MNLF urged anew to join Bangsamoro

By Roel Pareño, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 23 2014 02:35 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2014 10:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government reiterated its call for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to participate in crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles made the pronouncement as the government and MILF peace panels resumed the 43rd formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.

“The fact is peace negotiations between the government and the MILF are coming to a close, with the projected outcome being the enactment of a new law that will put in place the Bangsamoro government with all its improved provisions for achieving a strengthened autonomy in the region,” Deles said in a statement.

“The call is for the MNLF to participate in the crafting of the envisioned Bangsamoro law, not a call to unite in crafting a peace deal,” she pointed out.

She said they are hoping that leaders of different MNLF factions will join in the setting up of the Bangsamoro region, which the government and the MILF aim to establish before the term of ARMM officials ends on June 20, 2016.

She stressed that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not just for the MILF but the entire Bangsamoro people.

“We continue to hope that the various MNLF leadership blocs will come around to seeing the value of engaging themselves, together with other Bangsamoro stakeholders, in crafting the best possible law for the Bangsamoro,” she said.

Civil society groups

Civil society groups in Mindanao have also expressed their support for the MNLF to join in crafting the basic law.

“To show solidarity, inclusiveness for shared responsibility and leadership for broader constituency building,” Alih Aiyub, Bishop-Ulama Conference regional chairman, said.

Grace Rebollos, regional convener of Bantay Bayanihan Western Mindanao cluster and former president of Western Mindanao State University, also supported the convergence of the different communities, including the MNLF and MILF.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza expressed optimism the two sides could soon forge a final peace agreement.

Mendoza said the provincial government supports the peace process through the conduct of community dialogues involving the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Mendoza met recently with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, led by its chairman Mohagher Iqbal, also the MILF chief peace negotiator, at the provincial capitol in Kidapawan City.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is mandated to craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The 42 consensus agreements in the 1996 peace accord should be included in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission working table with MNLF representatives, according to Edmund Gumbahali, president of the Panglima Hawani Foundation based in Jolo, Sulu.

“The MNLF and MILF should complement in the establishment of the Bangsamoro government while MNLF continues negotiating with government on the issue of territory that are not included in the Bangsamoro government,” he said.

“In a process as crucial as this – crafting of basic law – it is always helpful to include as many stakeholders as possible. I think it’s good if they (MNLF) are willing to participate and contribute beneficial inputs in the process,” Nuhman Aljani, a member of the Young Moro Professional Network in Western Mindanao, said.

“I am one in support …(of) the inclusion of stakeholders, particularly the MNLF and the lumads,” Ali Yacub, president of the Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliates, said.

Consistent with OIC position

Deles said the government’s position is consistent with the call of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

She said OIC Resolution 2/40-MM, which was adopted during the 40th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, calls for the development of “a mechanism to ensure that the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Muslimin Sema, MNLF council of 15 chairman, has clarified during a radio interview in Cotabato City on Tuesday that his group is not opposed to the forging of a final peace agreement between the government and the MILF, citing the need to respect the 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF. – With John Unson, Jaime Laude