• Security forces ready vs. MNLF REBEL attacks

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    EVEN as it stressed that it wanted a peaceful settlement to all internal conflicts, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready against the threat of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to launch fresh attacks in protest to the igning signing of the annex on power sharing between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    “The desire of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is to end or put closure to all internal security threats through peaceful means like this one with the MILF.

    However, if others do not see it that way that is unfortunate, but it is the duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to maintain peace and order at all times. So if ther are any threats from anyone we are prepared for it,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the AFP’s Public Affairs Office, said on Tuesday.

    But so far, he added, there is no intelligence report year about any impending attacks by the MNLF.

    Zabala was reacting to MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza’s warning that the power sharing agreement would spark a new conflict in Muslim Mindanao.

    Last September, members of the MNLF held hostage for three weeks the shoreline villages Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mampang, Talon-Talong and parts of Bungan following MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari’s declaration of an independent Bangsamoro Republic in protest to the government-MILF peace negotiations
    Misuari has maintained that the framework agreement signed in Malacañang last year would no solve the decades old rebellion in Muslim Mindanao but would instead create new troubles.

    Misuari has also been pushing for the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement forged between the then Marcos administration and the MNLF.

    The MNLF legal counsel, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, has also called the Organization of Islamic Countries or the United Nations to intervene in the problem.
    Fontanilla warned that the problem if not addressed immediately could mean trouble in the whole Mindanao area.

    “We are not threatening but it could be worse than 1972. This will be more than that of 1972,” Fontanilla said during the Zamboanga siege, referring to the war wage by the Moro people against the Marcos government that claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers.

    Zagala is confident though that the problem with the MNLF would not result to another conflict similar to what happened in Zamboanga.

    “We believe that the MNLF still abides, will abide by the final peace agreement signed in 1996. We believe that the MNLF will abide with the final peace agreement that any problem that is brought about by misunderstanding of issues can be resolved through peaceful means and not through [armed]attacks,” Zagala said.

    “The statement of Cerveza does not reflect the MNLF as an organization. We believe he only speaks for Nur Misuari,” Zagala added.

    The annex on power sharing, which is part of the initial framework agreement, was signed Sunday night by the government and MILF peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Prior to that, the two panels also agreed on the annex on wealth sharing.

    Next on the agenda of the two bodies is the agreement on power transition, which details the road map towards the creation of a Bangsamoro region that would replace the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

    William B. Depasupil

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