Biggest MNLF group not hostile to framework deal PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 October 2012 16:05

While two groups in the Moro National Liberation Front are critically skeptical about the “framework agreement” reached by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government, its largest faction is optimistic it will not abrogate the September 2, 1996 final GPH-MNLF accord.

The GPH-MNLF final peace pact, brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is now subject of a “tripartite review,” meant to resolve misunderstandings on the implementation of some of its sensitive provisions.

Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active group in the MNLF, said they are confident Malacañang will not disregard the “dividends” of their peace pact with the national government while trying to pursue a peaceful settlement with the MILF.

“The MNLF and the MILF are not at war with each other. We are all fighting for one cause, the socio-economic, political and religious advancement of the Bangsamoro people. That’s a centuries-old quest,” Sema said. “President Aquino is aware that the MNLF is already a friend of the government, as a result of the government-MNLF final peace agreement.”

Sema said they are to view the GPH-MILF framework agreement with “guarded optimism” and with caution.

“The real thing cannot be seen only with the mere signing of a framework greement. The real thing will happen during the legislation and subsequent `approval or disapproval’ by the people through a plebiscite,” Sema pointed out.

An undefeated mayor here from 2001 to 2010, Sema, who is aspiring for the city’s mayoral post in next year’s local election as Liberal Party candidate, was a member of the MNLF panel that crafted their final peace pact with the national government.

The three-way review of their now 16-year final peace pact with the national government, which started in late 2007, involves Malacanang, the MNLF and the OIC. The OIC is a pan-Islamic block of more than 50 Muslim states, including wealthy petroleum-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

“As what we in the MNLF had experienced, Malacañang may wish to give the MILF a new, flashy and expensive foreign-made, durable, road-worthy 4x4 vehicle, but Congress and the electorate, via a plebiscite, can possibly decide on  giving the MILF only a bantam car,” Sema said.

Sema said while the MNLF has its own peace overture with the national government, they are neither “negative” nor pessimist about the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.

“In the meantime, the only serious,  analytical comment, but not a  destructive comment that I have is that the MILF appeared to have agreed to limit the `core territory’ of the Bangsamoro, as if waiving practically the historical territory of the Moro people that have, for centuries, been thriving in Mindanao,” Sema said.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF started January 7, 1997, less than four monthhs after then President Fidel Ramos signed with Nur Misuari the vaunted GPH-MNLF peace agreement.

A then griping Misuari immediately criticized Malacañang for starting its peace talks with MILF, just after the crafting of the GPH-MNLF final peace pact.

Misuari’s religious adviser, Saudi-trained cleric Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, said replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a “Bangsamoro region” is tantamount to abandoning the GPH-MNLF final peace agreement.

Murshi, who was chief of staff of the ARMM’s executive department when Misuari was the area’s regional governor from 1996 to 2001, is the present secretary-general of the MNLF’s Misuari group.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, a more radical faction, was just as critical.

Hashim, former executive director of the now defunct Southern Philippines Development Authority, was quoted Wednesday by Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City as saying their group is not in favor of the GPH-MILF framework agreement either.

“For us, this is a double talk, a betrayal on the part of the government on the MNLF,” Hashim said.

Sema, however, said any animosity towards the MILF, at a time when it is also trying to its best to foster peace in Moro-dominated areas, is “counterproductive” and can only politically weaken Mindanao’s Moro communities.

“Dialogues will erase doubts and clear out speculations. We must adhere to the Islamic teachings that we need to let the unifying rope of Allah bind us together, for us to become one and strong. Bangsamoro unity is very important,” Sema said.

There used to be only one Moro rebel group — the MNLF — that fought the government in the early 1970s until the early 1980s, when some of its Maranaw and Maguindanaon leaders, led by cleric Salamat Hashim, bolted and organized the MILF.

Salamat, who studied Islamic theology at the Al-Azzar University in the Egyptian capital Cairo, helped organized the MNLF after former President Marcos declared Martial Law, but broke away due to irreconcilable differences with Misuari.