MNLF leaders declare “unity and reconciliation” in Tripoli: Nur sends rep

Misuari, who is still facing charges of rebellion but was freed on bail late last month, was not present in the Libya meeting but senttwo representatives, including Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali, his spiritual adviser, Dureza told MindaNews from Dubai.

The committee will be composed of Misuari, Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, Dr. Parouk Hussni, Mujahab Hashim, Isnaji Alvarez and Sulu-Basilan Rep. Yusop-Jikiri.

Misuari and Hussin were former governors of the ARMM, Misuari serving from September 1996 to his arrest in Sabah in November 2001, and Hussin from January 2002 to September 30, 2005.

According to the Joint Press Statement, the MNLF called on the Philippine government, "to enable the MNLF the governance (sic) of the autonomous region (in) Muslim Mindanao," expressed their appreciation "on the initiative of the government … to set up a federal system," and urged the government to "involve the MNLF in this political exercise."

The copy of the Joint Press Statement states only "to enable the MNLF the governance."

Whether or not the MNLF meant "to regain" or "to reclaim" the governance of the ARMM, is not clear but it can be surmised that the MNLF meant "to regain" governance of the ARMM, which it lost to Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampautan. ARMM Governor Ampatuan had said in November last year that while he was willing to sacrifice his post should it be warranted by the peace process, he would run for reelection if the election pushes through on
August 11.

The new committee, according to the "Tripoli Declaration on Unity and Reconciliation of the MNLF Leadership" signed by 10 MNLF leaders, will be the "sole legitimate body of the MNLF and the only one authorized to enter into any negotiation and agreement" and will determine among themselves "on the appropriate way of resolving leadership crisis through democratic process before the end of June 2008."

It is also tasked to "convene the Bangsamoro people's congress that shall finally decide on the issue of leadership and adopt a programme of action before the end of August 2008."

The campaign period for the August 11 elections in the ARMM's six provinces and two cities starts on June 27. According to the Commission on Elections' Resolution 8442, the last day for filing certificates of candidacy in the ARMM is up to midnight of June 4.

"No certificate of candidacy and/or party nomination shall be received after 12:00 o'clock midnight of June 04, 2008, except in cases of proper and valid substitution under Section 14 hereof. 4," the Resolution states.

Section 14 provides that even after midnight of June 4 but "not beyond June 22," if an official candidate of a registered political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, "he may be substituted by a candidate belonging to, and nominated by, the same political party."

Dureza and the MNLF leaders were in Libya on invitation of Muammar Gadaffi's son, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, chair of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

The committee is also tasked to "prepare a manifesto and a programme of action that shall focus on the political, socio-economic, and other concerns of the Bangsamoro people" and to "enter into dialogue with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front" with a view to cement the unity and solidarity of the two fronts as agreed in previous meetings with Gaddafi' son.

The Declaration also states that the committee "shall undertake discussions in order to consolidate the peace process between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF, including the issues of empowerment, both economic and political, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governance."

The MNLF leaders also committed to "solely focus their attention on advancing the cause of unity and solidarity, and abide by the decisions of the transition committee."

The commitment includes refraining "from taking any actions, and making my announcement contrary to this declaration."

The 10 signatories are Mujahab Hashim, Hatimin Hassan (Hatimil Hassan), Muslimin Sema, Parouk Hussin, Yusop Jikiri, Thambeyapa Manjoorsa, Abdul Sahrin, Sharif Jain Jali, Alvarez Isnaji and Samsula Adju. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)