Struggle for Bangsamoro independence continues



BIFM: Struggle for Bangsamoro independence continues

By Alexis Romero Home Updated October 15, 2012 05:07 PM


MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) on Monday said that the Bangsamoro framework agreement will not bring peace in Mindanao and vowed to continue calling for the creation of an independent homeland.

Abu Misri Mama, spokesman of the BIFM, insisted that the real aspiration of Bangsamoros is to achieve independence.

“Tuloy pa rin ang independence para sa Bangsamoro (Our struggle for independence for Bangsamoros will continue). The Bangsamoro political entity is not the aspiration of Bangsamoros,” Mama told radio station dzBB.

“What they are aspiring for is independence, a constitution that is not under any other political constitution,” he added.

The BIFM broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) due to some differences in policy.

Founded by former MILF commander Umbra Kato, the BIFM has criticized the MILF leadership for its alleged revisionist policy in abandoning its original stance of independence.

The military said the BIFM has about 400 members.

Mama said they would not use violence to sabotage the signing of a peace agreement. He, however, said they could resort to force to achieve their aims.

“We will not use violence to oppose that (Bangsamoro framework agreement) because that will be pointless,” the BIFM spokesman said in Filipino. “Pero gagamit kami ng dahas sa aming minimithi (But we will use violence for our aim).”

Mama said they are still waiting for the government to negotiate with them.

He admitted though that he has not read the 13-page framework agreement.

“We have a copy here but I did not read. Wala namang kabuluhan yan (it is pointless),” Mama said.

“As I said earlier, we will not commit violent acts because of the signing (of the framework agreement). We resort to violence because of our jihad,” he added.

Jihad denotes a “holy war” fought for the Islamic faith.

The BIFM consists of former MILF members who attacked civilians in various parts of Mindanao in 2008 after the Supreme Court voided the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

Hundreds of people including women and children, died due to the atrocities.

The MOA-AD would have formed a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, which would have expanded the scope of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The new entity would have covered areas presently in Palawan in Luzon, South Cotabato, Zamboanga City, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur.

The MILF has been asking members of the BIFM to return to its fold, saying it “is not a joke or a picnic to start a revolutionary struggle.”




by Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas

Tomorrow, October 15, 2012, a supposedly historic event will happen at Malacanang – the formal signing of a Framework Agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with no less than the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak,  Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and representatives of the International Contact Group and the International Monitoring Team as witnesses for the event.

Four years  ago, a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was pre-signed in Malaysia but was prevented from being formally signed and eventually declared unconstitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Although the MOA-AD and the Framework Agreement are basically the same just as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is practically the same as the new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity, everybody seems to be happy with this one yet was seething with venomous anger against the other. Why?


I understand why anti-Muslim autonomy politicians like Senator Drilon and Sec. Roxas are quiet. They are the stalwarts of the Liberal Party, the party of President Aquino III. I understand why even opposition politicians who are anti-Muslim autonomy advocates are quiet. They do not want to go against the dictates of Malacanang as they might lose their pork barrel. I understand why most of mainstream media are supportive of the Aquino- approved Framework Agreement. The Media Agenda is basically the same as the Malacanang agenda. I am not surprised why the Supreme Court who branded the MOA-AD as unconstitutional is silent about the new Framework Agreement. Their new Chief Justice was newly appointed by the President.

But I am surprised why so many ordinary Christian Filipinos, who appeared ready and raring to join the Crusades against the Moros during the height of the MOA-AD controversy, are now silent and are even said to be “pro-Peace”, whatever that means. Could it be that left on their own, the Filipino masses would actually be pro-Peace and that they are just looking for cues from their opinion leaders?

If that is so, then there is actually a possibility for peace in this country!

The question then is, will the ruling elite allow lasting peace in the country? The “No War – No Peace” condition has a lot of advantages for the powers that be.  It helps them maintain their position of dominance and power – both in Mindanao and in Metro Manila.


This early, government functionaries have already said that the schedule for the finalization of the MILF-GPH peace talks will be in 2016. That would simply not work. In 2016, Aquino III will be a lameduck president. The opposition will not be afraid of him. His party-mates will be ready to abandon him. The Media will look for its own agenda.

Ms. Arroyo thought that in 2008, she could still make the MOA-AD palatable to the majority. But she underestimated her unpopularity. The obvious rigging of the elections in 2007 and her attempts to have Martial Law through Proclamation 1017 which called for a State of Emergency gave chills down the spines of many Filipinos. The opposition’s resistance to the MOA-AD gained overwhelming adherents.

In the same vein, Mr. Aquino should not over-estimate his popularity. The removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona and his replacement wit a young law professor who was Aquino’s schoolmate in college does not go well with many critical-thinking Filipinos. As Senator Joker Arroyo remarked, by removing CJ Corona, Aquino effectively controlled the three branches of government thus having Martial Law powers without calling Martial Law.

Recently, this September, the ‘netizens of the country were up in arms against Aquino’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law, calling the imposition of the law as “e-Martial Law”. His advisers/retinue who keep on trumpeting Aquino’s alleged popularity must have been surprised at the people’s protest. With about a dozen petitions to the Supreme Court, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the government’s implementation of the law.

If Aquino and his party-mates are truly sincere in this peace process, they must start the ball rolling this early. They cannot presume that Aquino’s popularity will remain as high as they say it is. A plebiscite in one and a half year’s time must be scheduled. The plebiscite should not be done beyond 2014. If that happens, then maybe there would be some hope for peace.

As for the doubting Moros, it does not matter who represents the Bangsa Moro. What is important is what the representatives achieve for the Moros. The best thing we got so far, after struggling for more than 40 years, is the Tripoli Agreement. If the MILF can get something less than the Tripoli Agreement but can have it fully implemented favoring the Moros, then well and good. But for me, the Tripoli Agreement remains the basic autonomous agreement. Everything else is a part of the process towards its full implementation.


However, and this is a big however, I’m afraid all this hullabaloo is just for show. The Aquino administration is simply imitating the Arroyo administration. Like Arroyo, who lured the MILF to the negotiating table by dangling a “Bangsamoro State” carrot, Aquino is dangling the Bangsamoro “autonomous political entity” carrot while taking control of ARMM by appointing his own people – Hataman et al – and letting them run for office in the coming elections. This is being done in spite of Aquino’s announcement that his team will be on a temporary capacity and will not run in 2013. (Remember when Arroyo said she wouldn’t run in 2004?). He will extend the talks until near the end of his presidential term when it will meet extreme opposition from the Christian majority.

On the other hand, the MILF will be glad to keep on talking and putting concepts on the table. The alternative is war in the battlefields. Any agreements will be bases for future agreements. The MILF can just bide its time while winning more local supporters as well as international supporters like the US and Malaysia. It probably also hopes that MNLF will somehow just disappear.

It is really a win-win situation for Aquino and the MILF but a lose-lose situation for the people.

At the end of Aquino’s reign when the s##t hits the fan, there’ll be disaster. And this time, it might not just involve two commands of MILF “rogue” fighters but might involve a whole lot more. By that time, so many Moros would have been made to believe that Aquino and the Philippine government are sincere, only to find out that they were just being had.

(And pray tell, whatever happened to the Jakarta Agreement – Ramos’s peace pact with the MNLF? It also had the US imprimatur as well as the OIC’s.)

Philippine government’s peace negotiator Marvic Leonen said, “The new autonomous political entity will be created through an organic act, drafted by a Transition Commission, enacted by Congress and effective upon ratification in a plebiscite.” These are all difficult political tasks, almost impossible to handle by any government. But as shown by the Christian Filipino people’s response to the Framework Agreement, they would support whatever their leaders say so.

If all these difficult tasks were to be done swiftly with the full support of the government, then we will be on the Road to Peace. But if they will be done willy nilly or and near the end of Aquino’s term or done with a hidden agenda (like putting Aquino’s Moro lackeys to govern the Bangsamoro) , then Aquino’s road map will lead to nowhere, or worse, bigger war.


From Reflections on the Bangsa Moro

Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let loose the dogs of war.”

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the dogs are let loose. For years, the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been hammering out a peace agreement that would satisfy both parties. This has been done under the auspices of the Malaysian government with the blessings and cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

But was it really done to satisfy both parties? Or was the MILF merely hoodwinked into believing that the Philippine government was sincere? Because of the so-called peace process, which is what the GRP-MILF negotiations is called, the MILF has been co-opted into a “non-revolutionary” existence and abiding by the Ceasefire Agreement.

Yet while the ‘peace process’ was going on, the government’s propaganda machine continually picture the MILF as a band of bandits, allied with the Abu Sayyaf, responsible for killings and bombings including beheading 10 Marines. At least twice, Philippine courts issued warrants of arrests for MILF leaders, including the top leadership, as if they were ordinary criminals subject to Philippine laws.

But the MILF persevered in the ‘peace process’. And just when they were about to cross the finish line, the cat was let out of the bag, and the dogs are everywhere ready to tear it to pieces.


The MILF should have learned from the Tripoli Agreement. The Moros were winning the war in the 1970s. President Marcos begged for a Ceasefire. The Tripoli Agreement was signed. Then Marcos distorted the Agreement by claiming “constitutional process”. Everything the Moros fought for was turned upside down by the government which gave the Moros a non-autonomous “autonomous government” instead.

When Marcos left, Cory Aquino completed Marcos’s “constitutional process” via the 1987 Constitution and Organic Act (RA 6734) to systemically destroy the Tripoli Agreement. Together with my brother and other Moros, we filed a petition at the Supreme Court (GR 89651) questioning the Organic Act. Of course, the court ruled against us.

Our prime argument was that the Tripoli Agreement was an international treaty and binding to the Philippine government. It was thus part of the law of the land.

And since the Tripoli Agreement was in conflict with the Organic Act, the Organic Act should be deemed invalid.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the validity of the Tripoli Agreement but it declared:

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Tripoli Agreement is a binding treaty or international agreement, it would then constitute part of the law of the land. But as internal law it would not be superior to R.A. No. 6734, an enactment of the Congress of the Philippines, rather it would be in the same class as the latter … Thus, if at all, R.A. No. 6734 would be amendatory of the Tripoli Agreement, being a subsequent law.

From this ruling, it would seem that the government can sign any treaty or agreement with the Moros, and simply pass a subsequent law that would radically amend it. As simple as that.

The Organic Act was the final straw that broke the Tripoli Agreement. Because of the Organic Act, the Bangsa Moro homeland was reduced to a handful of provinces and did not even include Cotabato City. At first, even Marawi City opted out but joined the ARMM later.


In 1996, Misuari was persuaded (some say strong-armed) to sign the Jakarta Accord and to come back to the Philippines. And so he did amidst the applause of Filipinos, OIC leaders and some Moros.

But the honeymoon was short-lived. From a virtual head-of-state recognized by many Muslim countries, Nur Misuari was ignominiously arrested and imprisoned by the Philippine government for years. Only recently, Misuari was released on bail and is now drumming up support in Mindanao.

Misuari, presumably, opposes the GRP-MILF pact. He says he has nothing to do with it.


The recent developments have shown to all and sundry – including foreign observers – that the Philippine government cannot be trusted with peace agreements. The Philippine government will sign a million peace agreements but it will never abide by them. This has been proven by the Tripoli Agreement, the Jakarta Accord, the Final Peace Agreement and now, the Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

It is high time that the Bangsa Moro people wake up to reality.


The no peace-no war situation is Mindanao should stop as it has been hindering the growth of the country and hampering the lives of the people. While our Asian neighbors leapfrog into 21st century as newly industrialized countries and world’s leading economies, the Philippine government last year trumpeted as its greatest achievement a GDP growth of 7.3 % — its highest since 1976, the year the Tripoli Agreement was signed and the country was in the grip of Martial Law.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Philippines was the second most progressive economy in Asia (next only to Japan). But then the Mindanao war erupted. And from then on the Philippines has become “the sick man of Asia.” Isn’t there a clear connection?

From the 1970s to today, the standard of living of our Asian neighbors – Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, etc. have improved hundreds-fold. While the poor Filipino standard of living has even declined such that the government last year was so happy to have reached a GDP growth it hasn’t had since the 1970s. This is a crime to the people of the Philippines.

And the only reason that that GDP growth was achieved was because millions of Filipinos have to slave away abroad, working hard to earn precious dollars and send them to their relatives back home.

A stop to the no-war no-peace situation in Mindanao is the only way for the country to develop as it will stop the billions of pesos spent on military spending, encourage foreign investments in the country and promote tourism in Mindanao and elsewhere.

But there will be no peace if the Bangsa Moro peoples will be deprived of their heritage, culture, lands and resources as well as the opportunities for a decent way of life.


It is the right of every nation, every people to determine its own destiny, its own path. The Bangsa Moro cannot rely on the other party’s good faith.

One peaceful way for the Bangsa Moro people is to petition the United Nations to conduct a clean and honest Referendum for and by the Moro people to determine what they want – Independence, Greater Autonomy in a Federal State or Integration with the dominant Filipino people in one nation-state. And everybody should abide by the results.

The alternative to real peace is real war.


The territories of a Homeland is not subject to the will of illegal occupants.



Reflections on the Bangsa Moro

The humiliating arrest of Indanan Mayor Isnaji Alvarez, a ranking member of the Moro National Liberation Fron (MNLF) is a slap on the face of the MNLF and the Bangsa Moro.

Alvarez, using his stature in the province, insured the safe release of Ces Drilon and her companions. And for that, he got arrested and charged of kidnapping.

How many successful rescues against the Abu Sayyaf had the military done ? Very few and with huge casualties. Allegedly looking for Fr. Bossi in Basilan, 10 of its Marines were beheaded and some killed. Yet Fr. Bossi was not even in Basilan. He was in a totally different province and region — in Lanao.

The Ces Drilon kidnapping is the most successful negotiation ever in Abu Sayyaf kidnappings. This was only possible because of Isnaji’s political stature in the province and armed followers. The military, police or other Abu Sayyaf groups did not dare sabotage the negotiations as they would be in for a fight.

After the successful outcome, Isnaji and son were flown to Manila upon the pretext of bringing them to the President in Malacanang for congratulatory  ceremonies. Instead, they were arrested and charged.


The Isnajis were so taken by surprise. They did not even have a lawyer. Atty Francisco presented himself as the lawyer of the Isnajis. Reportedly, he was sent by Senator Legarda.

According to the lawyer, as broadcasted on TV, Ces and her crew were brought to Isnaji’s house after they were released by the kidnappers. It was around 11 pm. The military and police wanted to take immediate custody of them but Ces and her team refused.

Why did they refuse? Ces knew the situtation there and she knew that anything could happen if they went with the military in the dead of night.

I hope our brillant Moro lawyers would take the cudgels for Isnaji. If my brother Jun Abbas were alive, he would be right there in the limelight fighting for Isnaji, who was his friend.


The humiliation of Isnaji is the humiliation of the MNLF and the Bangsa Moro people. Perhaps this will be a lesson to the Moros. The MNLF cannot expect anything from the government despite the Jakarta and succeeding agreements.

Opposition leader and former President Erap keeps on repeating and boasting that the MILF should be finished off (tapusin) by the government. He reminds the people of his “all-out war” against the MILF. It appears that the only way for the MNLF and MILF is to return to each other’s arms and re-unite. That would be applauded not only by the Bangsa Moro but by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).