Kabalu: No mass defection of MILF troops

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2012 10:07 AM | Updated as of Oct 16 2012 04:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Former Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Eid Kabalu rejected Monday Nur Misuari’s claim that 17,000 MILF members have defected to the Moro National Liberation Front.

“Majority of the...commander of this 17,000 right now are in Manila. They are in Traders Hotel. You can ask them if there is truth about this information,” Kabalu told ANC's Headstart. 

Kabalu is also confident the proposed Bangsamoro region will work and help improve the lives of people in Mindanao.

“In the first place this is distinct and separate from the existing [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] right now, so ito yung kagustuhan, ninanais ng MILF na mapalitan ito bago sila maging kabahagi ng sistema,” he said.

"Bigyan natin ito ng tsansa na magkaron ng ika nga katuparan sapagkat ito yung magpapaahon satin sa kahirapan sa Mindanao.”

Former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari earlier said he believes the framework agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF is a “death sentence.” Misuari said the decommissioning of the arms of MILF members is equivalent to surrender.

He also claims 17,000 armed men of the MILF have defected to the MNLF because they do not support the framework.

"Yung pagpirma nyan ay tantamount to death sentence ng MILF kasi pagkatapos ng signing,  MILF will be eclipsed from existence kasi ang armas nila will be turned over to government and that's tantamount to blatant surrender,” he told ABS-CBN.

He added: “Walang gusto ng ganyan sa buong Mindanao."

However, UP professor Miriam Colonel Ferrer, a member of the government’s negotiating panel, noted the MILF only has 10,000 to 15,000 members.

MILF chief in Manila

MILF chief Murad Ebrahim and other senior rebel figures emerged from their remote bases in the country's south to oversee the signing of an accord on Monday that outlines a roadmap for peace by 2016.

The accord, announced by President Benigno Aquino a week ago, has won applause from foreign governments and the United Nations as a rare chance to end a rebellion that has killed an estimated 150,000 people since the 1970s.

However rank-and-file soldiers of the 12,000-strong MILF, as well as the groups's leaders and independent security analysts, have warned that many obstacles could still derail the peace process.

Ebrahim, an ageing warrior in his 60s who has spent most of his life in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, is making his first official trip as MILF leader to Manila.

The signing will be at the presidential palace, so Ebrahim will also become the first MILF chief to get inside the country's inner sanctum of power.

"We feel honoured to be welcomed in Manila, but I must stress this is just the beginning of the peace journey," Ebrahim's deputy for political affairs, Ghazali Jaafar, told AFP.

Jaafar and other senior MILF officials arrived on a chartered plane in the Philippine capital on Sunday afternoon.

Potentially because of the sensitivities of the visit and security concerns, Ebrahim arrived in secret on a separate plane.

Framework agreement will work

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice-chairman for political affairs, is confident the framework agreement will enjoy the full support of the people of Mindanao.

He said he doubts if there will be any more breakaway groups that will oppose the agreement.

He stressed all sectors in Mindanao were consulted during the negotiations.

“Kami sa leadership ng MILF, sigurado kami this agreement will address the Bangsamoro issue and supported by leaders, greater majority of Bangsamoro people because in the process palagi namin silang kinokonsulta,” he said.