Better Prospects for Mindanao Peace Talks Seen

Cotabato City, Philippines, 18 Dzulqa’dah 1437/21 August 2016 (MINA) – Officials see better prospects for the peace process in the South now that there is a deputy speaker for Mindanao in the House of Representatives.

Maguindanao First District Rep. Sandra Sema was elected deputy speaker for Mindanao early this week in a caucus by Mindanao lawmakers, according to a press communiqué emailed to The STAR by her staff.

Sema is the wife of the former Cotabato City mayor Datu Muslimin, chairman of the largest of three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Unlike MNLF founder Nur Misuari, the Sema couple is not hostile to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which splintered from the MNLF in the 1980s. The Sema couple also supports Malacañang’s ongoing peace overture with the MILF.

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ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he is confident that Sema will speak well in Congress on the issues and concerns besetting Mindanao’s Moro communities.

“Having a deputy speaker who is from the Bangsamoro community is something so positive for us,” Hataman told The STAR.

Hataman said he is also optimistic that President Duterte will succeed in putting a negotiated closure to the decades-old Moro issue with the help of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is from the First District of Davao del Norte, and Sema, who is of Maguindanaon descent.

Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, whose local government unit has programs promoting Muslim-Christian solidarity, said he was elated with Sema’s election as deputy speaker.

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“It augurs well with the efforts of President Duterte to empower Mindanao’s Muslim communities and involve them in governance to hasten the resolution of the Mindanao secessionist conflict,” Furigay said.

Sema, now on her third and last term as congresswoman, is also known for supporting the peace programs of Mindanao’s top Catholic parochial leader, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation.

The OMI is involved in many interfaith programs complementing the Mindanao peace process. Most of the parishes in the congressional district that Sema represents in Congress are run by OMI missionaries.

A senior staff of ARMM’s Department of Trade and Industry, Susana Anayatin, said it would be easier for Congress now to link up with Mindanao’s Moro sector through Sema, who is a scion of a big Maguindanaon noble clan. (T/R07/R01)

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Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)