Iqbal: ‘hawks’ out to derail peace efforts in Mindanao

KORONADAL CITY  (MindaNews/ 04 Septemer) — Top Moro leaders have urged the public to support peace efforts in Mindanao, warning that “hawkish quarters are out to derail the desired just and lasting peace in the south” as shown by the August 28 and September 2 bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat that left five civilians dead and at least 40 others injured.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the peace implementing panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), condemned the twin attacks as the handiwork of barbarians.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair from 2003 to 2016, peace implementing panel chair since 2016. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

He lamented the lethal explosions came as the government and the MILF are preparing for the ratification of the Organic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the legislative measure that would establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Iqbal called on the public to support the Bangsamoro law amid efforts to sabotage the peace initiatives in the south.

“Spoilers of peace are intensifying their acts to derail the dawning of peace in Mindanao,” Iqbal said in a statement.

Iqbal said the perpetrators of the bomb attacks must be arrested and suffer the full force of the law.

Sultan Kudarat is not part of the proposed core territory of the BARMM but is a province adjacent to Maguindanao, which is part of the ARMM. The ARMM’s five provinces and two cities are part of the  proposed core territory of the BARMM.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, head of the  Archdiocese of Cotabato which has pastoral jurisdiction over Isulan town, has called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to help arrest the suspects of the deadly blasts.

Quevedo, Mindanao’s first and only cardinal, described the MILF and the MNLF, which separately forged a peace deal with the government, as “now forces of peace.”

The military blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, for the twin explosions in Isulan town.

Quevedo, condemning the twin deadly bomb attacks, said religion is being distorted to “commit brazen crimes that cry out to heaven.”

“All religions are religions of peace,” he stressed.

Quevedo has rallied support for the Mindanao peace process between the government and the Moro fronts.

For his part, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman noted the deadly bomb attacks come at a time when “peace is dawning” in Mindanao, citing the passage of the Bangsamoro law, which was anchored on the peace deal signed between the government and the MILF.

The Bangsamoro law will need to be ratified in a referendum before the end of the year before it can be implemented.

“We should not let violence hold sway or stop us from achieving this peace we all want and need,” Hataman said on Monday.

While Sultan Kudarat is outside the ARMM as well as the proposed new Bangsamoro region, Hataman said they share cultural ties and bonds of kinship with the people of the province.

Condemning the lethal explosions, Hataman said the violent bomb attacks in Isulan in a span of five days were spawned by extremism.

“We in the (ARMM) regional government are fully committed to working with other agencies of government, and with concerned citizens, in safeguarding the communities, and in countering this violence,” he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)