OIC to convene forum with Philippines rebel groups

The MNLF and breakaway group MILF will meet October 17 to discuss March 27 peace deal - an agreement MNLF says supplanted its own.

OIC to convene forum with Philippines rebel groups

World Bulletin / News Desk

The world's largest intra-Islamic body will bring together the Philippines one-time biggest rebel group and the group it broke away from on October 13 for a forum on the future of the country's Muslim south

Muslimin Sema, a former Cotabato City mayor and chair of the largest of three Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) groups, said in a press statement Wednesday that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) special envoy to the southern Philippines will preside over the forthcoming meeting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in capital Manila.

At the meeting will be Egyptian government representative Syed El-Masry who leads the OIC's Southern Philippines Peace Committee, whose members include Libya, Indonesia, Senegal, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Somalia, Brunei and Saudi Arabia.

The Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum was organized last June by the OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states as a venue for cooperation between the MNLF and the MILF in pushing the peace process in Mindanao -- the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines -- forward after a March 27 government-MILF peace deal that brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed.

Sema said Wednesday that the MILF – which broke away from the MNLF in 1977 due to political differences - is an indispensable component of the forum, adding that they look forward to a good meeting where the two groups can possibly "harmonize” their diverse positions on how to solve the decades-old Mindanao Moro issue.

The BCF, whose creation was detailed in a document signed by MILF figurehead Al-Haj Murad last June, monitors the situation of Moro communities in areas covered by a 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement.

Whereas Sema’s group, whose members are scattered in more than 20 “revolutionary states” in Mindanao, is not hostile to the MILF, the MNLF faction led by Nur Misuari is opposed to government - MILF efforts to establish a regional government through the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law currently being deliberated by Congress.

In September 2013, Misuari's group laid siege to the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga to the March 27 deal, which he claimed is a betrayal of the 1996 OIC-brokered agreement, has left his organization shortchanged, and granted Muslims in the region lesser autonomy.

There is a standing warrant for his arrest on charges of rebellion, violation of international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Expressing optimistic about the MILF participating in next month's BCF, Sema said about 90 percent of the 42 “consensus points” reached in the review of the government-MNLF peace pact are stated in the March 27 deal and the draft law.

The still unfinished review of the now 17-year peace accord, which started in 2007, was plagued by misunderstandings by both sides on the implementation of some of sensitive provisions.

At the first briefing Wednesday on the law before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, the MILF warned lawmakers against people who sow fear with the aim of stopping the Bangsamoro’s establishment.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the panel such people use words such as “dismemberment,” “sell out,” “surrender” and “violation of the Constitution” among others.

Referring to the Bangsamoro, he said: "It may mean nothing to you, but it’s the whole world to us. It’s what we got… We implore you then to step lightly on these dreams when you discuss the draft law. Do not trample them. Celebrate them. Welcome them."

Stressing that the “Bangsamoro will further unite our peoples," he added, "There shall be no state within a state. The Philippine state shall remain sovereign. We only ask that we be allowed to govern ourselves.”

He underlined that non-Muslims should not be afraid of the new entity by saying, “The Sharia will apply only to us, Muslims. We will never impose ourselves on communities that prefer not to be part of us.”

Meanwhile Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, expressed gratitude to lawmakers for the urgency given to the bill, with the committee starting hearings even during the budget deliberations at the plenary.

Since 1977, the MNLF has been an observer member of the OIC, which denied a request by the Philippine government for similar recognition as an observer member.

Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2014, 17:40
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