ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/02 June) — Even before President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the Moro fronts and the communist movement to help the government in the fight against terror groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu has been helping the military fight the Abu Sayyaf.
Yusop Jikiri, chair of the MNLF Central Committee, said their fighters have been running after the Abu Sayyaf particularly in areas dominated by the front.
Jikiri cited an incident where “our fighters launched our ‘Anti-kidnapping and Terrorism Task Force’ [in the towns of]Talipao, Parang and Indanan with proper understanding and coordination with the Brigade Command in Sulu” last May 18-20.
“In short, even without the presence of the military, our command is ready to face any challenges against terrorist groups,” he said.
Jikiri, who took over the helm from Muslimin Sema as the new chair of the MNLF last February, said they will continue to exert pressure on the Abu Sayyaf and deny them areas for refuge.
Another faction of the MNLF is led by founding chair Nur Misuari.
During his visit in Sulu, Duterte called on the MNLF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the New People’s Army to help the government fight the terror groups.
The president made the statement following Misuari’s offer to help the government address the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
The armed conflict in Marawi started on May 23 when members of the Maute group launched a siege in the city.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejan, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed the MNLF’s efforts against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
“We welcome their positive gesture towards the resolutions of the Abu Sayyaf problem,” he said.
He said the military gave a green light for the MNLF to operate in specific areas.
“We gave them area for them to clear. We are also amendable to the option that they can operate alongside with us,” he said.
Despite the absence of ceasefire mechanisms, Sobejana said both the military and the MNLF have established a strong coordination system.
The MNLF-Misuari wing has designated a coordinator who links with the military, especially during operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
“We see the importance of the [peace] mechanisms. We have established contact persons in the MNLF,” Sobejana said.
“We are banking on the trust and confidence of both sides,” he said.
The MNLF signed a Final Peace Agreement with the government in 1996. At least 7,000 of its combatants have been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as part of the agreement. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/MindaNews)