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MILF: Jihadists spread likely in Mindanao

THERE is a real danger of Islamist extremism spreading in Mindanao, particularly if Congress fails to pass “good legislation” that will empower the Moro community and bring genuine peace in Mindanao, according to the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mohagher Iqbal
“The danger of [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] is not the actual confrontation,” Mohagher Iqbal, one of the key MILF figures in forging the peace pact with the government, said in an interview with GMA News Online.

“We have to look at two situations: One is the ideology of radicalism which is infectious,” Iqbal said after the extremist Abu Sayyaf and the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters swore allegiance to the self-proclaimed IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“The other one is that if we fail in this engagement, with this present Bangsamoro Basic Law, and eventually become irrelevant then that’s the danger,” Iqbal said.

“If the Bangsamoro people will be empowered and the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed in the Congress as a good legislation, I think the MILF will play a very vital role in moderating the situation in Mindanao,” he added.

Iqbal made the remarks after a large faction within the MILF openly expressed its disapproval of the disarmament provision in the peace agreement it forged with the government and has allegedly begun “realignment” talks with the BIFF.

The MILF admitted in an editorial posted on its website that “decommissioning is a very emotional and sensitive issue on the part of the MILF.”

“But because of its sincerity and determination to solve the Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao, it has to undertake an ultimate sacrifice in exchange for peace and the settlement of the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao,” said the editorial on the MILF’s Luwaran.com.

“The MILF is staking itself to the scrutiny of time and history and the vicious attacks of critics to prove that this is the right track to solve this question of problem. All other approaches are ideal and are simply not tenable,” it added.

The MILF said the provisions on “decommissioning” is one of the most misunderstood or misconstrued aspects of the peace pact.

“It is confused with surrender of firearms to government or their destruction, as was true in Aceh in Indonesia,” the group said.

“It is not of the same mold with the traditional (demobilization, demilitarization, and reintegration) adopted by the United Nations, which clearly favors states or governments by treating rebels as enemy of the state including even those which have clear legitimate causes,” it added.

The MILF explained that decommissioning is a formula that balances the principled stance of the MILF that any tint or semblance of surrender is not only politically wrong but more seriously an act of disobedience to Allah.

The editorial also claimed that the MILF believes that only duly constituted government or state has the sole legitimacy to hold or control the guns. “Who are in need of guns in the Bangsamoro when everything normalizes?” is an oft-repeated statement of MILF leaders.

But the MILF explained that “decommissioning” does not the mean the surrender of firearms or their destruction.

“It is not disarming the MILF per se, as some uninformed media people would like to say. Most likely, the models in Northern Ireland and Nepal will be followed whereby firearms turned over are put in warehouses under the care and protection of third-party decommissioning body composed of international and domestic eminent persons.”

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