MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is “very prepared” to attend the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting in Djibouti next month if invited by the OIC and the host government.
Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Rafael Seguis said yesterday “the Philippines never claimed it has a right to be invited to the CFM.”
A Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) lawyer on Tuesday said that the OIC meeting is exclusive to member countries and the Philippines is already represented by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.
“We are very prepared to attend if invited by the OIC. The MNLF doesn’t represent the entire Philippine government,” Seguis told The STAR.
Under new OIC rules, only sovereign states can be granted observer status.
The lawyer said the MNLF was granted observer status because it is not a state, but once the group achieves its objectives as an independent state then the status would be upgraded to regular member.
The OIC and chair of Foreign Ministers Meeting, as in past meetings, had always given the Philippine government the chance to respond and clarify issues even when Misuari badmouthed the government.
The Philippines, which has a pending application to be granted observer status in the OIC, has been attending the group’s meetings since 1996.
Seguis earlier said the signing of the framework agreement ending decades of secessionist insurgency in Mindanao is expected to be the highlight during the OIC meeting amid pronouncements made by Misuari.
Misuari plans to meet with OIC leaders in Djibouti to express his grievances that he was not consulted in the forging of the new Bangsamoro agreement signed last Oct. 15 in Manila.
The OIC is in the process of bringing the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to work together to intensify cooperation in order to establish a Bangsamoro Coordination Council.
The OIC has proposed the holding of a tripartite meeting between the Philippine government, MNLF and the OIC to “find practical and implementable solutions for the remaining unresolved issues.”
OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu visited Manila last week upon the invitation of both the government and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to participate in the signing ceremony of the framework agreement.
After witnessing the ceremony, Ihsanoglu had an hour-long private meeting with President Aquino.
The proposed meeting between the Philippine government, MNLF and OIC is expected to also tackle difficulties facing the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement or any discrepancies that may exist between the agreements signed with the MNLF and the new framework agreement with the MILF.
Malacañang and MILF spokesman Mohagher Iqbal brushed aside the threats of Misuari to derail the recently signed peace agreement between the government and MILF.
Iqbal, negotiator for the MILF in the peace talks with the government, implied that Misuari is nothing but a has-been insofar as their affairs are concerned.
Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen and Iqbal said they would still include the MNLF in the new entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where Misuari once served as governor. Leonen also expressed doubts about Misuari’s purported following, particularly his claim that he has a million armed followers, on top of around 17,000 that have reportedly defected from the MILF.
Misuari claimed the MNLF was not consulted and refused to cooperate by trying to delay the peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.
Iqbal and Leonen, however, said the MNLF was consulted and represented.
Misuari said he is finalizing the list of 20 delegates, including top leaders of the MILF who defected back to the MNLF, who will attend the OIC meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers in Djibouti.
He said he will brief the OIC on the progress of the final phase of negotiations for the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.
ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman said Misuari had ceased from warning of possible war.
Meanwhile, former President Fidel Ramos expressed optimism the framework agreement between the government and the MILF would succeed, but warned that prospects for lasting peace would be in jeopardy if the pact is not properly implemented on the ground.
Ramos said the peace pact with the MILF would have come sooner had Estrada not declared an all-out war. “Those affected (by war) are the innocent civilians, the rebels, and the soldiers,” he said. “If there are still corrupt people there (local governments and departments), even if the agreement is good it will fail.”
Former President Joseph Estrada, however, justified the all-out war he launched against the MILF during his presidency in 2000.
“When I raised the Philippine flag in camp Abubakkar, that marked the end of the conflict and the beginning of lasting peace in Mindanao,” he said.
Not to be left out
However, the largest and most politically active MNLF group led by Cotabato Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema is seeking a peaceful quadripartite dialogue on the new framework deal to ensure that all parties can easily reach a consensus on how to cooperate in furthering the Mindanao peace process.
Sema, whose group is comprised of 20 “revolutionary states” scattered in different “peace zones” in Mindanao, said they are confident that the OIC, through its Southern Philippines Peace Committee (SPPC), will not hesitate to cooperate in organizing a “quadripartite meeting” meant to hasten the resolution of the Mindanao problem.
“We’re confident that President Aquino will not allow any abrogation of the Sept. 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF final peace agreement while he is pursuing a settlement with the MILF. We are for peaceful dialogues on that issue, we will never do any war-mongering,” Sema said in a statement.
He said Malacañang, the OIC and the MNLF already reached 42 consensus points in the tripartite review of the peace accord, all virtually parallel with what the government and the MILF are still to bilaterally discuss, based on the newly signed framework agreement.
“We’re not rattling the saber. We are for a peaceful dialogue on the framework agreement,” he said. Sema said they also support the government’s plan to present the framework agreement to the OIC during its foreign ministers’ meeting next month in Djibouti.
The OIC, a pan-Islamic block of more than 50 Muslim countries, including oil-exporting states in the Middle East and North Africa, helped broker the government-MNLF peace agreement. – With John Unson, Perseus Echeminada, Roel Pareño, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano