Nation


MILF, MNLF agree to set aside issues




Posted on June 16, 2014


ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to mend their differences, following a convergence meeting initiated by officials of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), late last week in Jeddah.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal confirmed yesterday that the two Moro fronts along with the OIC have signed a joint statement reactivating the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum, or BCF, a mechanism created formally by the OIC in 2010 to settle the ideological disparities and to jointly work to achieve peace and development for the people of Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

“A joint statement was signed by [Randolph] Parcasio, spokesman [and legal counsel] of the MNLF, and I (Mohagher Iqbal) as head of the MILF delegation, with OIC secretary-general Iyad [Ameen] Madani present,” he said.

BANGSAMORO WELFARE
The OIC, an influential bloc of 57 Muslim countries, initiated the meeting on June 12 to bind the Moro fronts, and commit them to engage together in advancing the welfare and interest of the Bangsamoro people in war-torn Mindanao.

Mr. Iqbal said the OIC through Mr. Madani had advised the Moro fronts “about the need for close working relations among the groups and leaders.”

Since 2010, the OIC had been trying to bring together the Moro leaders in Mindanao since both fronts are practically pushing for the same ideology to protect the welfare of Bangsamoro and achieve its rightful governance over their ancestral lands in Mindanao.

The previous OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Hsano Lu had earlier met with Nur Misuari of the MNLF and Ebrahim Murad of the MILF at least twice during the Council of Foreign Ministers conference in Tajikistan in 2010, and in Djibouti, Africa, in 2012, respectively.

At that time, both sides have agreed to create an ad hoc joint secretariat that will facilitate the communications of the two fronts.

But the BCF failed to progress after Mr. Misuari set conditions such as for the MILF and other Moro groups to dissolve their organizations and be one with the MNLF.

The Bangsamoro struggle has been earlier fought by a single organization, but due to squabbles in the leadership, the MNLF crumbled.

A handful of its members, who are mostly in Central Mindanao, created the MILF, while the central committee of the MNLF disintegrated into five factions.

The unification efforts have taken a positive turn after several MNLF factions, which earlier cut ties with Misuari, have been engaging in dialogues with the MILF to find a common ground, especially on the two peace agreements -- 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed last March.

Abdul Sahrin, secretary-general of the MNLF (Muslimin G.) Sema faction, underscored the main objectives of the BCF.

“The Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum is supposed to accomplish three tasks: to reconcile the polarized MNLF leadership; to reconcile the reunited MNLF with the MILF, and to establish a unified MNLF-MILF position on the implementation of OIC 2013 resolution calling for integration of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro under the Basic Law,” he said.

COORDINATING FORUM
Mr. Iqbal said the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum “was one of the main issues discussed lengthily” during the recent meeting.

He said the fronts’ leaders are expected to meet again after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which will start at the end of this month.

He said the main agenda would be for the BCF to be fully functional.

Mr. Iqbal said Mr. Misuari “was not present” during the meeting.

“Only Ustadz Abdulbaki Abubakar headed the MNLF delegation representing several factions of the MNLF including Muslimin Sema, Hatimil Hassan, and Habib Mujahab. He (Mr. Misuari) can’t leave the Philippines, because he has a warrant of arrest pending,” he said.

For several months, Mr. Misuari had not yet emerged after it led its men to attack several coastal villages in this city in September.

The armed conflict, which stemmed from Mr. Misuari’s calls for independence and abrogation of the Final Peace Agreement that he signed, triggered a three-week gun battle and left more than 200 individuals killed and displaced 170, 000 families.

With developments in the southern peace process, Mr. Iqbal said there is a need for all Moro leaders to put their acts together to protect the Bangsamoro.

“This can be further strengthened if all the Moro leaders rally behind one another,” he said.

The OIC member countries are scheduled to meet this week in Jeddah for their 41st Council of Foreign Ministers Conference.

The reactivation of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum is expected to be one of the resolutions to be adopted.

The OIC states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world,” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.”

The collective population of OIC member states is over 1.4 billion as of 2008. The OIC has a permanent delegation to the United Nations. The official languages of the OIC are Arabic, English and French. -- Albert F. Arcilla