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MNLF defends MILF from 'war' rumors

"These people spreading such stories are warmongers," says Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF. YouTube photo

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The largest faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Tuesday dismissed claims by people close to the fugitive Nur Misuari that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is to wage war if government junks the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active MNLF group, said there is no truth either to claims by lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla and Christian preacher Absalom Cerveza that the MILF has asked other Moro groups in Mindanao to prepare for an all out war if the government sets aside the BBL as a consequence of the January 25 police-MILF encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The followers of Sema, a former mayor of Cotabato City, are grouped together in 16 "revolutionary states" scattered in Central Mindanao, in the Zamboanga peninsula and in the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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"These people spreading such stories are warmongers. They are warmongers, nothing more, nothing less. The public should be careful about what they say," Sema said.

Sema said Fontanilla and Cerveza claim to speak for Misuari, who has abandoned the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement by declaring "Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan independence" in August 2013.

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Misuari is now wanted for leading a bloody mutiny in Zamboanga City in September 2013 to dramatize his opposition to the ongoing government-MILF peace process.

"We in Central Mindanao, particularly MNLF members in Maguindanao, do not doubt the sincerity of the MILF in upholding its two major agreements with the government, the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro," Sema said.

Sema said none of their state chairmen in different provinces in Mindanao had received any advisory for them to prepare for an all out war with government if Congress will shelve for good the draft BBL.

The bill aims to establish an MILF-led Bangsamoro government, to replace the ARMM, based on the group's final peace compact with the Aquino administration.

"Leaders of the legitimate MNLF and the MILF may have some differences in ideologies and religious convictions, but we are all together in our quest for a peaceful resolution of this decades-old Moro problem," Sema said.

Sema said even their top leader in North Cotabato, Datu Dima Ambil, who has more than a thousand followers, denied receiving any "war advisory" from the MILF, as insinuated by Fontanilla and Cerveza.

Sema said Ambil and his followers are in close contact with the chairperson of North Cotabato's provincial peace and order council, Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.

"They will not do anything that can cause trouble in that province, whose political leaders are their partners in various peace advocacy activities," Sema said.

Sema said their group will never turn away from the GPH-MNLF final peace accord.

"In fact we are looking forward to the resumption of the tripartite review of that peace agreement," he said.

The three-way effort of addressing misunderstandings in the implementation of the agreement, which started in 2007, involves Malacañang, the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC helped broker the GPH-MNLF truce.

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