DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 October) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday erroneously “resurrected” Salamat Hashim, founding chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as he warned of trouble ahead in Mindanao “if we fail to come up with a reasonable counter proposal” to the Bangsamoro people’s struggle for self-determination.
Hashim, vice chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), broke away in the late 1970s to form the MILF, passed away on July 13, 2003 in Camp Bushra in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
Duterte, the first Mindanawon President who has repeatedly vowed during the election campaign and even as President that he would “address the historical injustices” committed against the Bangsamoro said the MILF (now chaired by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are “hanging on to the reins of their horses,” are cooperating with government and even fighting alongside government forces but “are hoping that what they have been asking for centuries will be given.”
“If we fail to come up with a reasonable counter proposal, then I assure you that there will be fighting everywhere in Mindanao. For then, the mainstream rebel groups would now be joining with the extremist groups,” Duterte warned at the relaunching of the Malacanang Press Briefing room on Thursday, October 12.
“Now, we are on one side and (MNLF founding chair Nur) Misuari has remained neutral pero some of their rogue members are there fighting,” he said.
“But fundamentally, they are waiting for the word of Hashim Salamat and Nur Misuari. But if their common determination, their dream is — ends in a failure or a disappointment, magkaisa itong lahat against the Republic of the Philippines. And I have it in good authority that they will declare an independence. They would declare an independent Mindanao,” Duterte said.
Hashim succumbed to a lingering illness on July 13, 2003 in Butig, Lanao del Sur but his death was announced 23 days later, the same time it was announced that MILF Vice Chair for Military Affairs Murad was assuming the post of MILF chair.
Both the MILF and MNLF have signed peace agreements with the government: for the MNLF, the Tripoli Agreement on December 23, 1976 under the Marcos administration and the Final Peace Agreement on September 2, 1996 under the Ramos admininstration; and for the MILF, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014, both under the administration of Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Both MNLF and MILF had given up their bid for independence in favor of autonomy but implementation of the peace agreements has become a problem for both fronts because the laws passed to supposedly implement the peace agreement, “watered down” the letter and spirit of the peace agreements, in the case of the MNLF.
For the MILF, the first attempt to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under the Aquino administration, failed. The MILF criticized the substitute bills of the House and Senate committees for allegedly rendering the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it is supposed to replace. Congress adjourned in early 2016 without passing the law.
“Rallying point of extremists in Mindanao”
On November 30 last year, MNLF and MILF leaders warned during the Kusog Mindanaw Conference on Federalism that unimplemented peace pacts will be the “rallying point of extremists in Mindanao.”
“We, the MNLF and MILF …. we will become irrelevant if our peace agreements will not be implemented and in fact that is the issue, the rallying point of the extremists in Mindanao. They’re saying, ‘look at the MNLF and the MILF, their agreements have never been implemented. So there’s no point talking with this government who has violated peace agreements since time immemorial,’” Randolph Parcasio, who represented Misuari at the forum, said.
“Implement the peace agreements so that you will have MNLF and MILF who are now cooperating with government, to continue their being relevant,” he said.
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the peace implementing panel of the MILF, said extremism “is part of human nature” and that even in schools, there are classmates who express extremist view. But violent extremism, he said, must be addressed.
He explained that “until and unless the historic injustices committed against the Moro people (are addressed), I think the extremist groups, the violent extremist groups would still multiply because they have so much reason to fight the government.”
But if the historical injustices are addressed “by the passage of a good (Bangsamoro) law, then the MNLF, the MILF can be partners of government and we have both the moral and the legal authority to do it,” he said.
The BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission composed of 11 members nominated by the MILF and 10 members nominated by government submitted its draft BBL to the President on July 17, 2017 but it was finally filed as a bill only on September 27.
The bill has been referred to the three Committees all headed by Mindanawons: Muslim Affairs under Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, Jr.; Local Governments under South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon; and Peace and Reconciliation under Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali.
The leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate — Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel — are both Mindanawons.
Papandayan told MindaNews on October 10, that the three committee chairs met a day earlier and agreed “ipasa ang BBL next year” (BBL will be passed next year).
Asked if they would still conduct public hearings, Papandayan said yes. But there is no scheduled yet for the hearings, he said.
Congress is on recess from October 14 to November 12, will resume sessions from November 13 to Deember 15 and will go on recess again on December 16 to January 14.
The original target under the Duterte Administation’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap is to pass the BBL by yearend of 2017.
Not ready for another war
Duterte noted in his speech Thursday that “we are not ready to embark on another war again. This time on a large scale throughout Mindanao. I just know what will happen.”
In the latter part of his speech, he mentioned Murad, the MILF chair since Hashim passed away in 2003. “In the meantime, I have to talk patiently with Secretary (Jesus) Dureza (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process). Everytime Murad is there, Secretary is there. Everytime Nur Misuari is there with me in Davao, Secretary Dureza is also there.”
“But he knows deep in his heart and we fear the same challenge and that would be… I hope it would not end in a fissure na magka — mag-hiwalay ang Mindanao,” Duterte said, adding, that “if there is a status of belligerence given to them, then it becomes very, very, very serious for all of us.”
The MNLF sits as an observer at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC had gotten the leaders of the MNLF and MILF to work together under the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF), on how best to move forward in harmonizing the tracks of the peace agreements they signed separately with the Philippine government.
The OIC does not support separatist movements. When it accepted the then undivided MNLF as an observer, it supported their moves for autonomy, not independence. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)