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MNLF official appeals for support for peace deal

MANILA, Philippines - A senior official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is appealing for support for the framework peace agreement set for signing tomorrow between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Hadja Bainon Karon, also acting vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), made the call even as MNLF chief Nur Misuari has criticized the framework deal and called it a violation of the 1976 Tripoli agreement between his group and then President Ferdinand Marcos.

“I ask all our leaders and our constituents in the areas of autonomy and even outside ARMM to give the new agreement a chance. Let us give peace a chance,” Karon said during a peace rally held in Cotabato City by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Wednesday.

The peace rally was also attended by government peace panel member Yasmin Busran Lao, ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman, ARMM Speaker Rasul Mitmug Jr., ARMM House Minority Leader Assemblyman Romeo Sema, and other officials.

Karon, currently chair of the Bangsamoro Women’s Committee of the MNLF, said that she was “overwhelmed” and “happy that at long last, peace, security and development will reign in our beloved homeland.”

“I believe that this feeling is also shared by most of the members of the Moro National Liberation Front with which this representation is affiliated,” Karon said.

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“We are tired of war. Our people, particularly the women, are tired of moving from one place to another to find a more secure abode and dwellings for their families and children,” Karon said.

“Enough is the situation that our people live in quandary due to skirmishes between the government forces and the armed groups in our homeland. Enough is the situation that their children cannot go to school because they spend most of their childhood years in the evacuation centers,” she added. “Enough is also the reality that our people have to depend most of the time on humanitarian relief organizations to sustain their daily needs. Our people have been languishing in abject poverty,” Karon said.

Karon stressed that the ARMM is endowed with vast natural and human resources that remain untapped because of armed conflict.

“We have enough workers to do both manual and skilled labor. All that we need are technical and financial support to explore these resources. Our resources must be explored to generate employment for our people. It must be tapped to generate economic activities and open livelihood opportunities for our people,” Karon said.

“Mind you, this is not yet the end of it. Several steps are yet to be hurdled. As soon as the framework agreement shall be signed, then the Transition Commission shall be constituted to draft the basic law to give flesh to the agreement,” Karon said.

The 15-member Transition Commission will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will be certified as urgent by the President to ensure its prompt passage by Congress.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will go through a plebiscite and later ratified by people in the proposed Bangsamoro areas.

“We are happy that the proposed composition is such that all major sectors from the ranks of the Bangsamoro shall be represented in the commission,” Karon said.

“For as long as the direction of the Transition Commission will not deviate from the already signed agreement previously inked by the GRP and the MNLF, I do not see any strong opposition,” Karon added.

A former MNLF commander also called for support for the framework deal and proposed that “spoilers” of the preliminary agreement be declared outlaws and treated like Abu Sayyaf bandits or ordinary criminals.

Abdul Kayer Alonto declined to name the spoilers but said the government and the MILF should ignore Misuari’s ranting against the framework deal.

He also declined to comment on the statement of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that all agreements between the government and the Bangsamoro people should be based on the 1976 Tripoli agreement.

“We’re fighting the war while some rebels are living in comfort in Middle East,” he said without elaborating.

Alonto said that lasting peace in Mindanao should be based on the general sentiment of the people and not on personality.

A group allied with the MNLF, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking the revival of the Mindanao independence movement.

A source said the group is expected to join the MNLF summit in Davao City on Oct. 20 to 21.

The group is reportedly planning to file a petition with the United Nations and the OIC for self-rule in Mindanao.

“The Mindanaoans are just expressing desire to exercise their right to self rule,” the source said, quoting an official of the group.

Former Cagayan de Oro City mayor Ruben Canoy founded the original Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) in Sulu in the early 1980s.

The STAR tried to contact Canoy in Cagayan de Oro but the calls were unanswered. – With Jaime Laude, Perseus Echeminada

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