LETTER TO THE EDITOR: MILF to PN Abinales: “We’re just invoking ceasefire agreement”

This is in response to the accusation by a Tokyo-based Filipino writer, Patricio N. Abinales, that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has a “bizarre logic” when it protested AFP’s intervention in the fighting between two MILF commanders in Maguindanao town recently.

We lament the fact that such a known historian could make such a negative sweeping statement without knowing the facts of the situation.

How we would have hoped that Abinales had called his long-time friend, Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, and exchanged notes with him on the matter, instead of engaging in mudslinging that lowers the level of debates of the armed conflict in Mindanao.

By asking the AFP not to intervene is to be civil and consistent with the provisions of the ceasefire agreement between the AFP and the MILF signed on July 18, 1997 and reinstated after the Estrada-imposed all-out war in 2001, which the two Parties pledged to uphold.

The intervention of the AFP did not contribute anything to the halting of the fighting but it only highlighted the long perceived AFP’s active support for a ‘proxy war’ in Mindanao.

The AFP even extended help to one of the warring commanders by allowing members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) to reinforce him.

In his article at the MindaNews dated 16 August and  entitled “The Separatist: Bizarre Logic and Old Accounts”, Abinales had this stinging comment:

“The latest event in Maguindanao does not bode well for the MILF. Four of its own members were killed and seven others injured in the clash between forces loyal to Commanders Adzmie and Abunawas of the movement’s 106th and 104th Base Commands, respectively.

The clash displaced 3,500 families and forced the military to bomb the area to prevent the conflict from spreading (The silence of the human rights groups are [sic] quite deafening when compared to how they would cry in anguish when people are internally-displaced by AFP operations).

And what was the MILF’s response? Its chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, protested the AFP’s intervention, arguing, “Even if our men were fighting each other, it does not justify the military’s involvement.”

Here you already have 3,500 families (say a total of 14,000 individuals, assuming a family of four) running away from this war among comrades, and Iqbal does not want the AFP to intervene because the conflict was an “internal matter”? What kind of reasoning is that?”

Meanwhile, Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, who was also chastised by Abinales in the same article, although not bluntly as Iqbal, retorted:

“Regarding Abinales’ argument about the late Senator and Congressman Salipada Pendatun; that is precisely the point: FILIPINO MUSLIMS once aspired for national unity (or integration) as the leaders tried pursuing it. But the reality is that the Bangsamoro is always considered a threat to the majority’s national enterprise. That is why there is no room for them at the top or national capital of the Philippine unitary structure dominated by Christian elite at the Metropolis,” Mastura said.

The “separatist spirit” in Abinales is correct in that context of republican “agonism.” Yet in the true sense of Moro separatism, historical antagonism of the past has a way of visiting the present generation to project into their future political status.

In this sense, Abinales has the corrective reading right: that  “national unity is really not worthy aspiring for through use of military forces.”

_ Mohagher Iqbal
MILF chief information officer
MILF peace panel chair (deactivated)

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