By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY (AA): Leaders of two former Muslim rebel groups agreed Wednesday to promote a common roadmap for peace in the conflict-ridden southern Philippines ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
The chairman of the largest of three factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the chairman of its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a joint communique aimed at “harmonizing” their separate peace overtures with the government.
The Philippine Star quoted the MILF’s Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim as saying that both sides are open to working together on a single peace agenda during the signing at the main MILF stronghold in Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao province.
He rejected the argument that it would be difficult to achieve peace in southern Mindanao island due to factional divides between the indigenous Moro communities.
The MNLF’s Muslimin Sema expressed hope that Duterte, who is set to become the country’s first president from the south upon his inauguration Thursday, would focus on peacefully resolving the Moro issue.
He accused previous administrations of having failed to comply with their obligations under peace deals with the Moro.
Sema’s MNLF faction has backed the MILF’s ongoing peace process with the government, despite a faction under founding chairman Nur Misuari considering the MILF’s 2014 peace deal with the government a betrayal of an 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-brokered agreement.
Misuari is currently a fugitive, eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly catholic city of Zamboanga in September 2013, in which around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.
The 2014 deal would have been sealed by a proposed autonomy legislation, but the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) stalled in Congress earlier this year, as it adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 election.
“There was no implementation `in letter and spirit’ of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the Jeddah Accord and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF,” Sema said Wednesday.
He underlined that some MNLF members are anxious about the fate of the BBL negotiated by the MILF, since the outgoing government had assured that all 42 consensus points reached in a tripartite review of the MNLF’s 1996 agreement had been integrated into the proposed legislation.
“Now we have to join ranks for the sake of `harmonizing’ our separate peace tracts for us to achieve a durable kind of peace that is for all people in Mindanao, for all people in the Bangsamoro,” the Star quoted him saying. “The Bangsamoro is never indivisible geographically and demographically.”
Meanwhile, Murad underlined that Duterte “is from Mindanao and has Maranaw blood” from one of the region’s Moro tribes.
“He surely understands the Moro problem. We are grateful to have a president from Mindanao for the first time ever,” he said.
During his campaign, the tough talking Duterte, who served 2 years as mayor of Davao City, had vowed to “correct the historical injustice committed against the Moro.”
[Photo:Moro Islamic LIberation Front emblem. By Jaume Ollé/Creative Commons]