MNLF will pursue independence, AFP vows to stop 'spoilers'
MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) vowed it will continue to stop what it calls "spoilers" of the peace process – groups staging violent attacks to oppose the agreement.
"Rest assured that our focused military operations will continue, to ensure that the peace process is not hampered or disrupted by spoilers and other threats," said AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala on Saturday, January 25.
Among those "spoilers" is Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rival group, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), particularly the faction led by founder Nur Misuari.
On Saturday, both the government and MILF agreed on a historic firearms deal that would require the rebel group to gradually decommission their firearms in phases – the last document needed to be settled before the comprehensive peace agreement can be signed. (READ: Gov't, MILF agree on historic arms deal)
But the MNLF vowed to continue its struggle for independence through "peaceful means."
"The MNLF does not recognize the peace agreement between the government and the MILF," MNLF spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla told Rappler in a phone interview on Saturday.
Fontanilla said the agreement is all a "political charade."
"The agreement will be irrelevant if Mindanao will be independent," he added.
Misuari and his men last year held various gatherings in Mindanao to declare independence from the Philippine government. Misuari protested what he said was government's failure to implement provisions in the 1996 peace accord.
The group also protested the peace negotiations with MILF, concerned that it will supersede the peace deal with the MNLF.
This led to the bloody Zamboanga City siege in September when hundreds of MNLF fighters sought to hoist their flag of independence in city hall. The military blocked them. The result was a standoff that lasted 3 weeks and killed hundreds of MNLF fighters. (READ: Zambo crisis: The fog of war)
"The MNLF will be struggling for the people of Mindanao to assert their quest for determination," Misuari said.
He said they will guide the people of Mindanao through orientation and mobilization.
"The problem of Mindanao will be solved by the people of Mindanao. If the people will decide to become independent, no power in this world can stop it," he added.
Meanwhile, Mindanao Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III said the signing of the Normalization Annex which involves decommissioning of firearms and troops is a "major step towards achieving our aspiration for peace and stability in Mindanao."
He reiterated the full support of the Senate Peace, Unification and Reconciliation Committee to help pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law. This is needed to provide the legal framework for the creation of a new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. – Rappler.com