Sema steps down as MNLF chair; Jikiri takes over

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 20 Feb) — Muslimin Sema, chair of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since 2008 stepped down as chair on Sunday to adhere to the collective leadership of the Central Committee and “to reiterate to the whole world, that no one man shall forever rule the MNLF and the Bangsamoro.”

Former Sulu Governor and Representative Yusoph Jikiri was elected to take over Sema’s post. (see related story)

“My personal decision to step down as Chairman of the Central Committee reflects my strong adherence to the collective leadership of the Central Committee, the democratic values enshrined in the Charter of the MNLF, and to reiterate to the whole world, that no one man shall forever rule the MNLF and the Bangsamoro,” Sema said during the Central Committee meeting in Pagadian City.

“I step down with the pride and honor you bestowed me when you trusted me to lead the central committee and the MNLF. I step down fully aware that I will be judged by the Almighty according to what history has witnessed. I am stepping down lighthearted, at peace with you and at peace with the whole world,” Sema said.

Sema was Secretary-General of the MNLF chaired by Nur Misuari during the peace negotiations from 1992 to 1996, served as Executive Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when Misuari was elected Governor, and was elected mayor of Cotabato City from 1998 until he was unseated in March 2001 but was elected for three three-year terms from 2001 to 2010.

Sema was part of the 12-member Executive Council that unseated Misuari in 2001 and elected him as Chair Emeritus. Misuari, however, held on to his own faction of the MNLF.
New set of officials

In Sunday’s election, Sema was elected chair of the Bangsamoro People’s Congress, the MNLF’s parliamentary arm. The other elected officials are: Prof. Duma Sani, Vice Chair for Military Affairs: Hatimil Hassan, Vice Chair for Internal Affairs; Firdausi Abbas, Vice Chair for External Affairs; Romeo Sema , Vice Chair for Political Affairs; and Abu Amri Taddik as Deputy Secretary General for Military Affairs.

New leadership. The new leaders of the MNLF in a press conference in Pagadian City (left to right): Yusoph Jikiri, Chair; Muslimin Sema, Chair of the Bangsamoro People’s Congress; Prof. Duma Sani, Vice Chair; Hatimil Hassan, Vice Chair, Internal Affairs; Maj. Gen. Datun “Doc” Diocolano, Chief of Staff, BAF: Abdul Sahrin, Secretary General; Rasul Rasdi, Deputy Secretary General; and Firdausi Abbas, Vice Chair, External Affairs. Photo courtesy of OMAR SEMA

Maj. Gen. Datun “Doc” Diocolano is Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces; Abdul Sahrin is Secretary-General and Rasul Rasdi is Deputy Secretary General.

Sema said the MNLF has surmounted decades of “intrigues, division and abject one man rule” but “we survived.”

“We withstood the antagonism of time and political changes not because of our desire for power but mainly on our constant and consistent desire to achieve our people’s aspirations, no matter what it takes,” he said.

He said they managed to overcome the challenges becuase ot their “firm adherence in the collective leadership of the Central Commiitee,.”

Political changes

He asked for forgiveness “for the shortcomings I may have committed as chairman” but added that the MNLF “must move forward further” because of the “peculiar stage of our struggle” brought about by the political changes around us.

He listed these changes as follows:
The Philippines has a new President who is from Mindanao.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) where the MNLF has an observer status, has a new Secretary General.
Strategic positioning in the peace process established by a strengthened working relationship with the MILF through the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum
Convergence process where the implementation of all peace agreements under one implementing law is now possible.
The Philippine Government is geared towards amending the 1987 Constitution, leaning strongly on establishing a federal system of governance.
The continued rise of Islamic Extremism.

“We must meet all of these unfolding events head on for the sake of peace and the next generation cognizant that any failure on our part will further justify our youth’s bolder resort to extreme measures,” he said.

Sema’s 26-year old son with Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, Datu Mohamad Abduljabbar Sema, elected chair of Barangay Rosary Heights 7 in Cotabato City was arrested in Kuala Lumpur late last year allegedly in connection with the Sept. 2, 2016 bombing at the Roxas Night Market in Davao City that left 15 persons dead and 69 others injured.

Sema’s older son from an earlier marriage, Omar Yasser Crisostomo Sema, has just been named by President Duterte as one of 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Sema said they have to “remain at pace” with the political events taking place and to do this “we must agree that the Collective Leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front must be further strengthened by a massive reorganization from helm to hem.”

He explained that the reorganization must not be merely parochial but “reflective of our gaze of the present stage of our struggle and our foresight.”

Unite beyond the islands, mountains, waters and tribal biases

“Our reorganization should result to increase the burning ember in our hearts, inspiring all of us, from top to bottom, to unite beyond the islands, mountains, waters and tribal biases that separate and differentiate us and to be as ardent revolutionaries as when we were still able to carry our weapons, our rucksacks, our injured comrades and the bodies of our martyred brothers,” he said

He said their chances of achieving their aspirations during their lifetime is “slimmer as time passes by” but “we must measure up to the challenges of the present and at the same time measure up for the future in a manner that our decision to reorganize is an essential transition to the future.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)