Duterte ‘a bit pessimistic’ about Mindanao peace talks

Pia Ranada
Duterte ‘a bit pessimistic’ about Mindanao peace talks

King Rodriguez

'I'm not nervous but I’m a little bit worried that nothing will come of it,' says Duterte about government talks with the MILF and MNLF

MANILA, Philippines – He used to be full of hope about Mindanao peace talks, but now he’s not so sure.

President Rodrigo Duterte admitted this to policemen on Friday, May 5, at Camp Pendutan in Maguindanao.

“I am talking to the MI(LF) and MN(LF), but apparently you’d notice they are grabbing each others’ camps now. So I [am] at a loss even. I was very optimistic before. But I’m a bit pessimistic now,” he said.

Duterte’s pessimism seems to stem from the persistent tensions between the rival groups Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Duterte said MNLF chairman Nur Misuari is “keeping his silence” about his concerns with the MILF but still talks to the President about them.

“He talks to me in private. But his misgivings about the other group, it used to be MN(LF) tapos this sprouting up of MI(LF), BI(FF), everything, it seems to be a convoluted thing,” said Duterte.

“So even me, I’m not nervous but I’m a little bit worried that nothing will come of it,” said Duterte.

The MNLF and MILF, both Islamist separatist groups are rivals. The MNLF, led by Nur Misuari, is an older group that succeeded in getting the Philippine government to sign the Tripoli Agreement in 1974 which would have established an autonomous region composed of Sulu, Basilan, other provinces in Mindanao, and Palawan.

But a group of MNLF members critical of Misuari’s leadership broke off to form the MILF in the late 1970s.

It was with the MILF that the Philippine government, under Benigno Aquino III, signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012.

The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, however, did not push through after the Mamasapano clash which sowed doubt in the sincerity of the MILF.

The Duterte administration renewed Mindanao peace talks, this time promising to engage not only MILF but also Misuari’s MNLF.

The government is creating two separate panels to engage the two groups. Misuari will be drafting his own proposal to amend the powers and territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.