MILF’s Iqbal: factions normal in revolutionary groups

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 September) — It could just be a case of misery loving company or an attempt to downplay the effect of a recent split in their group, but for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, it is normal for any revolutionary organization to undergo factional strife, citing the experiences of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Irish Republican Army.

Iqbal made the statement two days before the deadline given to Ameril Umra Kato, former MILF base commander, to return to their fold expires. Kato, former MILF base commander, has formed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters over his disillusionment with the peace process with government.

The MILF’s chief peace negotiator said that even the MILF was a faction of the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

But Iqbal, who spoke at the “Go Just” forum at the MIC Retreat House in Davao City today, also warned that the slow pace of negotiations would only serve the cause of those who don’t believe in the peace process.

He added that while the MILF still believes that a peace process can solve the Bangsamoro problem, Kato prefers to wage war.

“In an organization, there is a radical and a moderate one. But Kato believes that there is no other relationship between him and the government but war,” he said.

Earlier, Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, also warned that a prolonged amity talks could also create cracks even in the ranks of the government, apparently referring to “hawkish elements” who may try to derail the peace process.

“The really logical thing to do between the MILF and the government is to fast-track the peace negotiations to avoid unnecessary internal cracks,” he said.

The MILF Central Committee has given Kato until Monday to reconsider his decision to form another armed group and return to the MILF if he wishes to remain under the coverage of the peace process and the ceasefire.

Kato left the MILF over his disillusionment with the peace process, after the Supreme Court ruled that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was unconstitutional.

But Iqbal said that if Kato has some better ideas to run the MILF, then he should present it before the Central Committee.

“Ang problema kay Kato, tingin niya mas magaling pa siya sa mas matagal pa sa kanya sa (Kato’s problem is that he thinks he’s better than those who were ahead of him in the) organization,” Iqbal who has been in the revolutionary movement for 40 years said, adding Kato only joined the MILF in 1993.

“Groups are disunited not just by ideology. Groups can also be divided by reasons of tactics and strategy. And basically, what divides Kato from the MILF right now is a question of tactics and strategy. Because he says he is also Islamic, so there is no question there. But it is on the matter of tactics and strategy that we differ,” the MILF peace panel chief said. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)

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