OIC Sec-Gen meets with MNLF, MILF leaders in Davao City; secretariat for Bangsamoro Coordination Forum set up

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 20  April) — The secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met separately with leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Saturday evening, hosted a seaside dinner for both and on Sunday met them jointly to discuss, through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF), on how best to move forward in harmonizing the tracks of the peace agreements they signed separately with the Philippine government.

“We pushed for the reviving, reinvigorating of the Forum. We think it provides an excellent stage for all sides to communicate to express their views,” OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani told MindaNews after the four-hour closed door meeting that started at 11:29 a.m. and ended at 3:38 p.m. at the Tinalak Rooms 1 and 2 at the Seda Abreeza hotel here.

“We are optimistic that this Forum is reducing the gap between the different views. We are all interested in peace,” Madani, the first OIC Secretary-General to have visited Mindanao, said, adding the next meeting of the BCF has been set for next month, in Kuwait, at the sidelines of the Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting on May 26 to 28.

 

OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani arrives at the meeting venue with leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Sunday, 19 April 2015. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani arrives at the meeting venue with leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Sunday, 19 April 2015. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

“I am here to show that we are concerned, we are supportive. I am not here just to prove that I am the first Secretary-General (to visit Mindanao), I am here for the substance,” said the official of the 57-nation OIC. “We wanted to come here. Symbolically, we wanted to be in Mindanao,” he said.

No joint communiqué, however, was issued at the end of the meeting. “Wala nang time” (No more time), lawyer Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of the MNLF faction representing Nur Misuari told MindaNews.

“Great success,” “ Generally fruitful”

Parcasio described the meeting as “a great success.” Muslimin Sema, head of the MNLF Central Committee faction, said it was “generally fruitful” while MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said it was “very productive” and that there were “convergence points” particularly in setting up the joint secretariat for the BCF.

Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines converses with MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal after the four-hour meeting convened by the OIC Secretary-General. MIndanNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines converses with MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal after the four-hour meeting convened by the OIC Secretary-General. MIndanNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

“We have decided to set up a permanent secretariat and OIC will support it technically and financially. And there will be a permanent seat which is Cotabato and the name of the persons who would serve as secretaries, so the method of operationalization of the forum has been set up,” Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines told MindaNews.

Parcasio said that aside from Cotabato, it was proposed that the secretariat will also have an office in Zamboanga.

Twelve members of the MNLF – six each from the Misuari faction and the MNLF Central Committee faction headed by Sema – and 12 members of the MILF attended the meeting, the MNLF delegation seated to the right of Madani, the MILF to his left.

Harmonizing the peace tracks

Ten months earlier, on June 12, 2014, Madani also met with both groups in Jeddah where they agreed to “activate and operationalize” the BCF to address the concerns of the parties that signed separate peace agreements with the Philippine government (GPH).

This was followed by another meeting in Makati City where the BCF’s Terms of Reference was signed in Makati City on October 14, 2014 by Parcasio and Iqbal. Under the TOR, the BCF shall serve as the venue to discuss issues and concerns concerning the Bangsamoro people including finding common grounds between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement-1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in order to “harmonize the two peace tracks and preserve the gains contained in these agreements which the MNLF and MILF mutually recognize and respect,” coordinate the efforts of the MILF and MNLF in order to consolidate their efforts towards achieving the Bangsamoro people’s aspirations for just political solution and lasting peace and inclusive development, and conduct consultation with other sectors of the Bangsmaoro society including the Ulama.

The TOR also provided for a quarterly meeting and the setting up of a Joint Secretariat. Iqbal said it was agreed Sunday that the Joint Secretariat, which will have three members each, will be headed by Jun Mantawil for the MILF and Romeo Sema for the MNLF.

The GPH and MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement on December 23, 1976 in Tripoli, Libya and the Final Peace Agreement on September 2, 1996 in Malacanang while the government and the MILF, which broke away from the MNLF in the late 1970s, signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.

The 57-nation OIC facilitated the talks between the GPH and the MNLF, which has an observer status in the OIC since 1977. The office of the OIC’s Secretary-General on the other hand, sought and was granted by the GPH and MILF an observer status in the GPH-MILF peace talks in March 2012.

The MNLF has repeatedly claimed the government has not fully implemented the peace pact. The MILF on the other hand is awaiting the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would set up the new autonomous political entity, Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Under the proposed BBL, the Bangsamoro will adopt a parliamentary form of government.

MNLF unity 

Before Sunday’s joint meeting started, Sema told MindaNews that in the MNLF meeting Saturday with Madani, where Misuari’s group had 10 representatives and Sema’s group had the same number, there was no unity on the issue on their position on the BBL.

“We continue to adhere to the resolution of OIC recognizing the CAB as partial implementation of the 1976 and 1996 peace agreement which we have ventilated in the BCF and stated in the Terms of Reference. On the part of Brother Nur, they continue to reject recognition of the CAB and BBL so therefore on the issue of unity of the MNLF ay doon lang magkaiba na kami doon. On our part, we proposed establishment of a Solidarity Committee to work for the unification of the MNLF.”

Muslimin Sema, head of the MNLF Central Committee, one of  several MNLF factions. Sema was Secretary-General of the MNLF when it signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the government.
Muslimin Sema, head of the MNLF Central Committee, one of several MNLF factions. Sema was Secretary-General of the MNLF when it signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the government. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

In its position paper submitted to the OIC, Sema’s group, the MNLF Central Committee, recommended to the OIC to “impress upon Brother Nur Misuari the wisdom and imperative of MNLF unity and of lending his full support to the pertinent OIC resolutions calling for convergence of the two peace agreements under the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” for Misuari to support the Sema group’s proposal on the establishment of an Ad Hoc MNLF Solidarity Committee to address issues related to unity.
It also said “Unity in union, reunification may not be feasible now” but both formations through the proposed Ad Hoc Solidarity Committee can continue to seek the same end, pursue the same struggle and the full and complete implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.”

After the meeting, Sema told MindaNews the meeting was “generally fruitful with new happenings,” with
“Misuari sending his trusted lieutenants to attend the BCF and joining to accept the CAB as partial implementation of the Tripoli and Jakarta agreements” and the MILF “also accepting the OIC Resolution on the CAB as partial implementation of the two previous agreements of the MNLF and GPH.”

“We are making a discourse on that to be submitted to the OIC,” Iqbal told MindaNews.

He said the BCF “will represent the MILF and MILF” in the OIC meeting in Kuwait where MILF chair AlHaj Murad Ebrahim is expected to attend.
Madani met with the MILF delegation after his meeting with the MNLF last Saturday .

Common track

Parcasio said the meeting was a “great success” because “never in history have I experienced an OIC Secretary-General presiding the meeting and asking incisive questions about how do we proceed, what is the MNLF view of current political events” and that they had an “ honest, sincere and brotherly exchange of views with our MILF brothers.

He said Misuari, who is the subject of a warrant of arrest for what happened in Zamboanga City in September 2013, phoned him and their delegation led by Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali to continue to push for the “full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement.”

“Chairman Misuari does not want to have anything to do with BBL because the MNLF was never part of the negotiation in the crafting of CAB and BBL and we have no comment on the BBL because we don’t know the final outcome,” Parcasio said.

A small group from the MNLF Misuari facton picketed the hotel venue where the OIC Secretary General met with leaders of the MNLF and MILF but dispersed after they were approached by the police. MIndaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
A small group from the MNLF Misuari facton picketed the hotel venue where the OIC Secretary General met with leaders of the MNLF and MILF but dispersed after they were approached by the police. MIndaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Outside the hotel, Norton Yaken of the MNLF-Misuari’s Bato Bago Sing Bangsa (New Generation of Moro Youth) shouted “No to BBL” as he joined less than 20 others in a picket where they displayed a tarpaulin saying “No substitute for Bangsamoro Independence.” The group dispersed when approached by the police.

But Parcasio acknowledged the need to find common ground, “to exert efforts to forge a common track for the full implementation of the Bangsamoro right to self-determination, the common track, and that’s what we are going to work on.“

Lawyer Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of the MNLF-Nur Misuari faction, receives instructions by phone from Misuari.  The delegation was led by Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali (left), MNLF spokesperson during the peace negotiations with the government in the 1990s. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Lawyer Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of the MNLF-Nur Misuari faction, receives instructions by phone from Misuari. The delegation was led by Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali (left), MNLF spokesperson during the peace negotiations with the government in the 1990s. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

He said Misuari’s message to the OIC is to assure the pan-Islamic body that the MNLF “will always abide by the advice, will always seek the advice of the OIC as it has done in the past.”

“The partnership must stay,” Parcasio said, adding the peace process with the MNLF since the 1970s has one concrete achievement in international relations: “it broke the isolation of the Bangsamoro People from the rest of the international community particularly the Islamic Ummah, through the OIC.”

He acknowledged the problem of factions within the MNLF leadership. “We call it an administrative issue but in so far as seeking the goal and struggle of the Bangsanoro People, there is no difference. In other words, we are one.”

In relation to the MILF, he said, “we might have differences but we agreed to put a study group to further sort out these differences and what we can do bout this,” he said.

Ensuring gains of the peace processes

Last year, the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers in Resolution No. 2/41-MM passed on June 18-19, calledon Madani to “exert his efforts to find common grounds” between the Parties to the CAB and the 1996 Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement and develop a mechanism “to ensure that the gains of the 1996 Final Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

It also urged the Secretary-General to “urgently” call for a meeting between the MNLF and MILF within the BCF “to find a way for the two peace tracks to merge instead of collide” and called on the Philippine government to “work with both MILF and MNLF to incorporate the most outstanding features of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Final Agreement into the Bangsamoro Basic Law governing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

Then Secretary General, Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu,  initiated the talks between the MNLF and MILF in a meeting he hosted between Misuari and MILF chair Murad on May 18, 2010 in Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan. In that meeting, both agreed that unity is indispensable to the success of the Bangsamoro struggle and that there are no basic differences between their Fronts as both are seeking to achieve peace, justice and a fair solution to the problems of the Bangsamoro people. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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