MNLF Leader, Military Agree to Resolve Moro Conflict

Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, 27 Dzulhijjah 1437/29 September 2016 (MINA) – The leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in mainland Mindanao closest to Nur Misuari and the military agreed to cooperate in resolving domestic security problems including Islamic militancy, The Star reported.

The consensus was reached by the reclusive Datu Randy Karon, who was Misuari’s regional natural resources secretary when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. during a meeting Tuesday in an MNLF-controlled area in Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat.

Galvez had served as chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee that deals with a counterpart panel in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before his Sept. 12, 2016 assumption as commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), the largest military unit in central Mindanao.

Karon and Galvez both agreed to sustain, through joint domestic peace-building projects, the dividends of the Sept. 2, 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

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Karon, who was still in high school when he joined the MNLF in 1973, and Misuari, the iconic founder of the MNLF, are for most friends like “blood brothers” but differed somehow in their respective outlooks on the Mindanao peace process.

Now 64, Karon, a blue-blooded ethnic Maguindanaon, is for inclusivity among all stakeholders to the process — the Muslims, Christians and Lumad folks and all MILF-led communities — to hasten the resolution of the now four-decade Mindanao Moro issue.

The police and the military have long been restive about Karon’s brotherly ties with Misuari, apprehensive on how he and his more than 2,000 loyal followers in seaside towns in the adjoining provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao can demonstrate sympathy anytime for the now wanted, Sulu-based MNLF founder.

Karon told Galvez and officers of the 1st Marine Brigade present in Tuesday’s peace dialogue he and his men will never violate their 1996 peace accord with Malacañang.

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He said while there were misunderstandings on the bilateral implementation of the truce, they remained confident both sides can come to terms and continue cooperating in pushing the agreement forward.

Karon said all that he wants now is for his followers and non-Muslim settlers in their government-recognized enclaves to enjoy livelihood opportunities which socio-economic interventions can help generate.

The now 20-year peace agreement was forged by Misuari of a then still solidly monolithic MNLF and President Fidel Ramos.

It was was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of more than 50 Islamic states, including petroleum-exporting countries (OPEC) in the Middle East and North Africa.

Key followers of Karon said, at the sideline of their meeting with Galvez and Marine officers assigned in the neighboring seaside Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang towns, they stood down and stayed in their villages during the deadly September 2013 siege in Zamboanga City by mutinous followers of Misuari.

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The uprising was related to Misuari’s rabid opposition to Malacañang’s separate peace overture with the MILF, which started only as small faction that splintered from the MNLF in the early 1980s. The MILF, engaged in current peace talks with Malacañang since January 1997, is now the country’s largest Moro revolutionary group.

Karon said he and his followers supported the bid for the presidency of the now President Rodrigo Duterte during the May 9 elections owing to his being a native of Mindanao and his deep understanding of the cultures and the Islamic religion of the Moro people and their quest for self-governance.

“We are confident the Duterte administration can win the much-coveted peace in this part of the country, the peace we have all been wishing for,” Karon said.  (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)