MNLF groups speak of views on BBL at Congress PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 January 2015 11:42

The largest faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said Thursday it is thankful to Congress for giving chance to ventilate its views on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and reiterated its appeal to lawmakers to make sure the bill would benefit the “tri-people” in the country’s south.

By “tri-people,” the MNLF group under former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema meant Southern Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and non-Muslim indigenous hinterland communities, which has been existing even before the pioneering groups of foreign Islamic missionaries set foot, between the 13th and 14th century, in what are now provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to spread Islam.

Sema, who is of pure Maguindanaon descent, and ethnic Maranaw Abul Khayr Alonto, also a leader of another MNLF faction, ventilated last Tuesday in the House of Representatives their views on the draft BBL, which is a product of the final peace compact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Alonto and Sema had both said, before officials of the 75-member special House committee deliberating on the draft BBL, that contrary to public perceptions, their respective groups are not against President Benigno Aquino III’s peace overture with the MILF, which splintered from the MNLF in the early 1980s.

“We are thankful to the House of Representatives for giving us chance to speak about our sentiments on the draft BBL. We can only hope and pray that our inputs during that congressional hearing on the draft BBL will not be taken lightly by lawmakers now working on the enactment into law of that bill,” Sema said on Thursday.

The draft BBL, which aims to replace the ARMM with a new, MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity, is expected to be passed into law within the first quarter of 2015.

Sema was still secretary-general of the MNLF when the group signed a final peace compact with government on September 2, 1996, during the time of President Fidel Ramos. The government-MILF talks took off January 7, 1997, barely three months after the MNLF and the Ramos administration signed the vaunted truce in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In his statement emailed Thursday, Sema said he had insinuated to lawmakers, during the 35th draft BBL hearing in Congress, that the government’s having crafted with the MILF the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, had caused “discomfort” in their ranks.

“Even then, we’re not turning our backs from our September 2, 1996 peace agreement with government. We are not at war with the MILF either. We can never be at war with the MILF. We are for a peace process that would benefit Mindanao’s `tri-people.’ Not a single Mindanao sector must be left out,” Sema pointed out.

Alonto, whose group emerged only after MNLF founder Nur Misuari had gone into hiding after his men staged a deadly attack in Zamboanga City in September 2013, was so explicit in his recognition of the final government-MILF peace deal and in his endorsement of the draft BBL.

The group of Alonto, who, as a young MNLF leader, availed of an amnesty program during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, is comprised of now aged former guerrilla leaders, many of them beneficiaries of socio-economic and political packages from the Marcos regime, as interventions designed to quell the Mindanao Moro secessionist uprising.

The MNLF faction under Misuari, on the other hand, is totally against the on-going government-MILF peace overture. Misuari and his followers even declared “independence” of the so-called Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (Minsupala) region in 2013 in protest of Malacañang’s dealings with the MILF.

The government-MNLF peace accord covers all Moro communities in the Minsupala area, referred to in the same agreement as “special zone of peace and development.”

“Our group is very different and so realistic. It is only struggling hard for the Moro people to have genuine autonomy and enjoy the right to thrive under the right-to-self determination doctrine. Our group is also aiming to preserve and nurture the gains and dividends of the September 2, 1996 peace accord,” Sema said.

Alonto was quoted on Tuesday by different local radio outfits as saying that the MNLF faction under him is for the full implementation of all agreements reached by the government and MILF.

Sema and Alonto had both said they are grateful to the House committee handling the draft BBL, led by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, for inviting them to the 35th congressional hearing on the bill.

Sema said his group will continue adhering religiously to the now 18-year final government-MNLF peace agreement. He said they are just as willing to work with government iron out misunderstandings on the implementation of its sensitive provisions.

“By our combined efforts and shared visions, we can generate a successful solution and a conclusion to the problem in southern Philippines that we all want to achieve, which is a just and lasting peace that we can leave as legacy to the future generations of Bangsamoro and Filipinos,” Sema had said in his message during the congressional hearing.