MNLF tacitly supports BBL under its OIC-backed unification effort with MILF PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:20

Contrary to general public perception, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), particularly the Nur MIsuari faction, does not oppose the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

This was the categorical statement made by MNLF legal counsel Atty. Randolph Parcasio to some 200 civil society and religious leaders from the Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawisubregion who attended the “Regional Forum  on Peace and Security” held in Zamboanga City last December 9.

“The MNLF is not opposed to the BBL”, he told them, “because the official position of the MNLF is let the legislature” – (referring to  Congress, which is deliberating on the measure) - “take its natural course. As we have stated in the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum, the MNLF  position is ‘No Comment’ out of reciprocity. That is the same position the MILF accorded to the MNLF when we negotiated the Final Peace Agreement - they did not interfere.”

Parcasio’s pronouncement indicates a strategic shift in the front’s purported antagonism towards the BBL and its antecedent Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) forged between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014. Misuari’s MNLF adherents attacked Zamboanga City in 2013 to demonstrate their opposition to the deal as it was being finalized by the government and MILF negotiators in Malaysian in 2013.

The so-called Zamboanga Siege and the Mamasapano tragedy earlier this year have since led many Filipinos to mistrust any peace deal with Moro rebels. One further consequence has been the ambivalence among lawmakers towards the enactment of the BBL, causing it to now languish in the plenary sessions of both the Lower House and Senate.

Last week’s peace and security forum in Zamboanga City was organized by the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) led by its lead convenor and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ)  president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF.  The forum was a post-Week of Peace 2015 activity to consider “current political developments in the region and implications on the peace process”, as its theme stated. Aside from religious and civil society leaders, it was also attended by top MNLF personalities including Western Mindanao Grand Mufti and MNLF spiritual leader UstadzAbdulbakiAbubakar.

Parcasio in his 40-minute talk updated the forum on the status of MNLF’s ongoing 8 year-long review with the Philippine government of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA). He lamented that while it only took three years to negotiate the FPA, it has taken almost 10 years so far to discuss its implementation, with at least three major provisions  stillunder unresolved contention.

Parcasio also discussed the status of current efforts led by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to unify the leaderships of MILF with MNLF, from which the former splintered over ideological issues after the Tripoli Agreement which the OIC brokered back in 1976. Then and now, Misuari with the MNLF wanted to establish a secularist “BangsamoroRepublik” while the MILF aimed for an Islamic state, former MNLF commander AmilpasaBandaring said in a recent forum in the city.  Over the course of the 17-year negotiation with the government though, the MILF has dropped its call for an independent Islamic state in favor of regional autonomy based on a parliamentary political system that is defined in the CAB.

The strategic unification of the MILF and MNLF is considered to be critical to the success of the peace process, a goal shared primarily by the OIC. In a statement the powerful organization issued last Saturday to appeal to Congress to enact the BBL, it said: “We urge the leaders of both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to consolidate their coordination and cooperation through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) and to engage other stakeholders in order to close ranks and strengthen and consolidate their cooperation and unity and maintain their peaceful struggle for the common cause.” OIC’s statement is intended to disabuse some critical quarters’ belief that the BBL will be counterproductive to the peace process.

In May 2010, MNLF chairman NurMIsuari and MILF chairman EbrahimMurad met in Tajakistan and signed a declaration to form the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, which has since met six times to work out a common stand on their respective peace agreements and goals. The BCF’s latest meeting took place in Kuwait last May, this year.

Parcasio said in last week’s civil society forum: “Unity (of the MILF and MNLF) is indispensable to the success of the Bangsamoro struggle. There is no basic difference between the two fronts as both are seeking to achieve justice, peace and fair solution to the problem of the Bangsamoro people, to coordinate their efforts in order to consolidate   their movements towards achieving the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. So, there is no conflict between the MNLF and MILF regarding the BBL and CAB, because in one of the agreements we have signed the MILF stated that it respects the right of the MNLF to pursue the implementation of the FPA.” (ZABIDA)