Dureza Welcomes MILF, MNLF ‘Convergence’

Maguindanao, Philippines, 17 Syawal 1437/22 July 2016 (MINA) – Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Thursday welcomed as “positive” the convergence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in putting closure to the Mindanao conflict.

The MILF and the largest of three MNLF factions, the one led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, had twice forged in recent months a deal binding both camps to find a common solution to the now 45-year Moro rebellion.

Sema’s group has more than 20 “revolutionary states” scattered across the country’s south and in all of the five component provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“There is an apparent convergence and inclusivity now in each other’s peace-building initiatives. This is what we want, a peace process involving all stakeholders,” Dureza said Thursday, at the sideline of his breakfast meeting with the chairman of the MILF, Hadji Murad Ebrahim, in Camp Darapanan.

Camp Darapanan is the MILF’s main enclave, located northwest of Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

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The two-hour meeting on Thursday between Dureza, representing the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and Murad was the first official engagement between the MILF and Malacañang under President Rodrigo Duterte.

They talked about the prospects of the peace process under the Duterte administration and agreed to resume with all bilateral initiatives complementing all compacts between the MILF and Malacañang, stalled by the recent synchronized local and national elections.

Dureza said he finds beneficial to the peace process the convergence of the MILF and the MNLF-Sema group in a common formula for a lasting peace in the south.

The MILF and the MNLF-Sema group had earlier said, in bilateral press communiqués, their initiatives are meant to synchronize each other’s concepts on how to best address the Mindanao Moro issue.

Through the intercession of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the MNLF and Malacañang signed on Sept. 2, 1996 a final peace deal, after 20 years of negotiations that started in 1976.

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The MNLF was yet a solidly monolithic organization then, led by its founding chairman, Nur Misuari.

There is a third MNLF group that emerged recently, led by Abulkhayr Alonto, who hails from Lanao del Sur.

Unlike the MNLF-Sema group, which is friendly to the MILF, Misuari, now a fugitive, and his men are hostile to the MILF.

They have been ranting on what is for them “abrogation” of the government-MNLF peace agreement with Malacañang’s having crafted two compacts with the MILF, the Oct. 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

 

Joint technical committee

Sema said he is grateful to Dureza for his optimism on the MILF-MNLF convergence, which the OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa, has also been supporting.

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The MILF and the MNLF-Sema group now have a joint technical committee tasked to study a common approach in resolving the Moro problem.

Sema said the committee will meet in Cotabato City on July 30 for initial exploratory studies on having one peace tract to hasten the resolution of a rebellion that has never been permanently addressed.

The MILF-MNLF convergence was first espoused by the erstwhile president of Libya, the late Muammar Gaddafi, who even sent his son, Saiful A-Islam Al-Gaddafi, to Mindanao twice in the late 1990s to help unite both fronts.

Gaddafi was a staunch supporter of the peace overture between Malacañang and the MNLF, which he provided with firearms and ammunition while fighting the government in the 1970s.

The group got fragmented in 2000 when a bloc of Misuari’s lieutenants, among them Sema and many other MNLF leaders in the ARMM’s five provinces, broke away due to loss of confidence in his leadership.(T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)