DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June) – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) late Friday night to discuss peace under his administration but held a separate one-on-one meeting with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim afterwards.
Duterte met with Datu Abul Khayr Alonto of Lanao del Sur, chair of a faction of the MNLF and the MILF delegation led by chair Murad at Jacky’s Restocafe in Hotel Elena.
“The group pledged their support and cooperation to the new government and (to) move forward (in) the peace process,” Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Duterte’s Executive Assistant told MindaNews.
“One-on-one sila ni Murad,” said Go, who will be incoming Special Assistant and chief of the Presidential Management Staff.
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim spent around 20 minutes to talk peace during a one-on-one meeting Friday night at Hotel Elena in Davao City. Photo contributed to MindaNews
He said the Duterte-Murad conversation, which he estimated at 20 minutes, took place after the group meeting.
Go, who was in the group meeting, declined to give other details. Murad could not be reached for comment but MindaNews sources who were present said the rest of the delegation left the function room to allow the two leaders to talk but returned later to formally close the meeting.
It was the first meeting between the 67-year old Murad and the 71-year old Duterte, who visited the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on February 27 en route to his campaign rally in Cotabato City. Murad was out of the country then and he was received by 1st vice chair Ghazali Jaafar and members of the Central Committee. Two more attempts for a one-on-one meeting before the elections did not push through.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim amd President-elect Rodrigo Duterte shake hands at the end of their 20-minute one-one-one talk. Photo by KIWI BULACLAC / Davao City Mayor’s Office
“Maganda ang nangyari. Very productive,” said a source privy to what Duterte and Murad talked about, but declined to provide details.
Expectedly, the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was raised and the source said the discussion was “very positive.”
The 16th Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the BBL that would have paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would have replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The BBL’s passage is crucial in the peace process as it is tied up with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants, as well as the gradual redeployment of the military from the “former conflict areas” during the normalization phase.
Earlier, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr., Duterte’s choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters in Manila that there was “no more need” for a BBL in view of the plan to amend the 1987 Constitution to shift to a federal system of government.
Duterte during the campaign repeatedly said his administration would correct the historical injustices against the Moro people.
In his February visit to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Duterte spoke about his plan to have the Constitution amended to allow for the shift from the Presidential system to a federal form but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”
Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (right) introduces the other members of the MILF Central Committee to presidential candidate and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte during his visit in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao on February 27, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
At the Cotabato City plaza, the lone Presidential candidate from Mindanao stressed the need to correct historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed that under his administration, “we will try to go federalism. Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).
He said he will also tell MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari “kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that in Mindanao and in the rest of the Philippines”). Misuari, whom Duterte considers a friend, is founding chair of the MNLF with whom government signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 and whose implementation has yet to be fully completed.
In the last Presidential Debate in April, Duterte said “nothing will appease the Moro people if you do not give them the BBL.”
Asked in a press conference at the “Malacanang of the South” in Panacan on March 31 for clarification on his campaign promise and Alvarez’ plan on the BBL, Duterte replied: “Federalism would recognize the territory you are in now… What Alvarez meant was that we will not adopt the BBL to the exclusion of others… I’m willing to let go of the configuration now, yung boundaries nila, okay ra. But we have to reconfigure the others also. What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. Liberally construed it means kasali ka in a bigger network, yung federalism. So it will not stand out as a BBL law, it could stand out as a part of a federal set-up. Yun ang ibig sabihin. I’m sure he could not have misconstrued that thing.”
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by government and the MILF on March 27, 2014provides, among others, for the passage of a BBL to pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro.
In a statement on June 11, Murad said the MILF “maintains its position that a CAB-based Bangsamoro Basic Law needs to be immediately passed into law, not only because it is part of the implementation of the signed agreements, but also because it effectively addresses the peculiarities unique to the Bangsamoro that are not necessarily found in other prospective federal states.”
He also cited Duterte’s earlier statements regarding making the BBL a possible template for federalism.
“Brother talking with brother”
Duterte’s meeting with the group on Friday night covered a broad range of concerns such as achieving peace under the Duterte administration, the BBL, the need for a unified approach among the Moro fronts, the shift to federalism, illegal drugs, kidnap-for-ransom.
BROTHERS ALL. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte listens as Datu Abul Khayr Alonto (right) of Lanao del Sur, chair of a faction the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) expounds on an issue during a “private meeting” late Friday night at Jacky’s Restocafé in Hotel Elena, Lanang, Davao City. To the left of Duterte are Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, 1st vice chair Ghazali Jaafar and Sammy Al Mansour, chief of staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. Photo by KIWI BULACLAC / Davao City Mayor’s Office
Alonto, who was vice chair to Misuari in the early days of the MNLF and who surfaced as MNLF chair in 2014, referred to their meeting with Duterte as a talk of brothers. “Brother talking with brother,” he said.
Alonto told ABS-CBN News Channel that the Moro fronts expressed the support of the Bangsamoro people to Duterte as “true son of Mindanao and is a good brother from Mindanao.” He said they took Duterte’s victory at the polls “as a referendum” that the Filipino people are “willing to shift to the federal system of government which could very well have the Bangsamoro government fit well in that system.”
Asked by ANC if Duterte gave a timeline for the passage of the BBL, Alonto replied “that will be coming from his office after his oath-taking. “
BROTHER TO BROTHER. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte poses for a souvenir photo with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (to his right) and Datu Abul Khayr Alonto (to his left), chair of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) after a “private meeting” late Friday night at Jacky’s Restocafe in Hotel Elena, Lanang, Davao City. Photo by KIWI BULACLAC / Davao City Mayor’s Office
He said there will be an “all-comprehensive agreement and position to be presented by the Moro community through the leaders of the MILF and with support of the MNLF (that will be) submitted in due time.”
Returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, who was not in Friday’s meeting because he was still on his way home from Oslo, Norway after a successful two-day informal talks with the National Democratic Front, told MindaNews on May 30 that he will conduct consultations with various sectors on the Bangsamoro peace roadmap.
“It will have to be inclusive of all Moro fronts,” Dureza said, referring to the MILF and MNLF.
He said he is optimistic of the outcome of the unity talks brokered by the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2010 which led to an agreement between the MNLF and the MILF leaders that eventually led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF).
Only the MNLF under Alonto was represented in Friday’s meeting but the factions under Misuari, Muslimin Sema and several others, were not.
Misuari’s spokesperson Randolph Parcasio told MindaNews on Saturday that Duterte was going to meet with Misuari in Sulu “in due time.”
Sema told MindaNews also on Saturday that they are waiting for the OIC to convene the but “we are talking with the MILF on the issue of convergence of all signed agreements with the GPH under one autonomy law hinged on the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 Final Peace Agreement without abandoning the (MILF’s) CAB.” He said he hopes this would be tackled in the next BCF meeting.
Sema had earlier proposed a quadripartite talks involving the government, MNLF, MILF and the OIC “and under the present circumstance with the federalist thrust of President Duterte, the quadripartite talks will fit in well.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)