MILF Still Upbeat on Peace Accord Despite Serious Hitches

ZAMBOANGA CITY – THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on September 3 described the dissolution of the government peace panel in the southern peace negotiations as “normal” and they would not meddle in the government affairs.

“I wouldn’t want to give further comment, but for me, it’s just normal for any adjustment in the negotiating table. It’s internal to the government and that’s their prerogative,” Mohagher Iqbal told PeaceWorks in a telephone interview.

Iqbal said what matters to the MILF leadership is for the government to find creative ways to solve peacefully the centuries-old struggle of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

“If ever they will replace a new set of the government peace panel, or any other form, these government negotiators will just be the agents of their principal, just like us here in the MILF peace panel. We follow the directive of our principal,” he said.

According to him, the MILF would still pursue the key points in the ancestral domain agenda, which was aborted by the government following strong opposition by different groups.

The reaction came after President Gloria M. Gloria decided to dissolve the government peace panel, amid criticisms of the controversial memorandum of agreement on the ancestral domain.

The government has cited the recent violence committed by some commanders of the MILF as reason why it has decided to withdraw from signing the territory deal and shifted instead its approach towards a policy of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) in the conflict-affected areas in southern Philippines.

On the other hand, Iqbal said that while DDR “is good” but based on the negotiation experience in the other parts of the world, it only serves as the last potion in negotiations.

“[I am not saying this] in finality however, we are open for negotiation and this DDR agenda will still be discussed,” he said.

The Moro rebels has been fighting for self-rule by creating an Islamic autonomy in Mindanao called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Musib M. Buat, a member of the MILF peace panel, said the MILF has shelved its plans for independence but is open for the creation of a sub-state for the Moro in Mindanao.

Buat explained that the concept of “earned sovereignty” is designed to create an opportunity to resolve sovereignty- based conflicts by providing for the managed devolution of sovereign authority and function from a state to a sub-state entity.

“The BJE model has adopted the ‘earned sovereignty approach’ in modified form under the MOA-AD, the details of which will be discussed during the negotiations on the Comprehensive Compact. The devolved powers to the sub-state entity (i.e., BJE) by the parent state (Central Government) are known as ‘shared powers and authority,” he said.

“The Bangsamoro people only desire a definition of their own homeland over which they will have the right, in association with the Central Government, to set up a governance system in accordance with their own way of life, manage and control their own natural resources, chart their own development in accordance with their own peculiar needs with less external interference from the Central Government and become self-reliant without having to depend on dole-outs from the Central Government,” he said.

He earlier said that the MILF will likely elevate the Moro issues in Mindanao to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, should the southern peace process fail.

He said they can exercise this option, following the disputes among government officials of the controversial ancestral domain agreement, the signing of which was earlier aborted by the Supreme Court.

“This can be another peaceful option available to the Bangsamoro people should the on-going peace process fail. The present UN Secretary General has already expressed alarming concern over the increasing humanitarian disaster in Mindanao. The timely intercession of the UN is a welcome development. The European Union has also recently expressed deep concern over the alarming humanitarian dimension of the Mindanao conflict,” he said in a statement.

He said this idea was also used by the revolutionary groups of Western Sahara, East Timor and Kosovo, which are now enjoying its full independence.

“Being a former colony of the United States Government whose mandate over Moroland remains unfulfilled when the former hastily turned over the Bangsamoro territories to the Philippines without their prior plebiscitary consent, the Bangsamoro people could mount a lobby with the US Congress for the decolonization of Moroland, parallel to the case of East Timor,” he said..

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