Duterte in 'brother to brother' meeting with MILF, MNLF leaders

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 18 2016 12:44 AM | Updated as of Jun 18 2016 04:31 AM

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders at a restaurant in Davao City Friday night.

Alonto: MNLF, MILF to support Duterte's federalism proposal

DAVAO CITY - President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front at a hotel in Davao City on Friday evening.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim and his first vice-chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, as well as Moro National Liberation Front leader Datu Abul Khayr Alonto were among the key figures who met with the incoming president at around 9:30 p.m.

Alonto described the gathering as a "brother-to-brother meeting."

He told reporters that the MILF and the MNLF have agreed to support Duterte's proposal to shift to a federal form of government.

"A federal system could very well put in place a government of transparency and accountability, and effectively address the peace and order problems including drug trafficking and kidnap for ransom," Alonto told reporters.

"The president-elect has our commitment and our support, hindi sa salita, sa gawa. It's high-time wag na yung mga salita-salita. All of the things we talked about, we have to do it," Alonto added.

The MNLF chairman said it is time to accept that a "centralized form of government is a dismal failure" as it is the reason "why there is war in Mindanao."

Despite agreeing to the shift to a federal form of government, Alonto said they are still hopeful that the "good aspects of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be retained," and that the country will see the Bangsamoro as a federal state model.

When asked if the MILF and MNLF can finally patch things together and come up with a united front under Duterte, Alonto said, "God willing, In Sha'Allah."

Alonto heads an MNLF faction separate from the one headed by founding chairman Nur Misuari that was behind the bloody Zamboanga siege in September 2013. 

CLOSING RANKS

The MILF, the country's largest rebel group, earlier said it has sought to close ranks with the MNLF to push for a peace deal under Duterte.

The MILF has sent emissaries to Misuari to discuss a "common approach" after an accord it agreed with outgoing President Benigno Aquino failed to get congressional approval, Jaafar said.

The fugitive Misuari was "very hopeful" about the prospects of ending the four-decade-long rebellion under Duterte, who will assume office on June 30, Jaafar told ABS-CBN News.

"It's unity in diversity," Jaafar said, adding there have been separate negotiations with MNLF central committee chairman Muslimin Sema since the start of the year.

Sema said the two groups could “merge” its respective peace deals with the government - the MNLF’s Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and a subsequent agreement in 1996, and the MILF’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014.

“We’re actually making it easy for government,” he told ABS-CBN News. “We are calling on other factions to come on board.”

Misuari has gone into hiding after being charged over the 2013 siege on the southern port city of Zamboanga.

The 2014 agreement between Aquino and the MILF would have granted wider autonomy to the country's Muslim minority, but the peace process ground to a halt after 44 police commandos died in a botched anti-terrorist raid in the remote farming town of Mamasapano last year.