MNLF members, leaders renew commitment to Mindanao peace process

John Unson - Philstar.com
MNLF members, leaders renew commitment to Mindanao peace process
Thousands of members and officials of the Moro National Liberation Front from across the six provinces in the autonomous region converged in Barrio Kakar in Cotabato City on Saturday and renewed their commitment to the peace overture between the national government and Mindanao's Moro communities.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — More than 20,000 members and supporters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) converged in the historic Barrio Kakar here on Saturday and together assured to continue patronizing their Sept. 2,1996 final peace compact with the national government.

The plains in Barrio Kakar in east of this city was the scene of the bloodiest battles in Central Mindanao’s history, from 1972 to 1974, between soldiers and young MNLF recruits then fighting for self-rule by southern Moro communities.

The large gathering of MNLF members and supporters from Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, was capped off with their having pledged allegiance to their newly-organized political bloc, the Bangsamoro Party, led by Bangsamoro Labor and Employment Minister Muslimin Sema, chairman of the front's central committee.

The Bangsamoro Party, also known as the "Bapa Party," has been registered with the Commission on Elections.

Saturday's event at Barrio Kakar was graced by senior MNLF officials from the six provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, among them five members of BARMM’s 80-seat parliament, Hatimil Hassan and Muslimin Jakilan, both ethnic Yakans from Basilan, Abuamri Taddik, who is concurrent regional trade and investment minister, and Adzfar Usman, who are from Sulu, and Romeo Sema, a Maguindanaon.

A large group of women identified with the MNLF, led by Bainon Karon, who had served as secretary of one of the regional departments of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, also participated in the activity.

Sema, appointed about two years ago as regional labor and employment minister by BARMM’s top official, Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, who is chairman of the central committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the MNLF has been adhering religiously to its Sept. 2, 1996 peace compact with the national government.

“Never shall we turn our backs from our final peace agreement with the national government. We will even make that agreement become strong through sensible, peaceful political activities now that we have the Bangsamoro Party,” Sema, chairman of the MNLF’s central committee, said.

MNLF leaders present in the gathering in Barrio Kakar together promised to continue nurturing the gains of their truce with Malacañang, a product of 20 years of peace talks that started with the crafting by rebel and government negotiators of the Dec. 23, 1976 “Tripoli Agreement” in Libya that was to become a major reference in its negotiations with the national government.

The Tripoli Agreement was also used as part of the framework for the  negotiations between Malacañang and the MILF, sealed with the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro that resulted in the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more politically and administratively empowered BARMM via a plebiscite in 2019.

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