The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has started circulating statements and informing its various camps about the creation of the group’s own “Bangsamoro Republik, a revolutionary government which apparently is its answer to the soon-to-be established Bangsamoro entity to be headed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MNLF, which deplored the non-implementation of the peace deal it signed with Manila in 1996, has reportedly released a statement which was read to its members in various camps in the southern Philippines.
The statement, which suggested a “United Federate States of Bangsamoro Republik,” said it has established a revolutionary government constitution in the southern region, home to minority Muslim tribes in the largely Catholic region.
It said: “We, the united people, Lumads, Muslims, and Christians of Bangsamoro Republik, exercising our inherent sovereignty, do hereby establish this constitution. We manifest our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to cherish and sustain the promise of the future.”
“We uphold the diversity of our religions, cultures and traditions. Our differences enrich us. The seas brings us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us; our aspirations and dreams as a nation enlarge us and make us stronger.”
“Our ancestors, who made their homes on these islands, displaced no other people. Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish unity and we seek freedom. We extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity. With this constitution we humbly implore the aid of our Maker and do ordain this constitution,” it added.
Just recently, Nur Misuari, who heads the MNLF, expressed his disappointment over the government’s failure to comply with the provisions in the peace accord and warned of renewed war if the government abrogates the agreement.
Misuari also asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers in Mindanao to prevent the possible breakout of war.
MNLF leaders also threatened of renewed hostilities in the South if the government were to sign a final agreement with the MILF and continue to ignore the peace pact with the MNLF.
But Teresita Deles, the Presidential peace adviser, denied Misuari’s allegations that Manila wanted to abrogate the peace accord. The government and MILF signed a Framework Agreement last year establishing a Bangsamoro state that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Both panels are currently negotiating the finer details and have just signed an agreement on wealth-sharing. Deles explained that while the government’s position is to bring the tripartite review process to a proper completion, she said the Aquino administration will continue to engage relevant parties of the MNLF, through the existing mechanism, to find a just and comprehensive political solution in the Mindanao conflict.
Deles said after almost six years of tripartite review, a joint review process had already established consensus points and some joint mechanisms and actions particularly between MNLF representatives and the Muslim autonomous regional government.
“From the start, what the government proposed to complete was the review process, not the closure of the peace process or the abrogation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement,” she said.
The review process is being facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, specifically its Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP) which is headed by Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa advised Manila to continue to exercise patience even in the face of provocation as he reiterated Jakarta’s support for the peace process in Mindanao.
Misuari has previously denounced the peace talks between the Aquino government and MILF.
The Muslim homeland would replace the existing ARMM which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. Several areas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato would also be included in the new autonomous region, which Misuari said violated the 1996 peace accord.
Misuari previously said that the Bangsamoro agreement might be a recipe for a crisis which may include war. He and Mujahab Hashim, the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council chairman, have raised strong objections to the government’s signing of the accord with the MILF.
“Because there is no other recourse now for the (MNLF), at least the majority of the senior leaders of the MNLF, we have no other recourse but to go back to the original objective of arms struggle,” Hashim warned.
The MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, previously branded the Muslim autonomous region as a failure. The region has been rocked by corruption scandals and remains as one of the poorest in the country.
It previously called on the government to amend the Constitution that would allow the creation of a Muslim sub-state in Mindanao.
After the 1996 peace accord with the MNLF, Misuari became the governor of autonomous region. But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to uplift their standards of living.
They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila. In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.
The sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo on Monday said that it will support the MNLF if war breaks out in Mindanao.
Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said that Misuari’s stance is recognized by the sultanate.
Idjirani said Misuari is “only protecting the organic law signed by Ramos” adding that “the law is borne out of the Bangsamoro struggle that cost the lives of 100,000 Bangsamoro people from 1964 to 1996.”
Idjirani said the sultanate is also prepared to provide spiritual guidance to the people in Mindanao.
However, he urged Misuari to resolve the issue peacefully.
Malacañang also appealed to the MNLF to consider the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement since it “will redound to their benefit.”
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda denied that the government plans to terminate all peace pacts with the MNLF because of the Bangsamoro Framework agreement.
“Perhaps there’s an agreement with them that’s why we are working on that already. Secretary Deles is already working on that point,” he added.
He maintained that the Bangsamoro pact will not only benefit the government and the MILF but also all the members of the MNLF or even the Lumads.?
“We ask MNLF to seriously look into this agreement, not as MNLF but as Bangsamoro, and it includes everyone: MI[LF], MN[LF], and the Lumads,” the Palace official said. “The Bangsamoro people will earn dividends from that. And who are the Bangsamoro people? The Bangsamoro people also includes the MNLF,” Lacierda pointed out.
Once signed, the Bangsamoro deal would foster peace and “major improvement” in Mindanao, he said.
”This is a major improvement over the organic act of the ARMM. And, therefore, what we will come up with—the framework agreement, as well as the annexes—will redound ultimately to peace and development in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.
Listen to MNLF
Lawmakers on Monday called on the government to also look into the concerns being raised by the MNLF while working on the final peace agreement with MILF in order to prevent possible recurrence of violence in Mindanao.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, chairman of the Senate committee on National Defense and Security said that while the government is gaining headway on the peace negotiations with the MILF, it should also listen to the issues of other groups. He said the issues being raised by the MNLF should not be ignored.
Senator Gregorio Honasan for his part said that the government should expand the coverage of its peace negotiations to include other revolutionary groups.
WITH A REPORT FROM JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA