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No deal with MILF, MNLF says

THE Moro National Liberation Front on Saturday denied that it had reached an understanding with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to bridge the gaps in the peace deal it concluded with the government after it was rejected by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

MNLF Spokesman Absalom Cerveza clarified that the only agreement the separatist group signed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last June 12 was a document recognizing Nur Misuari as the sole legitimate leader of the MNLF.

MNLF
The document was signed by another MNLF faction, led by Cotabato Vice Mayor Muslimin  Sema, but Cerveza said he could not be sure whether the acknowledgment means the Sema group will return to the fold of the MNLF or merely recognized Misuari.

“They did it because they were not recognized by the OIC and the OIC wants a reunification of the MNLF,” Cerveza said.

“The OIC wants the Bangsamoro people to have only one representation in the OIC,” Cerveza said, adding that the MILF was similarly rebuffed when it tried to get OIC endorsement of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro that it signed with the government last March 27.

The MILF was represented by Mohaquer Iqbal and former congressman Mike Mastura, who were instrumental in the forging of the peace pact, and they went to the OIC meeting in Jeddah precisely to ask for OIC support.

But Cerveza explained that the OIC did not recognize the CAB as it would “undermine the agreement of the MNLF that was orchestrated by the OIC.”

The OIC thus rejected the CAB because it failed to incorporate the Tripoli and Jakarta agreements that the MNLF, under Misuari, signed with the government in 1996.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar declined on Saturday to comment on the OIC rejection because he had not seen the official document.

On the other hand, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles insisted that the CAB “builds on the gains” of previous peace agreements, particularly the 1996 peace accord, as shown by the CAB’s annex on power-sharing.

“The Philippine government is in the same fold with the OIC in working for a single framework focusing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law towards a genuine autonomy, lasting peace, and sustainable development in and for the Bangsamoro,” Deles replied when asked about the matter on Friday.

“The CAB that the Philippine government and the MILF signed last March 27 builds on the gains of previous peace agreements, particularly of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 peace agreement,” she said.

OIC secretary-general Iyad Ameen Madani, however, proposed a linkage of the government’s peace pacts with the MILF and the MNLF.

Cerveza agreed that the agreements that the government signed with the MNLF and the MILF are almost similar as regards geographical area, political power, autonomy and people.

But “a big ship cannot be loaded into a small boat,” Cerveza said in comparing the MNLF with the MILF, which is a splinter group of the Misuari-founded organization.

“The Framework Agreement [for the CAB] will lose its identity,” Cerveza said, adding that even MILF leaders are not keen on spending more time to reconcile the two agreements.

Cerveza said the synchronization pushed by the OIC has already been repeatedly discussed, most recently in a meeting with an unidentified OIC official in Cotabato City a few months ago.

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