By Perseus Echeminada
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari yesterday rejected the “framework agreement” to be signed today by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“The term of agreement is unacceptable… it’s actually a formula for renewed hostilities in Mindanao,” Misuari told The STAR. Misuari said he would bring the issue before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He pointed out that the proposed peace accord runs counter to the series of tripartite agreements forged by the Philippine government and the MNLF.
He said he would discuss the issue today with OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to allow the 57-member Islamic group of nations to make an official stand on the proposed agreement. Misuari said the terms of agreement with the MILF practically downgraded all the peace agreements – the Tripoli Agreement in 1976, the Jeddah Accord in 1987 and the final peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 – made by the MNLF in the past which are internationally recognized.
Although the OIC has welcomed the proposed agreement, Misuari noted the Islamic body has manifested that any agreement with the Bangsamoro people must be based on the Tripoli agreement. Misuari maintained the MNLF has been granted an observer status and is recognized by the OIC as the representative of the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.
He described the terms of agreement with the MILF as a political ploy orchestrated by Kuala Lumpur to prevent the full implementation of the Tripoli agreement since its full implementation would include Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak territory.
Malaysia has been brokering the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF. “It’s not a peace accord, it’s a formula for a renewed hostilities in Mindanao” Misuari declared. He said hardcore MILF rebels who advocated the full implementation of the Tripoli agreement have defected back to the MNLF in protest to the new term of agreement that actually downgraded the previous one.
Misuari said the tripartite agreement forged by the MNLF with three presidents – Ferdinand Marcos, Corazon Aquino, and Fidel Ramos – has international recognition and cannot just be set aside by a term of agreement brokered by Malaysia. Misuari also confirmed reports that Christian leaders of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIN) tribal leaders have joined the MNLF. “Every Mindanaoan who believes in our cause is welcome to join,” he said.
Misuari also assured Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan that they would not go to war even if the agreement with the MILF pushes through. “I was misunderstood. What I said was the framework (of peace) might be a recipe for a crisis which may include war,” Misuari clarified. Tan sought a meeting with Misuari on Saturday amid concerns that the MNLF chief’s earlier call for war may break out first in Sulu province, the traditional center of power of the MNLF and its 7,000 guerrillas. Tan said he received reports that MNLF commanders have been “making their rounds in some parts of Sulu” and feared that this might be a prelude to war.
“If I want hostilities to resume, why would I announce it? A person who understands war knows that the element of surprise is very important; I would have kept silent if that was what my intention was,” Tan quoted Misuari as saying during their meeting.
Misuari told Tan that in fact, he filed a certificate of candidacy seeking the gubernatorial post of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the 2013 elections. “I am a politician now, we only want what is good for our people,” Tan quoted Misuari.
Tan told Misuari that an information campaign on the framework agreement will be mobilized so that MNLF and their constituents will understand what this agreement is all about “and decide competently for themselves if they want this to be part of the future of the Bangsamoro People.” Tan however revealed Misuari remained doubtful of the outcome of such an agreement, even as he had signed lots of peace agreements with the government, which he said were never implemented.
“In fact, claims that the MNLF was consulted on this matter were untrue. I will not tell a lie to say we were never consulted,” Tan quoted Misuari as saying. Tan, however, assured Misuari that the government is determined not to force the new peace deal without submitting it for ratification before the people in Mindanao.
‘No other recourse’
Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council (ICC) said the framework agreement with the MILF would spell the end of the final peace agreement they had with the Philippine government.
The MILF, then under the faction of the late Hashim Salamat, bolted from the MNLF in 1979 due to “ideological differences.”
“That’s good for them (MILF) because it will be the birth of the NPE (new political entity). Silently, we will be mourning the death of the Final Peace Accord,” Hashim said. Hashim maintained the signing of the framework agreement is tantamount to the abrogation of the 1996 final peace accord with the MNLF.
He said the framework agreement of the MILF would sideline the 1996 peace accord of the MNLF. While they respect the MNLF faction under Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimen Sema for supporting the MILF peace deal, Hashim said the leaders and ground forces under MNLF Misuari and his faction as well have been organizing.
“We have no other recourse but to go back to our original demand of independence. But this does not mean the MNLF will resort to violence,” Hashim said. However, hostility “will be unavoidable,” he said while the MNLF forces are in the course of defending their cause. Hashim, also the MNLF’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, said their group is now in the process of preparing for a tripartite meeting with the OIC.
“The only body that could reduce the tension is the OIC,” he said. Sema, for his part, had expressed support to the peace deal between the MILF and the government. “The real thing cannot be seen with the mere signing of an agreement. The real thing will happen during the legislation and subsequent ‘approval, or disapproval’ by the people through a plebiscite,” Sema told reporters in Cotabato City last week. Sema said his faction in the MNLF is certain President Aquino will protect the gains of the 1996 peace pact while pursuing a negotiated settlement with the MILF.
“In the meantime, the only serious, analytical comment, but not a destructive comment I have is that the MILF appeared to have agreed to limit the ‘core territory’ of the Bangsamoro, as if waiving practically the historical territory of the Moro people that have, for centuries, been thriving in Mindanao,” Sema said.