The leader of what used to be the biggest Muslim separatist group operating mainly in southern Philippines has brushed off efforts by the world’s largest Islamic bloc for reconciliation with a rival secessionist organization with whom Manila recently signed a peace agreement.
Nur Misuari, chairman of the now seemingly marginalized Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), instead insisted that President Benigno Aquino 3rd cast aside the peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)—in favor of the one signed in 1996 between the MNLF and the administration of then-President Fidel Ramos.
Misuari, through an emissary who spoke on condition of anonymity as instructed by the MNLF leader, said the President must first fully implement the 1996 peace covenant before even considering the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, which the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law is proposing under the agreement with the MILF to serve as the homeland for Muslim Filipinos in mostly Christian Mindanao.
Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary-general of the 57-strong, highly influential Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), met with leaders of the MNLF and MILF in Jeddah last 12 and reiterated his call for the CAB to be synchronized not only with the 1996 peace agreement but also with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which was signed between the MNLF and the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
Madani made the call despite acknowledging that the peace pact signed in March this year between Manila and the MILF under the auspices of Malaysia and witnessed by some OIC member-states “is opposed by all factions of the [MNLF], and that the declared texts of the new agreement do not mention or build explicitly” on the 1996 and 1976 agreements.
In a statement posted on the OIC website during the opening of the 41st OIC Conference of Foreign Ministers on June 18 also in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he said the agency had tried its best to bring the MNLF and MILF together.
But Madani’s reconciliation overtures have apparently fallen on Misuari’s deaf ears, with the MNLF chairman taking to task the Aquino administration for supposedly failing to fully implement the 1996 agreement.
Again, through the emissary, Misuari hinted of armed attack on government forces “before Aquino ends his term” to dramatize the MNLF’s rejection of the peace covenant signed between the MILF and the Philippine government. The President steps down in 2016.
Manila, according to the emissary who was interviewed in Jolo, Sulu, in southern Philippines, should not belittle the MNLF, which he said has more arms and men than the MILF.
The emissary added that only 4,000 members of the MILF are armed and its “recruits” numbering 7,000 are unarmed. He did not say how many fighters are commanded by the front.
In contrast, the MNLF has “about 50,000 regular forces” who are “foreign-trained” and 20,000 who are “locally-trained” in Mindanao.
Also during the Jeddah meeting, Madani and the MNLF leaders, the emissary said, agreed to urge Aquino to lift the warrant of arrest against Misuari that arose from the Zamboanga clashes.
According to him, the attack on September 9, 2013 was led not by Misuari but by MNLF commander Haykh Khabier Malik alone and, therefore, the MNLF chairman should not be held responsible for it.