North Cotabato officials, MNLF leaders abhor violence during dialogue in Army camp

By Noel Punzalan

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao, (PNA) — Officials of North Cotabato province and leaders of three Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) state revolutionary committees in Central Mindanao pledged in this headquarters of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division to work hard for peace and abhor the use of violence to dramatize their sentiments.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, joined in by 10 town mayors from her province, enjoyed a cordial atmosphere with an equal number of MNLF sub-commanders during the four-hour peace dialogue here on Tuesday.

Most of the former MNLF leaders are now peacefully working as farmers in their respective places in North Cotabato and neighbouring Maguindanao province.

Both areas play host to three huge MNLF groups, namely the Western Mindanao State Revolutionary Committee, Sebangan State Revolutionary Committee and the Iranun State Revolutionary Committee.

“We maybe happy with the (peaceful) development here, but all of us are undeniably saddened by the ongoing Zamboanga City crisis,” Mendoza stressed.

Amid this, she vowed to strengthen a local approach for equal access to basic services at the capitol for MNLF members as with other constituents in her province.

“The North Cotabato provincial government is also set to pass a resolution next week to ask the national government to look into the plight of MNLF communities in Central Mindanao,” Mendoza added.

Former MNLF commander Mala Lidasan of Matanog, Maguindanao, noted that peace currently prevails in their communities but development remains farfetched in some areas following the 1996 GPH-MNLF final peace accord.

“Peace and development should always go together,” he said.

This developed as Omar Abdullah, chair of the elite MNLF Yaqeen Regional Security Force under Nur Misuari denied any alliance by MNLF-Central Mindanao groups with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters clarifying that they are now working on the side of the law.

“The BIFF leaders have existing warrants of arrest so would we join them when we are enjoying normal lives now,” he said.

Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6ID commander, said they are more than willing to host any dialogues of such anytime for the advancement of peace in Mindanao.