OIC mechanism “enough forum” for MNLF, MILF to discuss moving forward

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/28 October) – There is a way for the factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to move forward together and that is through the coordinating mechanism proposed by Organization of  Islamic Cooperation (OIC), MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

Murad told a press conference  in the MILF camp in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Saturday morning that “once it will be implemented, functionalized, then it will be enough forum for all groups of the MNLF and the MILF to discuss among themselves how we can move forward together.”

Although he did not name the coordinating mechanism, Murad was apparently referring to the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum that Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the 57-nation OIC,  cited in his message to the  MILF’s  Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly held in Darapanan in July.

Ihsanoglu had said that since the peace processes with the MILF and MNLF “revolve around the same problem and the same territory, the process of coordination between the two fronts has become of utmost necessity.”

The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in Tripoli, Libya in 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement in 1996 in Malacanang. The MILF and the government signed the  Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012, also in Malacanang, with Ihsanoglu as among the witnesses.

In March, the GPH and MILF peace panels approved the request of Ihsanoglu’s office to be an observer in the GPH-MILF peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Operative by November

“The OIC is trying to set up a Bangsamoro Coordination Forum between the MILF and MNLF, and I seize this opportunity to appeal once again to the two fronts to make this forum operative before the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers  (CFM) scheduled to be held in November,” Ihsanoglu said in his message read for him at the Bangsamoro Leaders’ Assembly by Tahir Ahmad Saif, Deputy Head of the OIC Minorities Department.

The next CFM will be held in Djibouti, Africa on November 15 to 17.

Murad said the MILF  has been conducting dialogues with the different factions of the MNLF, including the faction under Nur Misuari and that there is an “initial understanding reached”  during a meeting at the sidelines of the OIC’s CFM meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on May 18-20, 2010 on the coordinating mechanism.

The MNLF and MILF coordinating mechanism is contained in a resolution passed during the CFM meeting in  Dushanbe, Tajikistan on May 18 to 20, 2010.  The resolution urged the MNLF and MILF to “unite their efforts for the peace and development of the Bangsamoro people,” noted the OIC Secretary-General’s additional report on the MNLF-MILF meeting and welcomed their  “principle agreement to establish a mechanism for consultation and coordination between them.”

“Very, very, very determined”

Murad said the MILF has also been coordinating with the MNLF under Muslimin Sema and that they agreed to strengthen the Bangsamoro Solidarity Conference they had forged in 2001 when Murad was still MILF peace panel chair (he assumed the chairmanship in July 2003, after chair Salamaat Hashim succumbed to an illness) and Sema was part of the MNLF’s Executive Council of 15, the group of MNLF officials which in April 2001, ousted Misuari as chair and elevated him “MNLF Chair Emeritus.” Misuari, then on his fifth year as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), dismissed the designation, maintaining he remains the chair of the MNLF.

Murad said Ihsanoglu, during the signing rites on October 15, told him he was “very, very , very determined to push through with this coordinating mechanism and we hope during the next CFM (next month in Djibouti), we will be able to finalize.”

Misuari told the “Grand Summit Gathering” of  his MNLF faction in Davao City on October 21 that  he would bring to the OIC the Bangsamoro cause which he said was betrayed by the signing of the GPH-MILF agreement on October 15.

On Wednesday, Sema, elected chair in 2008 by the MNLF Central Committee, told MindaNews the peace agreements entered into by government with the MNLF and the MILF should be “harmonized” to achieve lasting peace.

He said one way to do it would be to “put to a closure” the Tripartite Review on the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) and another would be to hold a quadripartite meeting involving government, OIC, MNLF and MILF.

“This is the only solution,” Sema said as he advised the MILF to “be watchful” because “we don’t like them to fail.”

Historic journey

Murad said whatever process or mechanism should be mutually agreed upon by the parties. He said a quadripartite meeting has to be worked out separately “but at this moment we have the coordinating mechanism already established in the OIC” and that is “enough forum for all the groups in the MNLF and the MILF to discuss among themselves how we can move forward together.”

Murad said the 1996 peace agreement “did not actually solve the problem of the Bangsamoro .. that is why we opted for another agreement.”

He said this does not mean throwing away the MNLF agreements because the FAB is a “complementary” agreement.

The provisons of the 1996 peace agreement that have not been implemented “can still be worked out… can be included in the details of the Framework Agreement,” he said, adding “it is not important to say what solved problem is the 1996 or 1976 or the Framework Agreement. What is important is we have solved the problem.”

At the signing rites on October 15, Murad appealed to “our MNLF brethren” to support it and “take this historic journey with us to rebuild our Bangsamoro Homeland on the gains given to us by this Agreement.”

“This is not the time for recriminations. This is the time for unity, the time for all of us to think, act and speak as one Bangsamoro as we summon all our strengths to face the daunting task of home rule,” he said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews with a report from Lorie Ann A. Cascaro)

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