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  • Sunday, July 10, 2011

 

Negotiate with MNLF, not MILF, President asked

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BY JAIME PILAPIL CORRESPONDENT

FORMER Gov. Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to stop negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with Manila’s bid to establish a new federal government for the Muslim population in southern Mindanao.

The MILF has no more personality because most of its leaders have defected to his group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Misuari recently told reporters and editors of The Manila Times during an exclusive roundtable.

In fact, he said, the MILF does not exist anymore and what is left is a ragtag group that the group calls Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters led by Umbra Kato and Commander Bravo, the very persons who led attacks on villages of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces in August 2008 over an aborted signing of a peace agreement with the Arroyo administration.

“The MILF is already disintegrated. A great portion of their military has rejoined us. Thousands and thousands of them defected to us.

Practically all of them are now with us. I don’t know how many remained with the group of Kato and Bravo,” said the former ARMM governor, who taught political science at the University of Philippines for eight years.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF in 1980 and was formally organized in March 1984 under the leadership of Hashim Salamat, who died in 2003.

They disagreed on goals of establishing an independent Mindanao, with the MNLF refusing to take on a more aggressive approach and the MILF carrying on with a more religious orientation.

Although active in armed struggle, the MILF, however, has been attempting to forge lasting peace in southern Philippines.

On August 5, 2008, Manila, under the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo, and the MILF, through the chairmen of their peace panels, were scheduled to sign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) under the Tripoli Agreement of 2001.

The signing did not materialize after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled against it, saying that it was unconstitutional.

Kato and Bravo then led the attacks on civilian villages in Central Mindanao.

Misuari accused the Malaysian government of supporting the MILF’s protracted war to keep the Muslim population busy fighting government forces instead of claiming the vast Sabah territory, which supposedly belongs to the Philippines.

He said that reporters who interviewed him recently confided to him that they saw powerful weapons in the hands of the followers of Kato and Bravo.

“They told me they saw with their two eyes high-powered weapons in Kato and Bravo’s camps. But despite this, many of their commanders defected to the MNLF, like Hadji Murad, Sammy Gambad and their respective brigades. A younger brother of Commander Gordon rejoined us,” Misuari added.

“If the government is pragmatic, realistic, it should desist from being used by the Malaysian government to sabotage peace in Mindanao,” he said.

According to him, he suspects that Malaysia is prodding the MILF to wage war continuously because of the problem of Sabah. “They want to cling to that land (Sabah). War is the only way to keep us busy
fighting each other.”

He said he called the attention of Kuala Lumpur authorities and told them, “Don’t ever suspect us of marching forces (across Sabah).”

“They said, ‘Why is Nur Misuari increasing his forces? They want to attack Sabah.’ No. We are Muslims, it is forbidden by God to attack other Muslims.”

Challenge to Malaysia
Misuari challenged the Malaysian government to bring to the International Court of Justice their insistence that they own of Sabah.

He said that Sabah’s annual income is pegged at around $108 billion mostly from its natural oil and mines and minerals.

“You are not giving us part of $108 billion of your yearly earnings from Sabah natural resources. Well, get a portion of that money and look for the best lawyers in the world. Prove before the International Court of Justice your claim to Sabah.”

Misuari said that the government is being blinded by an illusion that Manila can defeat the Muslims of Mindanao through war..

He said over 35 years of rebellion have passed and the armed conflict is still going on, killing thousands from both sides, including hundreds of civilians.

“Why persist on creating war in Mindanao? We were never defeated. Over half a million people were killed. The government should stop this war. Don’t wage war just so you can have reasons to promote generals and inject more fund in your army,” Misuari added.

The MILF’s claim to establishing an Islamic homeland in Mindanao is anchored on a peace agreement forged by MNLF with Manila in 1996.

In the agreement, the MNLF and the government have agreed on 33 issues, leaving only three major issues unresolved—autonomy; sharing of revenues between central government and regional government in strategic minerals and transition mechanism.

The same issues, ironically, are still the bone of contention in the government’s peace talks, not with the MNLF, but with the MILF.

 

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