Be Patient, MILF Tells Muslims In Philippines

January 2, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
A Moro Islamic Liberation Front woman rests in her house in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark navales)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 02, 2008) – The leader of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, the MILF, appealed for patience over the failure of peace talks with Manila.

“The road to freedom is always full of twist and turn and to overcome, we must work, persist, and sacrifice,” Murad Ebrahim, chieftain of the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, said.
It was the second time the MILF appealed to Muslims and rebels for patience over the slow progress of the peace talks. Last month, Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, also appealed to Muslims to remain calm and patient over the failure of the talks.
Many rebel commanders are getting frustrated and restless over the failure of the seven-year old peace talks with the Arroyo government.
The MILF is fighting for a separate Muslim homeland in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao. It accused the government of reneging to its commitment after peace talks last month failed in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.
Iqbal said the Philippine panel agreed late last year on the scope of the Muslim ancestral domain, but later reneged on the accord that will constitute a separate homeland for more than 4 million Muslims and indigenous tribes in Mindanao.
Iqbal reiterated his previous statement and said his group is consistent with their demand for a Muslim homeland.
Iqbal previously said that the ugly turn of event in the peace process is taxing the patience of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people, who may be compelled to resort to other means of resolving the Mindanao conflict when they are pushed to the wall and become hopeless in the peace process.
He said the government peace panel must honor its commitment and previous agreement so the talks could resume.
“The government peace panel must honor its commitment to the Bangsamoro people because we wanted peace to reign and end the violence in Mindanao,” he said. “We will wait for the government to reconsider its decision.”
The MILF said government negotiators headed by Rodolfo Garcia completely disregarded the agreement on the ancestral domain and insisted again that the granting of homeland to Muslims in Mindanao would solely be through Constitutional process which the rebel group previously opposed.
The Philippine charter prohibits the dismembering of the country.
But Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said there is a proposal to amend the Constitution and introduce a federal system of government.
“This is one of the proposals the government is looking at to get the peace talks moving again,” Dureza said, adding, the only purpose of changing the Constitution is to install a Bangsamoro state or a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
Allies of President Gloria Arroyo in the House of Representatives might use the peace talks with the MILF as an excuse to amend the Constitution to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary or federalism to allow the MILF to have a separate state and eventually prolong her into power beyond 2010.
Under the presidential form of government, Arroyo, who deposed President Joseph Estrada in a people power revolution in 2001, is allowed only one six-year term.
In the charter change proposal suggested by her political allies who dominate Congress, she can be elected as prime minister should Congress approve a proposal to dissolve the Senate and change the system of government to parliamentary.
Peace talks were stalled in September last year after government and rebel negotiators failed to agree on the scope of the ancestral domain, which is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.
The ancestral domain which covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines and the Sulu Archipelago.
President Arroyo has opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but since then no substantial agreements have been signed between the two sides, expect for the cease-fire accord.
The MILF earlier warned that hostilities may erupt in Mindanao if the peace talks fail.
“The MILF peace panel, from the start of the talks in January 1997, has been serious in finding a just, lasting, and comprehensive political settlement of the Moro problem and the conflict in Mindanao and, therefore, has detested and will not participate in any double deal that would lead the parties to end.”
“The stand of the MILF peace panel and their principal, the Central Committee of the MILF, is that it is better to have no agreement at all than to enter into a bad agreement. The MILF leadership therefore appeals to the public and our constituents for their understanding and patience and steadfast in the support of the peace process,” Iqbal said.
The Philippine military previously demanded MILF rebels to lay down their weapons before peace talks could resume. (With a report from Juan Magtanggol)

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