Residents flee Marawi City to escape clashes. Philstar.com/John Unson

Residents flee Marawi City to escape clashes. Philstar.com/John Unson

MILF, MNLF reaffirm commitment to peace process amid Marawi siege
John Unson (philstar.com) - May 25, 2017 - 5:50am

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front reiterated Thursday their commitment to the peace process in the wake of the raging strife in Marawi City.

The two fronts also condemned the siege since Tuesday afternoon of several baragays in Marawi City by combined members of the Maute terror group and the Abu Sayyaf.

Al-Haj Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the MILF’s central committee, said they condemn the violent attacks in Marawi City by terrorists.

“There is no justification for launching an offensive against civilian populace and to destroy infrastructures and institutions serving the public,” he said in a signed press communiqué The STAR received on Thursday.

The MILF, which splintered from the MNLF in the early 1980s, has a current diplomatic overture with Malacanang, which began on January 7, 1997.

“The MILF stands in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur,” Murad said.

He said MILF forces have been directed to help the government thwart attempts by terrorists to derail the peace in the local communities.

Murad said the MILF remain committed to the southern peace process, which aims to put a negotiated closure to the now four-decade Moro issue.

He said the MILF is hoping the martial law President Rodrigo Duterte declared late Tuesday will not in any way infringe all of their interim security agreements with the national government, including the mechanisms of the ceasefire enjoining mutual cooperation in addressing peace and security issues in conflict-flashpoint areas.

The government and the MILF has a standing ceasefire accord, the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, that binds the group, the police and the military to work together in maintaining law and order in hostile areas.

The MNLF identified with former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, the largest among three factions in the group, also assured on Thursday to keep its commitment to the peace process, which some sectors now fear could be affected by the conflict in Marawi City.

The MNLF-Sema group, presently led by former Sulu Gov. Yusoph Jikiri, has long converged with the MILF and is even helping push the peace process forward through its three representatives to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

The BTC, chaired by Ghazali Jaafar, is now crafting a draft law needed to replace the ARMM with a more empowered Bangsamoro government based on the MILF’s compact with Malacanang, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Jikiri, in a statement, said they will continue helping the government address security problems in areas where MNLF members reside.

Jikiri also urged for sobriety and cooperation in addressing the conflict in Marawi City.

Sema, who is Jikiri’s revolutionary figurehead, said they respect Duterte’s decision to proclaim martial law.

“We are expecting the martial law to improve peace and stability in the southern region,” said Sema, who had also served as vice mayor of Cotabato City from 2010 to 2013.

The BTC, comprised of 21 members, among them the MILF’s Muhaquer Iqbal, also condemned the violent incidents unfolding in Marawi City.

BTC members said in a common statement that the attacks by Maute gunmen in Marawi City is now causing suffering of local residents, something hurting for the commission as an organization.

“The commission is saddened by the disturbance of the peace and tranquility of residents in the beleaguered city,” the BTC said in its statement.

Jaafar, a ranking member of the MILF’s central committee, was quoted Thursday in radio reports in Cotabato City as saying they will continue working for the attainment of peace in Mindanao by crafting the proposed law needed in putting up a new political outfit that can effectively address domestic security, economic and political woes.

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