Mujaheedins Loosing Hope in Kuala Lumpur Talks

Zamboanga City – DESPITE the difficulties hobbling the peace negotiation between the government and Moro rebels, a top leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has called on the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao to remain upbeat about the prospects of peace.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of MILF’s Central Committee, has pleaded with the Bangsamoro People in general “to be patient and steadfast in whatever adversary facing them.”

“The road to freedom is always full of twists and turns to overcome, we must work, persist, and sacrifice,” Ebrahim said

“Allah helps those who are patient and forbearing…When one is faced with a difficult situation, always remember Allah, seek His guidance, and look back for those achievements that we have collectively worked for,” he added.

The appeal came even as several rebel members expressed doubts over the ongoing peace negotiations and threatened to withdraw from the peace talks if the government would continue to insist that any agreement entered with the Moro group should be within the ambit of the Philippine constitution.

In their website, several MILF leaders expressed their dismay over the ongoing peace negotiation, which has been going on for more than 10 years.

“If it were not obligatory in Islam to follow the leaders, we would defy the decision to hold talks with the government and hit back at government forces straying into our bailiwicks,” a Moro rebel commander based in Basilan said.

“Do we allow ourselves to be fooled forever?” another Moro leader from Maguindanao asked.

Moro rebels have been asking for exemption in establishing a Moro domain from the constitutional process.

“There is an existing gentlemen and unwritten agreement between the two parties that during the peace negotiation the Philippine Constitution will be temporary set aside, and the MILF will not also raise the issue of independence. This is to find a common ground,” Eid Kabalu, the front’s civil-military relation officer told PeaceWorks in an interview.

The peace negotiation hit a snag on the middle of December of last year after the front’s peace panel blamed the government of “betraying” the consensus points on ancestral domain. The rebel negotiators said the government panel “introduced extraneous and new matters not discussed and taken upon by the parties during the previous exploratory talks on ancestral domain.”

The Moro rebels subsequently also rejected the government’s plan to create a “federal state” in Mindanao for the Bangsamoro people by amending the Constitution this year, saying that all negotiations are “extra-constitutional in character.”

“This is a deceptive offer and only a fool does not see the trick behind it,” Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, was quoted as saying in a statement published on the front’s website.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza said the government is looking at amending the Constitution to give the Bangsamoro a federal state in Mindanao. The federal state is a formula that government is trying to resort in a bid to restart the peace negotiation. The Moro rebels, however, said the government should instead follow the “consensus points on ancestral domain, which the two Parties have jointly ‘crafted, agreed, and signed’ since December 2004.”

The MILF has also expressed doubts that a final peace will happen ion 2008. “2008 (is) a very grim year for the peace process after the Arroyo administration reneged on the consensus points on ancestral domain,” referring to the government’s draft.

Civil society groups and local government leaders have earlier complained that the negotiations lacked transparency and that agreements signed by the two parties, especially those that pertain to territory, have yet to be disclosed in detail.

So far, no date has yet been scheduled for the next round of talks, according to Gen. Rodolfo C. Garcia, chief of the government peace panel.

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