CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 25 March) — “The MILF will not disengage from the peace process no matter what will happen to that Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said in an interfaith forum here Wednesday.
Iqbal said the MILF will pursue the passage of the Bangsamoro Law beyond the term of President Benigno Aquino if it is not passed by the present Congress.
He assured an audience led by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and leaders of interfaith NGOs that the MILF will continue to engage the Philippine government “peacefully even if Congress scuttles the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
Iqbal arrived here Wednesday, a day earlier than his scheduled appearance at the Xavier University graduation where he and government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer will receive the Fr. William Masterson SJ award for their contribution to social development.
He met with Ledesma and NGO leaders for three hours during the “Peace Conversations” organized by Tulay sa Kalinaw Mindanaw and Balay Mindanaw at the Archbishop’s Residence in Cagayan de Oro.
Iqbal said the MILF is facing three scenarios in Congress after the January 25 Mamasapano tragedy where 67 persons were killed – 44 from the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), 17 from the MILF (18 in their initial reports but 17 in the report of the MILF’s Special Investigative Commission) and five civilians.
He said the first scenario would be for the Philippine Congress to pass the BBL as it is without cuts and revisions. “That would be the good BBL and good for us,“ Iqbal said.
A second scenario which would be a disaster for the MILF, Iqbal said is for Congress to pass the BBL with so much cuts and revisions that it would leave “nothing to imagine.”
“This is the scenario that we fear most because a watered down BBL will not solve the Bangsamoro problem,” Iqbal said.
The third and last scenario, Iqbal said is that Congress will not pass the BBL at all.
“We would rather like this because we can engage the next administration for the passage of the BBL,” he said.
Iqbal’s meeting with Ledesma and NGO leaders came as a surprise for many especially since the alumni of Xavier University had vehemently opposed to the idea of awarding him and Ferrer.
Prof. Rudy Rodil, a former government peace negotiator said the problem was the deep mistrust between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority.
Rodil said the roots of this animosity can be traced to history when the Spanish conquistadores and Americans played the different tribes against each other in order to colonize the Philippines.
“That’s why every time there’s a major incident, we see an uproar from the Christian majority, “ Rodil said.
Iqbal also answered questions on indigenous people’s rights within the Bangsamoro, landownership and other issues during the talk.
“I was surprised that Mr. Iqbal does not look like a combatant. I am so excited to meet him,” Msgr. Rey Manual Monsanto said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)