OIC got Nur and Murad to sit down for Bangsamoro Coordination Forum

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/24 Nov) –  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) got  Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to sit down for a meeting last week on the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum that the OIC had long proposed.
The meeting between the Moro leaders was held on November 16, at the sidelines of the 39th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) conference in Djibouti, Africa, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews.

“Nur was hesitant but the OIC prevailed upon him,”  Iqbal said.

MNLF chair Nur Misuari at the OIC's Council of Foreign Minsters meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15-17, 2012. Photo courtesy of MNLF Facebook page
MNLF chair Nur Misuari at the OIC’s Council of Foreign Minsters meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15-17, 2012.  Photo courtesy of MNLF Facebook page

Maulana “Bobby” Alonto,  a member of the MILF peace panel who was in Murad’s delegation, and who had just arrived from Djibouti, told MindaNews in a telephone interview Friday evening  that the MNLF-MILF meeting  was convened by the Secretary-General of the 57-nation OIC himself — Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu –  at 4 p.m. of November 16. The meeting ended at around 7 p.m, he said, although he noted that Ihsanoglu left after a few minutes as he had to preside over a session.

Alonto said the OIC Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Peace in Southern Philippines, Ambassador Sayed Al Masry along with Foreign Minister of Djibouti, Muhammad Ali Yusuf, also attended the meeting.

He said it was agreed that the OIC would set up the mechanism to “operationalize”  the BCF.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim with peace panel members Maulana "Bobby" Alonto (left) and Datu Michael Mastura (right) at the OIC's Council of Foreign Minsters meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15-17, 2012. Photo courtesy of the MILF
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim with peace panel members Maulana “Bobby” Alonto (left) and Datu Michael Mastura (right) at the OIC’s Council of Foreign Minsters meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15-17, 2012.                                Photo courtesy of the MILF

During the meeting, Alonto said, the MNLF was represented by Misuari,  Commander Narra and two others while the MILF was represented by Murad, himself,  senior peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura and peace panel secretariat member Mohajirin Ali.

Misuari could not be reached for comment but in  his October 21 speech before the MNLF Summit Gathering at the Crocodile Park in Davao City, he criticized the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro as a product of a “tripartite conspiracy”  that betrayed the Bangsamoro cause. He identified the three “conspirators” as President Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and MILF chair Murad.

“We hope that the entire world will ask these three conspirators to account for these misdeeds or wrongdoing,”  he said.

Misuari  in early October filed his certificate of candidacy for ARMM Governor in  the May 13, 2013 elections.

Not the first
The Djibouti meeting was not the first but the second meeting of the two Moro leaders since the 37th meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on May 18 to 20, 2010, which the OIC also brokered, to  set up a BCF consisting of the MNLF factions and the MILF.

In his message to the Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly in the MILF’s Camp Darapanang in July this year,  OIC Secretary-General Ihsanoglu,  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 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 scheduled to be held in November,” Ihsanoglu said in his message read for him by Tahir Ahmad Saif, Deputy Head of the OIC Minorities Department.

In a resolution passed in Djibouti, the OIC welcomed the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and expressed hope that it be implemented “in good faith and that its fate would be different from that of its predecessors which were either retracted, such as the Memorandum of Agreement concluded with the MILF which was not implemented due to a Philippine Constitutional Court order, or the Peace Agreements of 1976 and 1996 concluded with MNLF which have not been fully implemented so far.”

‘Bitter pill to swallow’

The CFM listed 14 points in its Resolution No. 2/39-MM on “Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines,”  an agenda item since the 5th CFM held  in Kuala Lumpur 38 years ago, then under the heading,  “The plight of the Filipino Muslims.”

It was the 1974 CFM resolution that urged the Philippine government to “find a political and peaceful solution through negotiation with Muslim leaders, particularly with the representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front in order to arrive at a just solution to the plight of the Filipino Muslims within the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.”

The resolution, Misuari recalled 20 years later  at the anniversary of the MNLF on March 18, 1994, was “a bitter pill for us to swallow” because it effectively ruled out independence as end goal. But swallow the bitter pill they did, Misuari said, or be isolated from the Islamic Ummah (community).

The OIC brokered the talks between the GPH and MNLF in 1974, eventually leading to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement in 1996. It also set up the Tripartite Review  (GPH-MNLF-OIC) on the implementation of the 1996 peace  pact ten years later, and the Tripartite Ad Hoc High-Level Group.

The MNLF in 1976. MNLF chair Nur Misuari (center, seated). MNLF vice chair Salamat Hashim (fourth from right, standing) would later form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Photo courtesy of MNLF Facebook page
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim with peace panel members Maulana “Bobby” Alonto (left) and Datu Michael Mastura (right) at the OIC’s Council of Foreign Minsters meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15-17, 2012.                                    Photo courtesy of the MNLF Facebook page


The MNLF was granted an observer status in the OIC in 1977 and has been attending its meetings since then.
The MNLF had a membership across the major ethnic groups in the1970s. But the failure of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement divided the MNLF into three factions – the MNLF under Taosug Misuari,  the Maguindanaon vice chair Salamat Hashim setting up in the late 1970s what initially was referred to as “the New MNLF” but was later renamed into the MILF; and the Maranao Dimas Pundato setting up the “MNLF Reformist Group.”

Link FAB to MNLF pacts

In last week’s resolution, the CFM called on the Secretary General to “hold another session of the tripartite meeting at the earliest to contain any impacts that may result from the Framework Agreement between GPH and MILF, save the 1996 Agreement and link it to the Framework Agreement, and develop a mechanism between MNLF, MILF and GPH to oversee the implementation of these two agreements i.e. the agreement with the MILF and the agreements with the MNLF.”

Undersecretary Jose Lorena  of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) told MindaNews the GPH-MNLF-OIC meeting will be held in Jeddah next month.

The resolution also requested the OIC Secretary-General to invite representatives of the MILF “to participate in ministerial conferences as guest, in coordination with the hosting state, in order to facilitate coordination between the two fronts.”

At the same time, it also invited “all parties” to “improve on the (GPH-MILF) Framework Agreement by linking it to the Peace Agreement of 1976 and abiding by the area of the autonomous region stipulated in this Agreement and reconfirmed in the Final Peace Agreement of 1996.”

It called on the GPH,  in reference to its peace agreement with the MNLF, to “show flexibility that would allow progress on the pending major difficulties, namely the size of the autonomous region, transitional mechanism or transitional period arrangements and an agreed definition of strategic minerals, also calls upon it to sponsor the request by the MNLF on conducting a new plebiscite under neutral supervision to consult the population on whether they are willing to join the autonomous rule region.”

These issues are currently being discussed by Technical Working Groups (TWGs) of the GPH and MILF to form part of the annexes to the Framework Agreement that would form into a comprehensive peace pact can be signed before the end of the year.

Misuari in his speech at the MNLFs “Grand Summit Gathering” at the Crocodile Park in Davao City on October 21 criticized the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro as a product of a “tripartite conspiracy” that reduced the Bangsamoro homeland to “five tiny provinces hardly the size of the Cotabato (Empire) of yore.”

Core territory

The 2012 FAB provides for a core territory comprising the present five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in six towns in North Cotabato that voted yes to inclusion in the ARMM in 2001, and “all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for inclusion at least two months prior to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

A plebiscite will determine the final composition of the core territory.

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement listed 14 provinces and nine cities (13 provinces and eight cities in Mindanao and the province of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City) as “area of autonomy.”

Hashim in an interview in April 2000 said the listing of 14 provinces and nine cities was not practical and he wanted to cover “only the territories/areas where the Bangsamoro people were still a majority.”

In 1976,  only five of the 13 provinces and one of nine cities  were Moro-dominated.

Exercising his martial law powers, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 1628 on March 25, 1977 creating two Regional Autonomous Goverments (RAGs) instead of the one autonomous region envisioned by the 1976 pact.

In the 1977 plebiscite, the cities of General Santos and Puerto Princesa and the provinces of Palawan, South Cotabato and Davao del Sur rejected inclusion in the two RAGs.

Since 1977, residents in the provinces and cities listed under  “areas of autonomy” in the Tripoli Agreement have had to vote thrice, for or against inclusion in the autonomous region, in what had become a 12-year cycle of plebiscites: 1977, 1989 and 2001.

In the 1989 plebiscite, only four of  the 14 provinces and none of the nine cities voted yes to inclusion in the ARMM.  In the 2001 plebiscite, by then already under RA 9054, the “areas of autonomy” listed in 1976 had expanded to 15 provinces with the creation of Zamboanga Sibugay from Zamboanga del Sur; and the nine cities had expanded to 14 with the conversion of  the towns of Digos, Isabela, Kidapawan, Koronadal and Tacurong into cities.

Only Basilan and Marawi City joined the ARMM in 2001. Lamitan City also in Basilan became the second ARMM city when it was converted into a city in 2007.

Signing witness

OIC Secretary-General Ihsanoglu  attended the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacanang on October 15 and met separately with President Aquino, Murad and Misuari on the same day.

According to a report posted in the OIC website, Ihsanoglu congratulated the President for this “important first step for terminating the long standing conflict and expressed hope that it will usher a new era of tranquility and peaceful developments for the region.”

He also emphasized the need to link the expected agreement which will come up as a result of the Framework Agreement, to the 1976 Peace Agreement.”

Ihsanoglu also assured President Aquino of the “continuous support of the OIC to all peace efforts, and emphasized on the unity of the Bangsamoro People which is more needed now than ever.”

In March, Ihsanoglu’s office requested the GPH and MILF peace panels for an observer’s seat in the GPH-MILF talks in KL. The panels approved the request.

For entire Bangsamoro

In a statement issued Tuesday, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said GPH welcomes the continued support of the OIC “in our efforts to attain a just and sustainable peace in Mindanao, particularly for the Bangsamoro, for which we have steadfastly pursued peace negotiations with the MILF, as well as moved to complete the tripartite implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF.”

Deles expressed appreciation to the OIC statement welcoming the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsmaoro, an agreement that has been “hailed as a major step forward  in the Aquino Government’s efforts in the Mindanao peace process.”

“As repeatedly stated by the two sides, the new autonomous political entity that will be put into place in the area will be for the welfare and benefit not just of the MILF, not just of the MNLF, but of the entire Bangsamoro. The Aquino government remains committed to ensure a transparent, inclusive and accountable implementation of the FAB where all political commitments will be delivered towards a just and sustainable peace for all,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)