MILF, MNLF leaders: no to “diluted version” of draft Bangsamoro law

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /13 May) — Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended their two-day meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by taking a “strong stand against any attempt to come up with a diluted version” of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) “during the congressional review.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which hosted the meeting, said in a  press release posted on its website that during the meeting on May 7 and 8, the participants exchanged views about the work of the Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC) which is crafting a draft basic law for the Bangsamoro and “took a strong stand against any attempt to come up with a diluted version of the draft bill during the congressional review.”

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation invited leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forun. Photo shows the OIC SecGen with the MILF delegation led by chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (left) and the MNLF delegation led by chair Yusoph Jikiri (right) on May 7, 2017. Nur Misuari, MNLF founding chair and chair of another faction, was a no-show and did not also send a representative. Photo courtesy of the OIC

A previous attempt to pass the BBL under the Aquino administration failed. The MILF said the House and Senate substitute bills watered down the draft law and that these versions would render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM.

Congress adjourned without passing the BBL, the law that would have translated provisions of the political agreement into law to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Jeddah meeting was attended by representatives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under chair Yusoph Jikiri.

MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari, head of another faction, was a no-show and did not also send a representative as he did in previous BCF meetings. Randolph Parcasio, chair of the MNLF-Misuari’s Peace Implementing Panel told MindaNews Misuari could not attend due to a “legal impediment.”

Parcasio had represented Misuari in most of the BCF meetings.

Expansion of BCF

The leaders also discussed the expansion of the BCF to include other stakeholders, among them the Bangsamoro civil society organizations. Qualifications for membership were also discussed.

The OIC press release also noted that BCF members welcomed what they said was the “promise of President Duterte … to lift the arrest warrant against chairman Misuari and to restore his freedom.”

Misuari’s six-month liberty lapsed on April 27 but a motion to extend it has been filed with the court.

The court gave Misuari temporary liberty in October last year “to allow him to attend peace talk sessions with the government.”

Judge Ma. Rowena Modesto-San Pedro of the Pasig Regional Trial Court in Pasig City in an order dated  October 27, 2017 granted the “motion to suspend proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrest against Misuari” for a period of six months from October 27 or until April 27,  “unless sooner lifted by the court.”

Warrants of arrest had earlier been issued against Misuari and 59 others for rebellion and violation of  Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity following the September 2013 stand-off in Zamboanga City between his followers and government troops that left 137 persons dead, 251 injured and 118,889 of the city’s 807,000 population displaced, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s October 2, 2013 report.

The Department of Justice,  the City of Zamboanga and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process made no objections to Misuari’s October 2016 motion to the court.

San Pedro said the Court “acknowledges that the matter of peace talks is exclusively within the realm of the Executive Department,” and that as manifested by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), it is a “top priority of the current administration.”

Misuari signed the December 23, 1976 Tripoli Agreement under the Marcos administration and the September 2, 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) under the Ramos administration.

Misuari was elected governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) a week after signing the peace agreement. Backed up by the administration party, Misuari ran unopposed.

Misuari’s faction did not agree to be part of the expanded BTC. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza in November created a separate peace implementing panel for the MNLF-Misuari faction.

“Narrow the gap”

At the just concluded BCF meeting, Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace Process in Southern Philippines and Chair of the BCF, declared that the OIC “has always maintained that Chairman Misuari is indispensable for the peace process” and they “were assured by the Philippines Authority that they will work to remove any impediment on his participation in the peace process.”

He expressed hope that Misuari will be able to attend the next formal session of the BCF in Abidjan on the margins of the Foreign Ministers’ conference on July 10 to 12.

The BCF was set up on May 18, 2010 when Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu, then OIC Secretary-General, initiated the talks between Misuari and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan, where both leaders 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.

At the 43rd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on 18-19 October last year, the OIC expressed its “support and expectation” for the passage of the BBL under the Duterte administration.

It also called upon Misuari and Murad and other leaders of the Moro people to “close ranks and narrow the gap between them for the purpose of finding common grounds to preserve the gains of the previous agreements in order to incorporate these gains in the enabling law and utilizing the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum as the main venue for that purpose.”

President Rodrigo Duterte on April 10 told a press conference at the airport here prior to his departure for the Middle East that he would call on Moro revolutionary leaders to come up with a consensus on how to move forward in the legislation aspect of the implementation panels.

The President said he will certify as urgent only one draft Bangsamoro law.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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