Even as the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are locked in continuing negotiations seeking peace in Mindanao, Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema said the 1996 Final Peace Agreement remains as the key to the Bangsamoro problem.
Sema, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), urged speedy completion of the review of the historic peace pact between the MNLFand the government, submission of the review and proposed amendments to President Benigno Aquino and approval by Congress of the amendments to Republic Act 6734.
RA 6734 otherwise known as the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was the final offshoot of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF led by Professor Nur Misuari.
But even as the 1996 final peace agreement has been signed and RA 6734 is in place, the Philippine government is seeking peace with another Moro group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which surfaced in the late 90s to continue the Bangsamoro struggle. The MILF said it does not acknowledge RA 6734.
Alongside the GPH-MILF peace negotiations, a tripartite body under a Tripartie Agreement between and among GPH, MNLFand the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) is conducting a review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and RA 6734, whose provisions, the MNLF contends, has not been fully implemented.
The review is 99.9 percent completed, said Sema. He volunteers that another GPH-MNLF-OIC meeting is to be held in September in Davao City.
Sema said the tripartite body has resolved 42 “contentious points” and was ready to submit its proposed amendments to RA 6734.
The government has continuing talks with the MILF the last of which was the 31st Exploratory Talks held in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
Sema said he and the MNLF support any undertaking seeking lasting peace in Mindanao, but said the 1996 peace agreement is “the binding agreement that should be respected and pursued.”
Without peace in Mindanao, there can never be peace in the country, said Sema who was interviewed by phone by the Durian Post on September 10.
We are one nation.There can never be peace without peace in Mindanao, he said.
Until the MILF surfaced in late 90s, the cause of the Bangsamoro people had been carried on the shoulders of the MNLF.
In 1973, the Mindanao problem escalated into an armed conflict involving the MNLF and the government. The situation led the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to intervene which led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in 1976.
In compliance with the Tripoli Agreement, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1628 in 1977 forming an Autonomous Region in Southern Philippines.
This was rejected by the Bangsamoro people calling it as a unilateral implementation by the Manila govemment of the Tripoli Agreement.
In 1979, Batas Pambansa No. 20 was enacted creating the Regional Autonomous Government in Westem and Central Mindanao region. This was also not accepted and the Bangsamoro people pursued their revolutionary ideals for autonomy.
In 1987, under President Corazon C. Aquino, the Jeddah Accord was signed by the Philippine Govemment and the MNLF, under a commitment to continue the talks on the full implementation of a more meaningful regional autonomy.
The Aquino govemment then sought the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was enshhrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
In 1989, Republic Act No. 6734, otherwise known as the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was signed into law by then President Aquino.
In 1996, the MNLF and the Philippine Government signed the final Peace Agreement which led to the election of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari as Regional Governor of ARMM.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), another Moro armed group, meanwhile, surfaced to continue with the struggle with armed clashes between the military and the MILF escalating to a full war by the year 2000.