SENIOR leaders of the former Muslim rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have passed a resolution asking Manila to recall its note verbales with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for the closure of the tripartite review of the peace accord it signed with the Philippine government in 1996.
The former rebel leaders said they would support the peace process as long as the Aquino government agreed on their condition to recall Manila’s two diplomatic communications sent by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on January 30 and March 21 this year.
While the senior MNLF leaders put a condition for their unwavering support to the tripartite review of the peace deal, they also affirm their “sustained support” to the accord to achieve the full implementation of the accord.
The resolution, passed during the MNLF Senior Leaders’ Forum held in Zamboanga City, said: “The MNLF Senior Leaders Forum is ready to recommend among the leaders to join or constitute the membership of the MNLF peace panel for the resumption of the tripartite meeting as soon as possible in order to conclude the process to the satisfaction of the concerned parties.”
“And that we welcome the proposal to achieve a more comprehensive and inclusive political solution to the Bangsamoro problem through convergence of the two peace processes involving the MNLF and the MILF.”
MILF refers to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which broke away with the MNLF in 1978 and is now currently negotiating with the government.
It was signed by signed by Abebakrin Lukman and Abuamri Tadik, both acting secretaries of the MNLF Senior Leaders’ Forum and attested by Yusop Jikiri, its presiding chairman.
The two diplomatic communications also sparked a widespread condemnation from MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari, who threatened to secede after accusing Manila of failing to honor provisions of the peace deal.
Misuari has already met tens of thousands of former rebels and their commanders and supporters in gatherings in southern Philippines where he told them about the government’s failure to fully implement the 1996 peace agreement.
Now, the regional police said it is gathering evidence to charge the former Libyan firebrand of sedition because his fiery statement and pronouncement against the Aquino government. Misuari was accused of fomenting sedition in the restive region.
Misuari’s whereabouts is unknown, but he was in Sulu province last month where he also met with his commanders and hundreds of followers in the town of Indanan. There, he almost declared independence, but changed his mind, saying he still needs to consult with his senior leaders before making the announcement in the right time.
“We are going to find the right time to for the formal declaration (of independence. I still need to communicate with the OIC so we still have to discuss this with among us leaders,” he said in the local Tausug dialect.
The OIC helped broker the peace talks between the MNLF and the Philippines that led to the eventual signing of the agreement. Misuari said it has been three decades now since the OIC mediated in the peace talks, but Manila has failed to comply with the provisions in the accord.
Misuari has repeatedly accused the Aquino government of trying to abrogate the peace accord. He also denounced the peace talks between the Aquino government and rival rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after negotiators signed an accord last year that would create the Bangsamoro state, saying it violated the MNLF-Philippines peace deal.
The Muslim homeland would replace the existing Muslim autonomous region which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. And several more areas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato would also be included in the new autonomous region.
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.
The rebels accused Manila of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remains in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on the government.
In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari again 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.
Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence. He was also ousted by Muslimin Sema, the MNLF Secretary-General, but Misuari maintained that he is the true leader of the former rebel group. AL JACINTO