MILF peace panel meets with Iligan officials

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/12 June) — In the first foray of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel in the city that vehemently opposed inclusion in their proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in 2008,  the meeting with officials last Saturday was cordial even as the latter  immediately made known their apprehension over any new agreement that might be forged by the MILF and the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The MILF peace panel led by its chair, Mohagher Iqbal, met with five Iligan councilors headed by lawyer Moises Dalisay Jr., at the boardroom of the Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology Saturday afternoon.

Mayor Lawrence Cruz, however, was not around. The mayor led the city in opposing the inclusion of  eight out of 44 barangays in Iligan City into the proposed BJE under the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), an agreement between the government and the MILF that was initialed in late July 2008 and scheduled for formal signing on August 5 when the Supreme Court a day earlier granted the petition of North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga cities and issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government peace panel from signing the agreement.

At the start of the two-hour meeting, Dalisay said, “we are concerned because 81 percent of Iligan City will be lost if you and the government will sign a new agreement.  As elected officials of Iligan, we simply cannot stand by and do nothing,” Dalisay said.

Raising the same line they used in arguing before the Supreme Court against the MOA-AD, Dalisay told the MILF panel that Iligan had voted in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites against inclusion in the  Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Is that not enough? “ Dalisay asked.

For their part, the MILF panel pointed out that the affected barangays will undergo a referendum to determine the residents’ sentiments.

“We should allow them to vote and settle this issue once and for all. We will respect the outcome of the referendum,”  MILF panel member Abhoud Syed Lingga said.

The councilors also asked if the forces of MILF commanders Abdurahman Macapaaar alias Kumander  Bravo; and Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato would break away from the MILF once a peace agreement is signed.

Iqbal assured the councilors that Bravo and Kato would not do such thing.

“Whatever their fault, these two men are loyal to the MILF. We have consulted them that we will meet you and they were agreeable,” Iqbal said.

Both the MILF panels and councilors agreed they will not try to persuade each other to change their views.

“I am glad that the MILF panel came to talk with us. This is the first time and we are thankful,” Councilor Roy Openiano said.

Openiano said he hopes the talks between the government and the MILF would be a success so Mindanao can have a lasting peace.

It was also renewing ties for MILF panel member Datu Michael Mastura and Councilor  Frederick Siao whose mother was a classmate in Cotabato City.

“I always felt safe here in Iligan City. I have relatives and friends in this city. We came here by ourselves because Iligan is safe for us,” Mastura said.

The MILF panel on Sunday met with representatives of the Lumad at the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center in Barangay Bulua in Cagayan de Oro City. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

 

 

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