OIC convenes meeting of MNLF, MILF leaders in Jeddah; Nur a no-show

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DAVAO CITY (MindNews/ 08 May) — Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a two-day meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) that started Sunday on invitation of the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

But photographs of Sunday’s preliminary meeting released by the OIC on its Facebook page showed that MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari was a no-show. He sent no representative, too, unlike in previous BCF meetings.

Lawyer Randolph Parcasio, chair of the MNLF-Misuari faction’s Peace Implementing Panel, told MindaNews on Monday that Misuari could not attend due to a “legal impediment.”

Misuari is awaiting extension of his temporary liberty after the six-month period granted by the court on October 27 lapsed on April 27. A motion to extend was filed on April 26, a hearing was conducted on May 3 and the Misuari camp is just waiting for the court’s decision.

It is not clear, however, why Misuari sent no representative to the Jeddah meeting when Parcasio, also the MNLF-Misuari spokesperson, has been Misuari’s representative in past BCF meetings. This is the first time Misuari’s faction is not represented.

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 Forum to discuss issues and concerns, including harmonizing the two peace tracks and preserving the gains of the peace agreements. 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). Nur Misuari,  chair of another faction, was a no-show and did not also send a representative. Photo courtesy of the OIC

The Moro leaders attending the BCF meeting in Jeddah are Yusoph Jikiri, chair of  another MNLF faction, and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF) and their respective delegations.

Also in Jeddah is Muslimin Sema  who stepped down as MNLF chair on February 19 “to reiterate to the whole world, that no one man shall forever rule the MNLF and the Bangsamoro.”  Jikiri, former Sulu Governor and Representative was elected to take over the post Sema held since 2008.  But Sema was elected chair of the Bangsamoro People’s Congress, the MNLF’s parliamentary arm.

Harmonizing the two peace tracks

A May 6 press release published on the OIC’s website said OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, invited the MNLF and MILF leaders “for a session of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) as part of the implementation of OIC Council of Ministers Resolutions.”

It said the BCF is to provide a venue to discuss issues and concerns confronting 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 the MILF mutually recognize and respect.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (extreme right) heads the MILF delegation at the meeting Sunday , 07 May 2017 with the OIC Secretary-General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of the OIC
Yusoph Jikiri (L) chair of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front with Hatimil Hassan, Vice Chair for Internal Affairs and Abdul Sahrin, Secretary-General, during the meeting Sunday with the OIC Secretary-General in Jeddah on Sunday, 07 May 2017. Photo courtesy of OIC

Al-Othaimeen met with the Moro leaders on Sunday. Ambassador Sayed Kassem El-Masry, Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines, will preside over the detailed discussions between the fronts on Monday.

The OIC, which brokered the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements maintain that the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) “continue to formulate the basis of any settlement of the conflict.”

The 57-nation OIC facilitated the talks between the Philippine government (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.

“Pessimistic”

The BCF meeting in Jeddah came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte said he was “a bit pessimistic now” about the Bangsamoro peace process and “a little bit worried that nothing will come out of this” citing factionalism among the Moro revolutionary fronts that signed peace agreements with the government.

The Philippine government has signed four peace agreements with the two Moro revolutionary fronts in the last 40 years: the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) which is a continuation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which is a continuation of the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB)

The MILF and MNLF faction under Jikiri, are now working together in crafting the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar told MindaNews on Sunday that most of the committee meetings have been done and they have scheduled plenary sessions on May 9 to 11 in Cotabato City.  He said they will submit the draft BBL to the Office of the President on the first week of June, to give time for the President to review the draft before it is submitted to Congress in July.

The President is expected to certify as urgent a draft Bangsamoro law when he delivers his second State of  the Nation Address on July 24.

Misuari’s MNLF faction did not want to be part of the BTC.  A separate peace implementing panel has been set up, led by Parcasio.

Parcasio has met with the government panel chair, Undersecretary Nabil Tan, the Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, at least four times informally. The two panels are still awaiting schedule for their call on the President, to signal the start of their formal meetings.

The MNLF-Misuari faction seeks to amend RA 9054, the law governing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) while the MILF-MNLF under Jikiri are working under the BTC to draft a law that would pave the way for a new autonomous political entity named Bangsamoro, to replace the ARMM.

Both drafts are supposed to be submitted to the Office of the President for review.

Duterte with Moro leaders

Duterte on April 10 told a press conference at the Davao International Airport, that he would call the Moro revolutionary leaders to a meeting to come up with a consensus on how to move forward in implementing the legislation aspect of their peace agreements as he acknowledged he will certify for urgent passage in Congress only one draft Bangsamoro law.

That is what we want,” Duterte said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Prof. Nur Misuari at the Presidential Guest House in Davao City on March 27, 2017. RENE LUMAWAG/Presidential Photo

The BCF was set up on May 18, 2010 when Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu, then OIC Secretary-General, initiated the talks between Misuari and Murad 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.”

OIC Sec-Gen’s visit

To recall, then OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani and El-Masry came to Davao City on April 18 and 19, 2015. They met separately with the MNLF and MILF leaders and hosted a seaside dinner for both on the first day and on the second day, met them jointly to discuss, through the BCF, 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,” Madani said.

Members of the MNLF Nur Misuari faction pose with OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani when the latter visited Davao CIty in April 2015. The group’s spokesperson. Randolph Parcasio, is on the extreme left. MIndaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

“We are optimistic that this Forum is reducing the gap between the different views. We are all interested in peace,” he added.

Parcasio, who represented Misuari in that meeting, described it as “a great success.”

Sema, then chair of the MNLF faction that is now chaired by Jikiri, said the meeting with Madani 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.

“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,” El-Masry told MindaNews then. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

 

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