New MNLF splinter group looms over MILF ‘tyranny’ in Bangsamoro: Lanao sultan

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2019 03:47 PM

Police secure a voting precinct during the Jan. 21, 2019 Bangsamoro plebiscite. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- A Moro leader on Monday said he would establish a new faction in protest of what he called a “virtual dictatorship” by the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, questioning its ability to govern a new autonomous region in the country’s conflict-ridden south.

But lawyer Firdausi Abbas, recognized as sultan of Lanao, said he would “pursue the crusade along pacifist lines” once he quit the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“Right now we have no respect for people I find contemptible and despicable,” he told ABS-CBN News.

“Lalabas kami because we find it unbearable to be in the company of people, who no longer have in mind the pursuance of the goals of the MNLF, which is to establish a Bangsamoro homeland that is truly progressive.”

The breakaway MNLF group will be formally announced after a meeting in Cagayan De Oro next week, he said.

DICTATORSHIP

Abbas represented the MNLF faction of Yusop Jikiri to the committee that initially drafted the law creating the new self-governing region in Mindanao.

But he said Jikiri and other MNLF leaders “conspired” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make sure the rebel group would get majority of the seats in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

The MILF, which bolted the MNLF then headed by Nur Misuari in the late 70s, hammered out its own peace deal with the government in 2014.

The MNLF earlier signed its own final peace agreement with the government in 1996. 

The MILF accord will now be implemented following last month’s ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which created a more powerful and self-sustaining region for the country’s Muslim minority.

Under the deal, the MILF nominated 41 out of the 80 members of the transition government.

AVARICE

“It’s a tyranny committed against the Bangsamoro,” he told ABS-CBN News in an exclusive interview.

“We see now the avarice for political power of the MILF and they’re grooming all their children to be the political kingpins in their areas.”

Abbas criticized fellow leaders of his MNLF faction for agreeing that the MILF would get to pick majority of the BTA members.

The government named the 39 other members of the transition government, a list also criticized for supposedly bringing in only 5 representatives of the MNLF.

Misuari’s faction picked a track separate from the establishment of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region, opting instead to wait for the government’s wider federalism project.

BTA members, led by MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim as chief minister, took their oath before President Rodrigo Duterte last Friday.

MURAD QUALIFICATION

“I do not believe that Murad is qualified to be chief minister,” Abbas said, questioning also the qualification of MILF leader Mohagher Iqbal and Ghazali Jaafar.

“I don’t think that he even has the vision to make this work.”

ABS-CBN News is still awaiting response from any of the 3 MILF leaders to Abbas’ statements.

Abbas said he should have been nominated to the BTA owing to his position as the MNLF’s vice chairman for external affairs.

But he claimed he was left out “because they know that they cannot control me and they know I would not fear them.”

Abbas said he would reject an appointment to the BTA anyway, given the setup where the MILF controlled the majority of the seats.

Congress, he said, should instead amend the BOL and require elections after 6 months. 

The MILF was expected to lead the 3-year transition government until the first regular elections in 2022 as part of the peace deal following 17 years of highly contentious negotiations.

Abbas said the group had “no basis to claim credit for this law” because its original proposal was “rejected.”

“We changed that. This is an entirely different law,” he said.