MNLF holds consultative assembly in Davao City

Randolph Parcasio, MNLF legal counsel and head of the MNLF delegation to the Tripartite Meeting in Jeddah last month, told a press conference here that the assembly at the Felis Resort will also tackle government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“We will get the sentiments of the grassroots on the issues at hand,” he said.

Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali, conference director, said the consultation has been called for “so we can find out what the thinking is of the people in Mindanao.”

George Asi, head of the MNLF in Davao City, said the city government helped them in  convening the assembly.  Streamers of  the activity indicate prominently that it is being held in coordination with the the city government. The city government has been supportive of the peace talks both of the government-MNLF and government –MILF and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was among the first  government officials to demand the release of Misuari, even joining an MNLF rally for Misuari’s freedom, at the city’s Rizal Park, several years ago.

The 1st  “Extraordinary Consultative Session,” Jali said, was held in 2001 in Cotabato City, where they urged the Philippine government to implement the 1996 peace agreement “in letter and spirit” and where they, he said, affirmed the leadership of  Nur Misuari as MNLF chair.

It was in 2001 when Misuari was ousted by what would be referred to as “Executive Council.” Jali, however, maintains Misuari was “not ousted” and that those who did not follow his lead “were expelled.”

Parcasio said the MNLF “will pursue its demand for the amendment of RA 9054 for it to comply with the provisions of the 1996 peace agreement and to implement the executive doables.”

RA 9054 was the law intended to have incorporated the provisions of the peace pact but which Misuari in 2001 said “would render the autonomous region less autonomous than it already is.”

Parcasio said the right of representation in the Cabinet, Judiciary, etc.. is just one of the provisions of the peace pact. “There are provisions on the implementation of development projects.”

Parcasio said they have not agreed on a timetable or timeframe for the Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 peace pact but  “we will be preparing a time frame.”

He added that while their timeframe will not be tied with the August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), they will “take into consideration” that there is a forthcoming election. “We can’t be blind to the political developments in the country,” he said.

The ARMM officials have a three-year term of office.

Parcasio also said the assembly will discuss “how to appropriately respond to the realities of the ongoing GRP-MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace talks.

These two peace tracks, he said, “if ever this is considered a problem, is not the making of the MNLF.”

The government and MILF peace panels have expressed optimism they would be able to finalize the draft of the agreement on ancestral domain within the month.

A Tripartite meeting among the MNLF, Philippine government and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the pan-Islamic body that has been facilitating the government-MNLF peace talks since the early 1970s, is scheduled on January 14 in a still unnamed venue.

Parcasio said they are still “in the process of completing the names of (MNLF) representatives to the Joint Working Groups.” The assembly, he said, is a means of getting suggestions on who should be part of these groups.

Misuari, he said, will make the final list of MNLF representatives.

The five joint working groups are on the Shari’ah and Judiciary; the Special Regional Security Force and the Unified Command for the Autonomous Region in Mindanao; Natural Resources and Economic Development issues; Political system and representation; and Education. These are the same issues that are listed in Phase 2 of the Peace Agreement.

The working groups will have three members each from the Philippine government and the MNLF and their meetings will be attended by representatives of the OIC’s Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP).

The Joint Working Groups are expected to submit their reports on January 10, four days before the three parties meet anew. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)