MNLF, MILF start finding common ground

Angela Casauay
MNLF, MILF start finding common ground
Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani sends his special envoy to the Philippines to convene the meeting between the rival groups

MANILA, Philippines – Rival armed fronts in Mindanao have agreed to engage in a forum that will enable them to reconcile differences in a peaceful manner. 

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have reactivated the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement Wednesday, October 15.   

The forum will serve as a venue for the MILF and MNLF to discuss their issues and find common ground between the peace accords they separately signed with the government. 

The MILF and the MNLF met on Monday, October 13, under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an influential body which counts 56 Islamic states as members. The OIC brokered the 1996 peace accord between the government and the MNLF. 

OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani sent OIC special envoy Ambassador Sayyid Kassim El-Masri to the Philippines  to convene the meeting. 

The MILF delegation, led by its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, included Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdullah Camlian and Jun Mantawil. MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari was not present at the meeting but was represented by lawyer Randolph Parcasio, who led the MNLF delegation. Also present from the MNLF were former Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, Mujahab Hashim, Alvarez Isnaji and Utto Salem Cutan. 

Misuari is facing charges over the bloody siege of Zamboanga in September 2013, which left over a hundred people dead and thousands homeless. His faction staged the siege to dramatize their opposition to the peace process.  

Egyptian Ambassador Mahmoud Mostafa who chairs the OIC-Peace Committee on Southern Philippines (PCSP), and Hassan Abdein of the OIC Department of Minorities and Communities, were also in attendance.

During the meeting, the parties agreed on the terms of reference for the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, which was signed on Tuesday, October 14. 

Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles was furnished with copies of the terms and a report of the discussions in a meeting with the OIC, the two fronts, and government representatives on Wednesday. 

The development comes as the Philippine Congress is in the midst of deliberating the proposed law seeking to create a new autonomous government in the South to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

A product of the final peace deal between the government and the MILF, the bill seeks to create an entity with wider political and fiscal powers than the ARMM in a bid to end 4 decades of conflict in Mindanao that has killed over 120,000 people. 

To prepare for the creation of the Bangsamoro government, the MILF has created a political party to enable it to participate in the 2016 elections.  

TOWARDS UNITY. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles and government representatives with with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front. Photo by OPAPP

Expectations from the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum 

The first meeting of the MILF and the MNLF under the forum has been scheduled on October 26 to October 27. They are expected to meet every 3 months. The OIC will preside the meetings. 

Under its terms of reference, the BCF will have the following functions: 

 

  • Provide the venue to discuss issues and concerns confronting the Bangsamoro people, including finding common grounds between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement-1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to harmonize the two peace tracks and preserve the gains  in these agreements which the MNLF and the MILF mutually recognize and respect; 
  • Coordinate and consolidate the efforts of the MILF and MNLF towards achieving the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for just political solution and lasting peace and inclusive development; and 
  • Conduct consultations with other sectors of the Bangsamoro society including the Ulama.

 

It will have 20 members, with 10 members each from the MILF and the MNLF. 

In 2010, the OIC convinced the two groups to create the BCF in a bid to unify them towards peace in Mindanao. No less than MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Misuari agreed to create ad-hoc groups for the body. But the developments reached a deadlock after Misuari asked the MILF to dissolve their organization and re-join the MNLF.

The MNLF led the rebel movement in the South in the 1970s but leadership differences forced the late Hashim Salamat to break away from the group and create the MILF. 

The MNLF itself has since broken into different factions. Aside from the one led by Misuari, one faction is led by Habib Mujahab “Boghdadi” Hashim, chairman of an MNLF breakaway faction, the Islamic Command Council. Both are opposed to the government-MILF peace talks.

Another faction, led by Sema, is supportive of the peace process. Just days before the government-MILF peace agreement was signed, 35 of the 39 surviving members of the original MNLF central committee joined hands to elect Abul Khayr Alonto as their chairman. Alonto has called on Misuari to support the establishment of the Bangsamoro government. 

The OIC still recognizes Misuari as the chairman of the MNLF. 

More than a decade since the 1996 peace pact was signed, MNLF leaders say the government has yet to fully implement the deal. (READ: The MILF, the MNLF and 2 peace agreements

Efforts to settle issues between the MILF and the MNLF gained ground after both sides agreed to reactivate the BFC in a meeting in Jeddah on June 16, 2014.

Deles welcomed the development.  

““This is a positive and very welcome development especially at this juncture of the peace process when the Bangsamoro Basic Law is being deliberated in Congress. We are talking of the same territory and the same people, as such it is good to know that the MILF and MNLF have agreed to consolidate their efforts for peace and development so that all of these can be integrated in the BBL” she said. –Rappler.com

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