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Gov’t clarifies MNLF deal; Misuari vows to secede

The Aquino administration on Sunday said it does not intend to abrogate the 1996 final peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front amid reports that the group headed by Nur Misuari would declare independence for Mindanao. Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said what the government seeks is the termination of the tripartite review mechanism brokered by the Organization of Islamic Conference. “The government has conveyed its assurances that in the case of the closure of the Tripartite Implementation Review Process, the government will continue to engage relevant parties of the MNLF, through the existing mechanism, to find a just and comprehensive political solution for the issue of the southern Philippines,” said Deles who met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa last week to discuss the closure of the review mechanism. “From the start, what the government proposed to complete was the review process, not the closure of the peace process nor the abrogation of the 1996 final peace agreement,” Deles added. MNLF peace panel chief Absalom Cerveza said Misuari said his group would declare independence during an assembly of members in Jolo, Sulu. Misuari alleged that the planned abrogation of the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF was to accommodate the future comprehensive peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. “After the government’s refusal to talk peace with the MNLF and with the abrogation of the 1996 peace accord, we have no other option but to declare independence of Mindanao,” Cerveza said. The MNLF, Cerveza said, has two courses of action: file a petition with the United Nations of the colonization of Mindanao or to use force and attack. “We will know in the coming days [which action it will take]. Much will depend on the reaction of the government,” Cerveza said. Upon learning of the OIC’s notification of the closure of the peace accord, Misuari seemed satisfied because he could do whatever he wants to, said Cerveza, who talked to Misuari in his house in San Roque, Zamboanga del Sur Wednesday. “The government didn’t want to talk with us (MNLF) anymore so we will go back to where we started in 1969 when we declared for Mindanao independence,” Cerveza said. Deles, however, was quick to point out that Indonesia -- head of the OIC Committee of the Eight that brokered the 1996 peace agreement -- will be the first to oppose any extra-legal means to undermine the territorial integrity of the Philippines. “Minister Natalegawa was categorical in stating that Indonesia opposes any attempt to jeopardize the territorial integrity of the Philippines and that any such move falls outside the ambit of the agreed upon Tripartite Review Process.” Misuari cited an explanatory note sent by the Palace to the OIC seeking the group’s acknowledgement that the MNLF is “no longer the sole representative of the Bangsamoro.” As this developed, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Jose Lorena warned the public against “malicious” text messages saying that the MNLF would declare independence. “We urge the public to be critical against false information. We also call for sobriety as our government, both national and local, are carefully handling the peace and security in Mindanao,” he said. “It is best to seek out information from reliable sources and understand the context before making conclusions. We rely on the public to guard the process.” Despite the threat to declare independence, Cerveza said, Misuari told his lieutenants to stay calm and not engage in any military confrontation with the government. “We don’t like to start a war. All the armed components of the MNLF were ordered to stay in a defensive position in case of an attack,” Cerveza said. With Francisco Tuyay
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