Philippines

MILF, MNLF jointly call on Bangsamoro for unity and solidarity

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COTABATO CITY, Mar. 3 -- As most Filipinos celebrated the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution last February 25, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) addressed in a joint assembly the Bangsamoro issue and called for unity and solidarity amidst the uncertainty brought by the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The joint effort of the two Moro revolutionary fronts to assemble and unite is reflective of MNLF’s commitment to the agreed convergence of the two peace tracks of the MNLF and MILF into a single roadmap, said MNLF Chairman Muslimin Sema, adding that the event was also part of the MILF’s program of unification and reconciliation for Moro leaders.

The assembly, held in Carmen, North Cotabato, was headed by the MNLF’s Bukidnon State Revolutionary Committee and the MILF’s Kapalawan Provincial Committee.

During the 5th Ministerial Level Meeting of the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the Philippine government and the MNLF, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Iyad bin Amin Madani highlighted their intention and understanding to combine the two peace processes of the MNLF and MILF into a single roadmap.

Madani said at that time that ‘there [was] a need for the two Moro fronts to find a common understanding since they share the same political clamor and aspirations as expressed in the [BBL].”

The review process that concluded last January 25 maintained that the MNLF would participate in the 60-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) – the transition government that would have bridged the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the proposed Bangsamoro parliamentary government as determined in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) -- together with the leadership of the MILF and other stakeholders which would operationalize the convergence efforts of the MILF and the MNLF through a political exercise.

However, the BTA didn’t come into fruition due to the 16th Congress’ collective failure to pass the BBL. “[T]he division among the Bangsamoro people into different groups may have triggered the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the House of Representatives,” commented MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jafaar.

Jafaar, noting that the Bangsamoro people have been engaged in the peace talks for over 30 years going back to the leadership of MNLF, commented that they “will continue a peaceful peace process until Mindanao achieves an equally lasting peace”.

In a separate statement, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Atty. Jose Lorena said that with the completion of the TRP and in the incorporation of the MNLF agenda with the CAB under a single framework, “the CAB and correspondingly the BBL will become the inclusive framework for all the Bangsamoro in addressing the legitimate and validated Bangsamoro aspiration for genuine political autonomy and the right to self-determination. It is now clear that there will be a single framework through the BBL which will preserve the gains of the 1996 FPA and the CAB."

Bangsamoro youth key to unity, self-determination

In an earlier event held in Davao City, Jaafar commented that the Bangsamoro youth would be instrumental in realizing the Bangsamoro aspiration for genuine autonomy and self-determination as enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. “The goal of the Bangsamoro youth now should be to unite and to be at the forefront in realizing the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination.”

Speaking directly to the youth, the MILF vice chairman said that they “should exhaust all means of diplomacy in fighting for the Bangsamoro struggle before thinking of engaging ideas of war.”

The MILF leadership has earlier confirmed the inclination of some Bangsamoro youth toward extremism as well as the ongoing recruitment of young people in organizations that have declared allegiance with global terror group ISIS operating within the ARMM especially in the cities of Cotabato and Marawi.

Nevertheless, Jaafar expressed “high hopes for the Bangsamoro youth to serve their people someday and to become good Bangsamoro leaders.” (PPMB)