GRP-MNLF joint working groups review Shari’ah, Security

The review was proposed in May 2006 by a Fact-Finding Mission sent by the pan-Islamic body to look into the implementation of the September 2, 1996 peace agreement, given the conflicting reports from the government and MNLF.

The Tripartite Meeting, supposedly scheduled for July 2006 finally pushed through only in November 2007 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

As a result of that meeting, five joint working groups were created to review the implementation.

The working groups will look into the provisions of RA 9054, the law that was supposed to have incorporated the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, and compare this with the Agreement’s provisions.

The joint working group on Shari’ah and Judiciary met Thursday while the joint working group on Special Regional Security Force (SRSF) and Unified Command for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao met Friday at the Indonesian Embassy.

A source from the MNLF named the members of the MNLF delegation to the Joint Working Group on Shari’ah as Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali, Bashir Idris and Atty. Ulka Ulama.

MindaNews sought Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan, who headed the government delegation in Jeddah, for a list of the members of the government team but he had yet to answer as of press time.

Three more joint working groups are scheduled to meet until January 7: Natural Resources and Economic Development issues (including mines and minerals) on January 5; Political system and Representation on January 6; and Education on January 7. These five main issues are the same issues listed in Phase 2 of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

The joint working groups, composed of three representatives each from the government and the MNLF, are expected to submit their reports on January 10 for deliberation by the next Tripartite Meeting on January 14. The venue for the meeting has yet to be announced.

The working groups’ meetings are attended by representatives of the OIC’s Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP), an 11-nation expanded version of what used to be the Ministerial Committee of the Eight headed by Indonesia.

The Committee of the Eight had earlier been tasked by the OIC to chair the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MNLF, which has been holding an observer status in the OIC since 1977.

In the early 1970s, the OIC tasked a Committee of the Four which was later expanded to Six – Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia,  Senegal and Somalia and in 2000 was expanded to Eight with the inclusion of Malaysia and Brunei.

The PCSP now includes Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan as chair of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.

Tan had earlier told MindaNews that government had proposed the venue for the January 14 meeting to be in Manila to give MNLF chair Nur Misuari a better chance at attending.

Misuari is presently detained in a bungalow in New Manila, Quezon City, for alleged rebellion. He has been detained in the country since January 2002, first at the bungalow in Fort Sto. Domingo, Laguna originally intended for deposed president Joseph Estrada, then at the St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City. His transfer to the New Manila detention house is for health considerations, to ensure he is near a hospital.

Misuari was arrested and detained in Sabah, Malaysia from late November 2001 until early January 2002, for alleged illegal entry.

The OIC had earlier repeatedly urged the Philippine government to free Misuari.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)