MNLF ready to 'decolonize' Mindanao

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Jan 27 2014 11:10 AM | Updated as of Jan 28 2014 07:00 PM

MANILA – The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) considers the breakthrough in the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) and the Philippine government as a signal for it to finally pursue full independence for Mindanao.

MNLF spokesperson Absalom Cerveza said the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), whose fourth and final annex (Normzalization) was jointly signed over the weekend by the MILF and the Philippine government, effectively abrogates the 1996 final peace agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

"Mayroon nang umiiral na agreement, hindi lang gaanong natutupad ng mahusay. Ito ay pinag-uusapan na ayusin pero habang naguusap pa, the government again entered into another agreement involving the same geographical area, involving the same people, and involving approximately the same amount of power to be vested," Cerveza told dzMM.

"I am beginning to fear that we did not sign in Jakarta an agreement with the government. It would appear the agreement that we have signed was only between [then] President Fidel Ramos and [MNLF], because the next president did not give any respect to this very honorable agreement."

The signing of the four annexes on power sharing, revenue generation and wealth sharing, transitional arrangements and modalities, and normalization, as well as the addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Cerveza said the the recent breakthrough is considered the "final nail in the coffin" for the talks between the MNLF and the government. The MNLF takes this as a signal for it to pursue its plan to reclaim Mindanao.

The MILF, whose peace panel is led by Mohagher Iqbal, is a breakaway group of the MNLF.

"We are very happy because ngayon, tinanggal na sa aming mga kamay ang tali, [dahil] nakatali kami sa gobyerno to honor our commitment in the negotiations on the Tripoli agreement. So ngayon, that will open to us the opportunity to start a new movement to decolonize the whole of Mindanao," he said.

Hostilities a possibility

Cerveza said hostilities could occur as a result of the breakthrough in the GPH-MILF peace process, but he noted that this is not the course the MNLF is planning to take.

"The moment you take away the rights of people in the place where they are, ang resulta nyan ay gulo. But I hope there will be more prudence on those who are drafting the law na hindi maging ganoon. But I do not know how they will be able to do it," he said.

Cerveza said the MNLF, whose Nur Misuari faction was blamed for the Zamboanga City incursion that left over 200 dead, will still "work for a peaceful process".

One of the steps being considered by the separatist group is to bring the matter before the United Nations.

"Ang hirap kasi, ang perception ng marami na mag-gyera na tayo. Hindi po iyon eh. Naghahanap tayo ng mapayapang paraan para makamtan natin ang kinabukasan," he said.

Cerveza also clarified that the MNLF has no plans of campaigning against the Bangsamoro Basic Law once the bill creating the Bangsamoro region is enacted into law and then submitted to the people for a plebiscite.

"We would not like to be a party sa ginagawa ng gobyernong ito. We are just going to pursue ano mang mga paraan na makamtan natin ang kapayapaan at makamtan natin ang pagkasarinlan ng Mindanao, he said.

"We are trying to consolidate, meet with people, and we have already started yesterday at magpapatuloy ito. At ano ang magiging kahitnanan nito, we will have to wait it unfolding in the coming days."

'Some MILF troops angry over FAB'

Cerveza, citing "raw information" from one of his sources, said the signing of the final annex of the FAB emboldened more MILF troops to defect from the group and join MNLF.

"I got raw information that there is already taking place an exodus of rank and file [members] of the MILF because they do not agree. Ang pinirmahan sa Malaysia [has] the most contentious issue and that is the surrender of firearms. The regulars do not agree that they will have to surrender their firearms," he said.

"I was talking to a responsible commander of the a group in central Mindanao and he told me that pinoprocess na nila po ang mga lumalapit na sa kanila at malapit na. Ang estimate nila nung isang gabi is 70 percent of the forces of the MILF."