At least a thousand march for peace in Marawi; Alonto-led MNLF affirms solidarity with MILF

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/28 April) – At least a thousand residents joined the Bangsamoro Walk for Peace early Tuesday morning  to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and to express solidarity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Datu Abul Khayr D. Alonto, chair of one of several MNLF factions said the Bangsamoro people are looking for more peace champions to push the BBL.

He said that while he appreciates the unwavering support of President Aquino to the BBL and the whole peace process with the MILF, the President’s effectivity has been affected by his handling as well as his role in the Mamasapano tragedy that claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians last January 25.

Alonto said their eyes are now focused on the Senate committee on local governments chair Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, after the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL wrapped up deliberations on the proposed law.

“But we feel comfortable with the chairmanship of Senator Marcos. We know he has compassion for the Bangsamoro people,” Alonto said.

The BBL, he said may be last time the Bangsamoro people will agree to negotiating autonomy for their homeland.

“While we need sincerity to pursue lasting peace in Mindanao, all stakeholders, especially the government, should consider the utmost necessity to settle the Bangsamoro issue,” he said, adding a diluted BBL will be costly.

Joining in Tuesday’s events were surviving members of the original MNLF fighters in the late 1960s and the 1970s, emissaries and representatives of the MILF, the government peace panel and the International Monitoring Team headed by its current head of mission Maj. Gen. Dato’ Sheikh Mokhsin bin Sheikh Hassan of Malaysia.

Alonto also reiterated their solidarity with the MILF, saying they share the same cause which is to “assert the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination.”

He said the MNLF and the MILF have set aside their differences and agreed to work together after he and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim signed a communiqué for cooperation at Camp Darapanan on Jan 5, 2015.

He also belittled the divisions in the MNLF. He said the MNLF is solid but it is the government that is sowing division among its ranks.

“The government should stop dividing us. It should realize that addressing the conflict in Mindanao is more difficult if the Bangsamoro is divided,” Alonto said.

Meanwhile, IMT Head of Mission Maj. Gen. Dato said he is happy with the progress in the peace process, despite the setbacks caused by the Mamasapano incident.

Overall, he said, with the ceasefire mechanisms in place, proper coordination between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the MILF have prevented violent confrontations.

“We have seen how MILF fighters move out of their positions to give way to government operations,” Dato said.

Peace, he added, “should be cherished by the Filipino people.”