Maguindanao execs, MILF reps discuss peace process PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 18 January 2014 18:10

Local executives in Maguindanao and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) on Friday agreed to cohesively help one another educate the public on the importance of the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Maguindanao’s local officials, led by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council, and the BTC members also reached a consensus to hold continuing dialogues to discuss the gains of the on-going GPH-MILF talks.

Maguindanao, which has 36 towns, is the main bastion of the MILF, whose central headquarters is located in Darapanan area in Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of the province.

The BTC, chaired by the MILF’s chief negotiator, Muhaquer Iqbal, and Mangudadatu had also conceded to cooperate with each other in disseminating the ramifications of putting up a Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao before the term of incumbent regional officials end in 2016.

Members of the BTC and local executives from across the province talked about the on-going government-MILF talks lengthily during their first ever meeting last Friday in Buluan town in the second district of Maguindanao.

Iqbal, during the meeting, briefed Mangudadatu and his constituent-mayors on the objectives of replacing ARMM with a new, more politically and administratively empowered Bangsamoro entity.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF started in January 7, 1997, and is now being supported by Malaysia, the European Union, Japan, Norway, and other international donor outfits, and foreign organizations involved in peace overtures in different countries.

Besides Malaysia, other member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim countries, including petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa, have also been helping push 17-year GPH-MILF talks forward.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council, said he was elated with the BTC’s effort to reach out to the political community in the province.

“The political leadership of the province and all members of Maguindanao’s league of mayors have been very supportive of the government-MILF talks. No one from us had ever stood against it. We want lasting peace and development in all Moro areas to set in through an honest-to-goodness peace process,” Mangudadatu said.

Friday’s meeting between Iqbal and Mangudadatu was the first ever in recent years. Mangudadatu’s predecessor, the now detained former Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr., and his children were known for their deep-seated animosity with the MILF.

It was for the Ampatuan clan’s hostility to the MILF that it established private militias and stockpiled firearms enough to arm two Army brigades apparently in preparation for a showdown with the rebel group in case it gets to the helm of a political entity that would have jurisdiction over towns and provinces in the ARMM.

Mangudadatu said he had, since his first election to office in 2010, been trying to resolve clan wars involving MILF commanders and big Moro families just for the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the rebel group to take off in areas troubled by the iron-fisted policy of the Ampatuans in dealing with groups opposing their leadership in the province, from 2001 until they got incarcerated in December 2009 in connection with their having allegedly masterminded the infamous “Maguindanao Massacre,” that left 58 people dead, more than 30 of them journalists.

Mangudadatu had brokered, in the past five years, the settlement of over 30 violent disputes involving key members of the MILF, and local Moro political clans.

Iqbal told reporters they are keen on initiating more multi-sectoral, and inter-faith dialogues to allay fears and misconceptions about an MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity.

He told local officials, during their Friday meeting in Buluan, that they will focus on governance, and help address the socio-economic woes besetting Moro communities once they achieve a final peace deal with government.

Iqbal, who is also of ethnic Maguindanaon descent, said the MILF will stop to exist as a revolutionary organization once a new Bansgamoro entity is in place. He said the MILF will, by then, focus on how to create a peaceful Bangsamoro homeland,  to become at par with more advanced regions in Mindanao.

The BTC is comprised of seven representatives from government and eight from the MILF.  The commission’s primarily role is to oversee the gradual setting up of a Bangsamoro entity to replace the ARMM, based on the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Iqbal was assisted by BTC commissioners representing the MILF in explaining to Mangudadatu and the mayors the dividends and directions of the peace talks, which local sectors believe might culminate positively within the year.