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1996 Peace Agreement key to Mindanao peace


BY ROGER M. BALANZA

 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.
    

Pinol: al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah to rule Bangsamoro homeland

By ROGER M. BALANZA

 

            The Bangsamoro homeland proposed in a pact between the Philippine government and the secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has the al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah lurking in its shadows.

            North Cotabato Vice Governor Manuel Pinol said the terrorist groups would eventually have control of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) which expands coverage of Muslim ancestral domain land in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

            Pinol has expressed fear the al-Qaeda, the international terrorist group of Osama bin Laden, and its Southeast Asian cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), would have Mindanao in its grip once the BJE is in place.

            He said under BJE, the ARMM would have an independent security force, that could endanger Mindanao’s security with al-Qaeda and JI exerting influence on key personalities with MILF, the prime mover in a Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine government on the expanded ARMM.

            It is public knowledge—and also openly known to military and police—that some MILF personalities have links to these terrorist groups, said Pinol in a press conference last week with Davao City-based media.

            The bin Laden group and the JI, repeatedly accused by military as training local terrorists in bomb making, are said to be supporting the Abu Sayyaf, tagged as the perpetrators of bombing incidents throughout Mindanao for decades.

            Pinol refused to name names of the MILF men, saying this is also of public knowledge. But he said he had been vocal against them. “They are not in my Friendster list of friends,” he joked at the press conference that centered on the MOA that carved out portions of North Cotabato as now part of ARMM territory..

            Pinol on Thursday announced the filing by the Provincial Government of North Cotabato with the Supreme Court a Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

            The case aims to force the government to make “full public disclosure” of the MOA with MILF on the expanded ARMM, according to lawyer Israelito Torreon, the province’s counsel.

            Pinol said North Cotabato has voted down in a previous plebiscite the inclusion of the province in an expanded ARMM and questioned why a new plebiscite should be held. Under the BJE, a large portion of North Cotabato and other provinces would be included in the ARMM. He said previous consultations on BJE also showed North Cotabato closing the doors on its inclusion. “Our sentiments were not considered,” he said to explain the case before the Supreme Court.

            Pinol also said the government would be practically carving out Philippine territory with ARMM given privilege to form its own security force, territory and share in government tax.

            It is only in the Philippines that the government is stooping down to respond to a demand by rebels that they should be armed, he said. At present, the government integrated rebel security forces into the Armed Forces of the Philippines in compliance with the Tripoli Agreement, that led to the creation of the ARMM, signed by government with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed Nur Misuari.