Moro leaders bid for ‘higher unity’ as breakthrough in GPH-MILF talks seen

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/09 July) —  Bangsamoro leaders bid for greater unity over the weekend through a three-day dialogue facilitated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) inside Camp Darapanan, its administrative complex here.

This developed as the Malaysian facilitator of the peace talks between government and the MILF revealed that another breakthrough in the parties’ ongoing negotiations is afoot.

Speaking at the opening rites of the Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly on Saturday, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed likened the peace negotiations between government and the MILF to reading a book.

“Before, they were not only reading different chapters; they were reading different books,” Tengku said.

“Today, they are now reading the same chapter. (And) by end of July, they would be reading the same paragraph,” he added.

The panels are set to meet in Kuala Lumpur next week.

The upcoming breakthrough comes barely three months after the highly lauded 10 Decision Points that the peace panels signed in April. The agreement laid the basic principles for a future negotiated settlement to end over four decades of Moro rebellion in Mindanao.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said 550,000 Moro from various regions in Mindanao gathered in Camp Darapanan for the assembly’s opening rites.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said among the large contingents were from Lanao and Western Mindanao.

“We salute you for this show of unarmed force” for peace, presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles said of the throng of participants.

The opening rites also gathered diplomats, functionaries of local and national governments, and representatives of various civil society groups and development agencies.

Shared goals

The assembly happen amid the growing international interest on Moro unity especially at a time of increasing prospects of concluding soonest the peace negotiations between government and the MILF.

Apart from preparing the Bangsamoro for an eventual political settlement, MILF vice-chair Ghazali Jaafar said there is a need to achieve understanding of “common steps, approaches and strategies” to hasten the goal of ending historical injustices on the Moros.

“We come here to listen and learn from each other,” said Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, a former MNLF official.

Speaking before the assembly, Maguindanao vice-governor Ismael Mastura proposed the formulation of a manifesto “calling for Bangsamoro unity on the shared goals of justice, peace and freedom.”

The young Mastura said he is volunteering to be the first one to sign such manifesto. His father, Datu Michael Mastura, is a senior member of the MILF peace panel.

On Sunday, the Moro leaders’ assembly formally took place with Iqbal facilitating the process. It was off-limits to reporters.

Iqbal said the day-long dialogue was designed to have “free-willing discussions” with Moro leaders from various sectors and organizational and party affiliations to get their ideas mainly on “how to achieve higher unity” and their feedbacks on how the MILF handled the peace negotiations.

“The MILF is just one among the many participants. Here, we seek to achieve inclusivity because after all, our struggle is not for the MILF but for the Moro people,” he stressed.

Before the dialogue was started in the morning, MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, Tengku and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) diplomat Tahir Ahmad Saif delivered inputs.

Also present were Moro leaders who hold positions in government, traditional leaders, and those from civil society.

The assembly is also aimed at further expanding support for an upcoming peace deal, especially in managing its transitional phase.

“Admittedly, the MILF has limited absorptive capacity vis-a-vis the huge task of managing a peace transition. That is why we are reaching out to groups and individuals who share our passion for a template of Moro empowerment,” Iqbal said.

‘Momentum of peace’

Asked what Tengku’s hints mean, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said it could be the Malaysian diplomat’s “impression from his shuttling between the parties.”

“That is his view. He is in a position to assess it that way,” Iqbal added.

“As facilitator, he has some inkling of how the two sides think,” he explained.

Iqbal disclosed that “to a certain extent,” the upcoming breakthrough relates to the mode of transition from the current political setup in the Moro region to one envisioned by the negotiations.

The 10 decision points outlined the creation of a new autonomous political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Iqbal said the envisioned transitional process is “ticklish because this has bearing on the goal of real empowerment.”

The other substantive issues like wealth-sharing and power-sharing may not be as ticklish “because there are models throughout the world that can be studied in order to help our discussions,” he added.

“There is a momentum of peace,” Iqbal noted.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen, who also graced the assembly, said an agreement “should be signed within this year” so that the parties will have the “opportunity to adjust” their agreed peace formula based on lessons in its implementation.

But Leonen stressed that any pact should be simple and clear “so that those cynical and skeptical cannot take advantage again of its ambiguity.”

“The time for peace has come,” declared Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles who spoke after Tengku.

Deles’ remarks added to the optimistic scenario painted by Tengku. She described the peace process as “passing through a defining moment.”

“Government is ready to reach agreement with the MILF” on the issues of wealth-sharing, power-sharing, extent of territory, and normalization, Deles pointed out. (MindaNews)

 

 

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