Take MNLF seriously, groups urge Aquino over Zamboanga tension

by TYRONE A. VELEZ
Davao City — As standoff between the military and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) armed forces continues on its third day in Zamboanga City, leaders from Mindanao criticized the Aquino government’s peace policy with Moro rebel groups.

The peace advocacy group, InPeace Mindanao led by Bishop Felixberto Calang IFI, said “(T)he government obviously brushed off the MNLF’s independence declaration on August 12 this year in Sulu, little knowing that it posed a serious armed warning from a legitimate revolutionary movement that has obviously felt left out from the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB),” Calang said.

Former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who heads one faction of the MNLF in Cotabato reportedly said that MNLF chair Nur Misuari might have believed that the government is moving to terminate the Tripartite Implementation Review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF.

Sema said the information was contained in letters sent by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to the Organization of Islamic Conference Peace Committee for Southern Philippines.

Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called for the government “to seriously examine and put in order its peace policy in Mindanao,” as the tension in Zamboanga is an “off-shoot of a divisive peace policy that excludes other stakeholders in Mindanao, like the forces of MNLF Chair Nur Misuari.”

“The peace policy of President Aquino should not be divisive and exclusive. It should not leave out a legitimate group just to appease another group. This is no way of talking peace in Mindanao,” Zarate said.

Calang said the government must consider the complexity of the Moro problem in its handling of the talks.

“The Moro question remains to be a complex problem and unless the roots of armed revolution are addressed and the Moro people’s right to self-determination is sincerely and genuinely upheld, it will pose as a gnawing wound in Philippine realpolitik,” Calang said.

The 5th Meeting of the GPH-MNLF-OIC Tripartite Review on the Implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement has been set on September 16 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

In the OPAPP statement, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles denied they had canceled the talks and they were pursuing for “the completion of the almost six-year Tripartite Review Process on the implementation of the 1996 FPA, to pave the way for the Agreement’s full implementation.”

OPAPP also pointed out that one formal meeting, two adhoc meetings and other technical meetings were all attended by Misuari.

In an article by Philippine News Agency Deles said the government had exhausted all means in the past three years to meet Misuari’s demands.

“Throughout the three years, when we come out with a formula and an acceptable language, he would go out and say ‘No, we could not sign it,’” she said.

“I hope this pattern on the table would be looked at…What will make Misuari happy? What does he want?” she added.

Misuari’s three issues according to MNLF-Cotabato faction secretary general Abdul Sahrin, are “the transition mechanism for the implementation of the peace agreement, the conduct of another plebiscite for expanded autonomy, and how to divide earnings from strategic minerals obtainable in the Bangsamoro areas.

Earlier, the Aquino government declared the MNLF “a spent force” even as Misuari declared on August an independent Bangsamoro Republik.

Tensions continue in Zamboanga City as residents from four barangays have reportedly evacuated to government centers. Various reports peg the number of evacuees from 5,000 to 9,000.

A navy personnel and four civilians were reportedly killed, while 21 were wounded in the standoff since Monday.

Reports said that Misuari is in Indanan, Sulu, while MNLF Sulu commander Habier Malik has arrived in Barangay Sta. Barbara.

Peace advocates appealed to the MNLF and the military to observe international humanitarian law and warned that a pure military approach could only trigger tension in other parts of Mindanao. (Tyrone A. Velez, davaotoday.com)

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