COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Leaders of the larger factions of the Moro National Liberation Front on Monday assured Malacañang of continuing recognition of the 1996 peace pace, asserting that they have nothing to do with the attacks in Zamboanga City by a handful of Nur Misuari’s followers.
Abdul Sahrin, speaking on behalf of the MNLF Senior Leaders’ Forum, told reporters they do not support the activities of Misuari’s followers who wreaked havoc in Zamboanga City and held dozens of villagers as hostages after mounting an attack just after Monday dawn in several villages in the area.
The forum, composed of top MNLF leaders, among them former Sulu Gov. Yusoph Jikiri and dozens more, was organized last week in Zamboanga City by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a vehicle for “cooperation” on anti-poverty programs in communities of former Moro rebels in the ARMM.
Sahrin, who is an ethnic Tausog, told reporters they have nothing to do with the violence committed by Misuari's group in about five barangays in Zamboanga City.
“We have nothing to do with that,” he said. "We are against it and we don't see it as good for the Mindanao peace process."
Sahrin said he and senior members of the MNLF had gathered last week and discussed with Hataman and officials of OPAPP the need for the government to address the concerns and the underdevelopment of Moro communities in the autonomous region.
Sahrin said they also do not support Misuari’s Mindanao independence declaration, a move reportedly prompted by Misuari's sentiments over the government’s alleged failure to comply with some sensitive provisions of the GPH-MNLF peace agreement.
Sahrin said even the group of former Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema was amply represented in their recent meeting in Zamboanga City, which was attended by lawyer Jose Lorena, a deputy of presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles.
Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active faction in the MNLF, which has more than 20 revolutionary states in different Mindanao provinces, including Palawan, said they remain loyal to their now 17-year truce with government.
“We will never turn our backs from that peace agreement as long as there is a mechanism, that is acceptable to the MNLF and the government, that can pursue its implementation in `letter and spirit’ to the mutual satisfaction of both sides,” Sema told The Star via text message Monday.
Sema said he has directed all of their forces to “stay put,” in keeping with their commitment to the Southern Philippines Peace Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that they are supporting the peaceful resolution of any misunderstanding with Malacañang on the implementation of the GPH-MNLF final peace pact.
“We already gave the OIC an assurance of our position that wants a peaceful resolution of the `Bangsamoro issue’ based on the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and as reiterated in the 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement,” Sema said.
The Tripoli Agreement, signed by representatives of the group and the national government on December 23, 1976 in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, and the Philippine Charter were the major references used in the drafting of the 1996 GPH-MLF peace agreement.
The OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa, helped broker the GPH-MNLF truce of 1996.
“The ball is now in the hands of the government as far as the joint efforts to iron out the kinks and snags that hit the implementation of the agreement are concerned,” Sema said.