COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (9)

Last of nine parts

Sad notes

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 January)–  But sad notes mar the “only option”. The odds are stocked against “the only option”.  Moro National LIberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari has opted out; he will have separate track of the peace process with a “no convergence” caveat. This track is the “talking plan and position” MNLF-Nur’s spokesperson Randolph Parcasio presented at the Kusog Mindanaw conference on federalism in Davao City last November 30 and elaborated in a two-part article in the two-part article in the MNLF Website (10/18/16 and 11/ 28/16) entitled “Roadmap to MNLF-Duterte Government Peace Talks”

In the article, the Moro Problem is blamed on the Americans and Philippine presidents particularly Manuel L. Quezon, Elpidio Quirino, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Corazon C. Aquino, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the non-Misuari MNLF factions are called traitors. Only Misuari and the peace process following the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the full support of President Duterte are the hopes for the “liberation” of the Moros.

The article portrays Misuari as carrying heavy “chips on his shoulders” and constantly “grinding his axes” This explains Presidential Adviser Jesus  Dureza’s reason for the separate talks of the Duterte government and Misuari:  “We are separately handling the Misuari faction in another track. There is still a very deep division, in principle, between the two groups”, referring to MILF and other MNLF factions. (MindaNews, 11/ 9/16: BA needs P136 billion for Bangsamoro Development Plan))

Last  December 14 (ABS-CBN News and GMA News), Misuari flew to Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In a pre-departure interview, he said he would have a meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to (1) finalize the details of negotiations with the government; (2) know who will mediate during the talks and when that person will go to the MNLF camp. He said “the government agreed that the talks will take place at the group’s camp, similar to how it was done in former president Fidel V. Ramos’ time”.

The inference: The OIC will facilitate and determine the details or mode of negotiation. Why not finalize the details of the negotiation with the Philippine government panel? The talks will be held at the MNLF camp in Sulu.

Misuari also wants to know from the OIC which of the FPA and the CAB it will recognize. To Misuari, the Jakarta accord is more binding since it is an international treaty”, MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said, “As far as the OIC is concerned they will only honor the Jakarta peace accord.”

These, too, are sad notes.  They see only their own shadows; they listen only to their own voices. First, they see the FPA as an internationalized treaty but not the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the mode of the Government-MILF negotiations which have been internationalized ten times more than the FPA. Second, they ignore what the OIC Secretary General has said a number of times that the OIC wanted the MILF and all MNLF factions to unite and consolidate all their agreements with the Philippine government.

The latest OIC statement was on November 8, 2016 on the release of Misuari. The statement came out in full in the OIC website – not in any newspaper. The following are the paragraphs emphasize the OIC position:

“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) welcomes the decision of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, H. E. Mr Rodrigo Duterte, to lift the warrant of arrest against Prof. Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and to reinstate his freedom.

“The OIC received this information with great satisfaction and considers it another manifestation of the positive approach of the current administration towards the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people.

“The OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines, Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, reiterated the long standing position of the OIC, that Chairman Nur Misuari is an indispensable factor to the peace process; being the founder of the MNLF and the historical leader of the Bangsamoro people.

“The OIC also takes this opportunity to reiterate its support for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its leader, Chairman Hajj Murad as well as for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which should be embodied undiluted in the new enabling law.

“The OIC believes that it is now time to proceed steadfastly to close the ranks between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF) in order to coordinate efforts to merge the two peace tracks and maintain all the gains contained in all the peace treaties namely: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the 1996 Jakarta Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

“The OIC maintains its position that it does not favour one Moro faction over another, but that it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”   

The OIC’s four-point position is clear:

  • Misuari is indispensable to the peace process for being the founder of the MNLF and historical leader of the Moros.
  • It supports the MILF, its Chairman /Al Hajj Murad and the CAB.
  • It wants the MNLF and MILF to close ranks, merge the two peace tracks and converge all the gains in all peace treaties.
  • It does not favor either the MNLF or the MILF; above all, “it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”

We await Misuari’s return from Jeddah. If the OIC is true to its November 8 statement, it would advise Misuari to take the “Only Option”. President Duterte, taking a cue from the OIC statement, should convince Misuari to join the single MILF-led BTC track.

So much is at stake. Not only the Moros are in suspense; but also – perhaps, more so — are the international leaders, agencies and governments that have helped sustain the peace and the 16-year Government-MILF negotiations. Ultimately, history will be categorical in its verdict. Either, Bangsamoro: fulfillment at last; or, Bangsamoro: denial as ever.