga City last September 1 a resolution, after a series of dialogues with executives of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, reaffirming the “primacy of the peace process” and the importance of the tripartite review of their final peace accord with government.
The dialogues in the “MNLF Senior Leaders’ Forum” in Zamboanga City that led to the September 1 signing of the manifesto were organized by the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and OPAPP.
The activity provided a venue for discussions on the prospects of the Mindanao peace process and where leaders of the MNLF, which fought the government for three decades, can contribute their views and recommendations to improve their final peace pact with the national government and promoting the socio-economic welfare of former Moro rebels.
The manifesto was signed by former Sulu Gov. Yusoph Jikiri, who had served as chief of the MNLF-styled Bangsamoro Army prior to Misuari’s election as ARMM governor on September 9, 1996, and Abebakrin Lukman, and Abu Amri Taddik, both senior officials of the group.
Lukman was director of the ARMM’s regional information bureau when Misuari was governor of the autonomous region.
ARMM insiders present in the MNLF forum in Zamboanga City said the senior officials of the group want a peaceful end to the tripartite review of their peace accord with government, a three-way effort to address the agreement's “weak provisions” and misunderstandings on its implementation.
The evaluation of the GPH-MNLF 1996 final truce, which started in late 2007, involves leaders of the erstwhile rebel group, combined representatives from Malacañang and the ARMM regional government, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), through its Southern Philippines Peace Committee.
The OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslims countries, including petroleum-exporting states in the Middle East and North Africa, helped broker the GPH-MNLF peace agreement.
“We, the senior leaders and commanders of the MNLF who represent the broad masses of our people on the ground and acting on behalf of their general welfare and common good, hereby affirm our sustained support to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and its tripartite review to achieve the full implementation of the agreement,” stipulated the September 1 manifesto of MNLF leaders jointly convened by Hataman’s office and OPAPP.
Senior staffers of the ARMM’s local government department, which has jurisdiction over 116 towns and five provinces, earlier confirmed, citing reports from local government units, that a much bigger bulk of MNLF forces scattered in far-flung areas in the autonomous region have remained quiet on last month’s declaration of “Southern Mindanao’s independence” by Misuari.
Misuari was reportedly frustrated overn the delay in the completion of the tripartite review of the GPH-MNLF peace agreement. -- John Unson/Philippine Star