An official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said on Wednesday the group could join forces with a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in waging war with the government if the Aquino administration continues to ignore the 1996 peace agreement the MNLF.
Ustadz Pendi Colano, chairman of the Selatan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee (SKSRC), a faction of the MNLF in Central Mindanao, aired the warning a day after government troops fought with rebels from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Umbrakato in Maguindanao.
Colano said if President Benigno Aquino 3rd really wanted peace in Mindanao, he should not be the first to violate the pact signed by the MNLF and the government on September 2, 1996.
Colano described the signing of the Comprehensive Bangsamoro Agreement in 2012 as a “blundering misstep” of the Aquino administration.
“Instead of peace reigning in Mindanao, there is more disorder and confusion because the situation is getting more complicated,” Colano told The Manila Times.
He said the signing a peace deal with the MILF confirmed that the Aquino government had turned its back on the MNLF.
Colano added that the uncertainty in scheduling the tripartite meeting between the government and MNLF is part of the delaying tactics of the President who has made the Bangsamoro pact his priority.
“The review of the agreement with the MILF was rushed and there was no consultation with the people in Mindanao. In fact, Mindanaoans have no idea of the contents of that agreement,” he said.
Colano said there is no guarantee the agreement with the MILF will be honored by the next President who may have a different agenda.
He said the MNLF may be forced to link up with Umbrakato’s BIFF.
Clashes in Maguindanao between the BIFF, which is also opposed to the Bangsamoro agreement, and the military in the past days have left 37 BIFF members dead.
Colano said 60 percent of the 70,000 members of the MNLF across the Southern Philippines is ready to declare war on the government if the 1996 agreement is scuttled.
“For the meantime, we have been asking our state chairmen and commanders on the ground to stretch their patience . . . but if these MNLF commanders can no longer hold their patience, we cannot guarantee that they will not go against the provocative actions of President Aquino for setting aside the 1996 peace accord,” he said.
During the recent MNLF consultative forum held in Kabacan in North Cotabato, Jimmy Labawan, the MNLF vice chairman, said his group does not want to go to war but that the MNLF “reserves the right to fight for freedom as the need arises.”
Labawan said it is impossible to “integrate” the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the MNLF pact.
“We can only discuss the merging of both agreements after the coming 5th Tripartite Review Implementation Process but for the meantime, we strongly reject the proposed integration of both agreements,” he said.
President Aquino on Wednesday belittled attempts of peace “spoilers” such as the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf to derail the expected conclusion of the peace process with the MILF.
The President said the signing of all four annexes of the Framework agreement will ensure that the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can jointly run after rogue elements and private armed groups in Mindanao.
“We expect that after the signing of the agreement and the annexes, and as what is happening now, the MILF and the government are helping each other in going after these lawbreakers,” he told reporters.
“And such cooperation will be strengthened and we can run after those are determined to sow violence in Mindanao,” Aquino stressed.
Contrary to an earlier pronouncement by a Malacañang spokesman that the firefight in Maguindanao was triggered by government troops’ attempt to serve warrants of arrest on some individuals affiliated with the armed group, President Aquino said soldiers only countered attacks by the enemy.
“I understand that the current operations are due to the fact that they [BIFF] were engaging in harassment activities situated along the banks of the Pulangi River . . . sniping attacks and so on,” he explained.
He said even the Abu Sayyaf is against the peace pact because “they benefit from the status quo.”
Col. Dickson Hermoso said the rebels “set off improvised explosive devices and directed mortar fire on our troops. But they have splintered into smaller groups and our troops are now clearing these areas.”
With Joel Sy Egco and William Depasupil