MNLF in Maguindanao says won’t join Misuari’s cause

BAGO-INGED, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/16 September) — The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction in Maguindanao led by Muslimin Sema of the so-called Council of 15 has allayed fears its members might stage “sympathy attacks” in support to the MNLF fighters engaged in an ongoing standoff with government forces in Zamboanga City.

The armed MNLF members who entered Zamboanga City evening of Sept. 8 are said to be loyal to founding chair Nur Misuari.

Saidee Taup, commander of Camp Ibrahim Sema located in this barangay said they would rather cultivate their land instead of joining the battle in the southern port city.

But Taup clarified that while they would not resort to violence, they have not set aside their demand to continue with the tripartite review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF.

He said they will do it peacefully as long as the government and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are there to listen.

On Saturday, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu met with his town mayors and officials of the 6th Infantry Division over apprehensions the MNLF might launch attacks in the province.

Mangudadatu said they presumed the conflict would spill over in the province that’s why he personally called local MNLF commanders and appealed to them.

He said the response has been good so far, and even those in the coastal towns of Sultan Kudarat province assured him they would not commit hostile acts.

The town mayors said after the meeting that they will approach local residents who are MNLF members.

Mangudadatu said he even reached out to some of the MNLF integrees in the armed forces and the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit.

He said he asked one Army integree pointblank what side he would take in case the crisis worsens, and the latter vowed to fight under the Philippine flag.

6th ID commander Maj. General Romeo Gapuz described the developments reported by the mayors as “achieved victory”.

He said the local officials have tried to prevent conflicts similar to the Zamboanga standoff, “and it seems we won in that battle”, Gapuz said.

In North Upi and South Upi towns in Maguindanao, MNLF factions who were engaged in clan feuds were also convinced by Mayors Ramon Piang and Bedz Campong to remain calm and uphold non-violence.

In his Facebook account, Lt. Col. Donald Gumiran, commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion based in Pikit, North Cotabato said the MNLF members in the area gave assurance that they will not do hostile acts.

MNLF members in Camp Jabal Nur gave the same assurance, according to Lt. Col. Cornelio Arboleda, commander of the 51st Infantry Battalion based in Pualas, Lanao del Sur. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)