RP Panel sees MILF/MNLF disunity as hurdle to Peace Agreement with MILF

Posted on February 24, 2012

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FROM BUSINESSWORLD ONLINE

Reuniting both Moro fronts seen as key

in addressing Mindanao security instability

GPH and MILF panel chairs with Malaysian facilitator

REUNITING the Moro fronts in southern Philippines is seen as a crucial step to address the decades-old problems of instability and violence in the region and pave the way for Bangsamoro self-determination.

This was cited in the exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last week between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Working with other leaders representing constituents within the Bangsamoro requires sitting down to define goals, articulate interests and agree on common courses of action… but we think we both need to do more than this,” government chief negotiator Mario Victor F. Leonen said in his opening statement during the recent talks.

“For example, we hope that the MILF can go beyond its initial meetings with leaders of various groups within the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) as it had reported during the last round of talks. We hope that it can actually see the current proposals of the MNLF and find common grounds with them,” he added.

For its part, the MILF expressed continuing initiatives in reaching out to members of the MNLF particularly to its founding chairman Nur Misuari, who has been lukewarm in the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“We want to converse and seek their views on important matters that affect our people,” the MILF said in its weekly editorial posted at its Web site www.luwaran.com.

“For the MILF, there is no substitute for coming to terms with a brother not only in the struggle but more importantly also in faith. This is the reason why the MILF follows the consultative and collective system of leadership,” the group added.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF after disagreements in the ideology and following the flaws of the 1996 peace agreement between the Ramos administration and MNLF. Since then, the two fronts have been at odds despite several attempts by leaders from Muslim countries to reunite them.

In November, Mr. Misuari visited Ameril Umbra Kato, a former commander of the MILF, and hailed the Moro commander for splitting with the MILF.

During the meeting, Mr. Misuari declared that the MILF has no strength claiming that many of its members have defected and accused the organization for engaging in “bogus peace talks” with the government. Kato died of heart illness several weeks after the meeting.

The MILF advised Mr. Misuari to work for general interests and welfare of the Moros.

“[Mr.] Misuari should hear our pleas and appeals, the sooner the better. It is not good that he continues to ignore us,” the MILF said in a statement.

“The Moros have suffered a lot for centuries and their conditions are not getting any better daily. They deserve immediate bailout from this hellish condition,” the MILF added.

Experts in the Mindanao peace process look at the faction as detrimental to the peace process in Mindanao.

Central parts of Mindanao are known to be the stronghold of the MILF forces, while areas in western Mindanao such as the Sulu archipelago have remained the bailiwick of the MNLF.

On Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles said that the Aquino administration is committed “to find ways to reach a mutually acceptable solution on remaining issues” in the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF.

“We will take up difficult issues but we are committed to arrive at a resolution,” Ms. Deles said during a dinner to welcome Indonesian Ambassador Rezlan I. Jenie and members of the Organization of Islamic Conference-Peace Committee for southern Philippines.

The government and the MNLF are expected to meet for the second Ad Hoc High Level Group in Bandung, Indonesia next month. — Darwin T. Wee