GPH-MNLF-OIC truce review winds up amid uncertain BBL plight

John Unson (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2016 - 11:54pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - While the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now seemed dead, the three-way review of the truce between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) opened a new door for yet another venture meant to end the Mindanao conflict.

The MNLF, which is more nationalistic in character and from where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had splintered from in the early 1980s, signed a final truce with Malacañang on Sept. 2, 1996.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Philippine government and the MNLF concluded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia early this week the tripartite review of the peace accord, which began in 2007, precipitated by misunderstandings on some of its sensitive provisions.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), who attended the tripartite meeting as government representative, was elated with the commitment of the OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, to continue supporting the southern peace process even after the tripartite review of the now 19-year GPH-MNLF truce.

“We ought to thank the OIC for helping the Filipino nation find since the 1970s a lasting solution to the “Mindanao problem,” Hataman said.

The three parties to the review of the peace accord, the OIC, Malacañang and the MNLF, had agreed to establish the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund for socio-economic initiatives in Moro enclaves; to focus on co-management of strategic mineral wealth; and to let former rebel leaders participate in the setting up of an MILF-led Bangsamoro parliament.

The parties also reached a consensus to establish a tripartite committee that would monitor the efforts of pushing forward all of the agreements crafted during the eight-year review process.

Erstwhile Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, leader of the largest of three factions in the MNLF, said there is now clarity on how their group, the MILF and Malacañang are to converge to achieve a common peace blueprint for Mindanao.

The OIC wants a convergence of the separate government-MILF and government-MNLF peace overtures to hasten the attainment of peace and development in conflict-stricken southern towns and provinces.

Among those who had worked for a common government-MNLF-MILF Mindanao peace effort was former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, through his son, Saif Al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, who was his personal emissary to both revolutionary groups.

The consensus to involve the MNLF in the setting up of the Bangsamoro parliament, based on the government’s final peace compact with the MILF, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, is an initial stride towards the convergence of the two separate peace processes, which the group of Sema favors.

Unlike Nur Misuari, who also leads a faction in the MNLF, Sema and his followers are not opposed to the government-MILF peace initiative and are not hostile to leaders of the breakaway group either.

“We need to work hard to achieve the goals we have set in this tripartite review of the government-MNLF final peace agreement,” Sema said in a text message.

The proposed measure for the creation of an MILF-led Bangsamoro entity, the draft BBL, is still pending in Congress, mired by lack of support by most lawmakers from outside of ARMM and saddled by constitutionality issues.

By all indications, time is now running out to get the proposed BBL approved by Congress, even as President Benigno Aquino III had certified the bill as “urgent” in a bid to hasten its enactment into law.

In a privilege speech Wednesday, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Pangalian Balindong lamented on the failure of the House of Representatives to approve the BBL.

The proposed BBL was jointly drafted by government and MILF planners belonging to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, chaired by Muhaquer Iqbal.

Iqbal, who, led the MILF’s panel that negotiated with Malacañang for 17 years, had also said there seemed no more chance now for BBL to be enacted into law.

“As a Moro leader, who lived through decades of war and conflict, I have never been afraid of the future of my people than I am today. What we have not done is a perfect recipe for radicalization. It is a disaster that extremists can easily exploit,” Balindong said in his privilege speech, referring to the BBL’s moribund state. 

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