'No armed group can disrupt peace process'
BY ANGELA CASAUAY
BREAKAWAY: Members of the BIFM, a breakaway group, downplay the peace process between the government and the MILF. Photo by Karlos Manlupig
MANILA, Philippines - A foreign team tasked to oversee the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday, October 22, said there are no armed groups strong enough to impede the peace process.
“Based on what we know from the ground, my personal opinion is that there are no groups that have the capacity to disrupt the peace process,” Dato Abdul Rashim Bin Bohd Yusuff, head of mission of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao, told Rappler Monday, October 22.
The comment comes amid Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari’s pronouncements that “armed struggle is still an option" during the MNLF summit held in Davao City on Sunday, October 21.
Earlier, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) also insisted it will continue its quest for a separate Bangsamoro nation. The radical BIFM, led by the ailing Ameril Umra Kato, broke away from the MILF over disagreements on issues concerning separatism and peace negotiations.
Abdul Rashim belied Misuari’s claims that disgruntled members, who are not satisfied with the agreement, have bolted MILF to join MNLF.
“There are no indicators on the ground that members are not happy with the agreement and there are no reports of any members bolting MILF,” he said.
The IMT is an independent Malaysian-led group that monitors the agreements of both sides concerning ceasefire, rehabilitation, and development. It is composed of 55 members; the Malaysians oversee the security component of the team's mandate. Other IMT members include Libya, Brunei and Japan.
Abdul Rahim however stressed that the IMT’s mandate only covers the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF, not other armed groups.
“I can not speak for the capacity of the MNLF because that is not part of my mandate but I am stressing that I am confident with the government and the MILF’s commitment to the peace agreement,” he said.
The IMT has not recorded any ceasefire violations for the year 2012.
“The numbers indicate a very marked downturn for recent years. I am very gleeful because this is an indication that both the GPH and the MILF are committed to the peace process,” Abdul Rashim said.
IMT recorded 218 ceasefire violations in 2008 and 115 violations in 2009 after the failure of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the MILF. During this period, the IMT also withdrew from Mindanao. When the team was re-established in 2009-2010, ceasefire violations dropped to one in 2010 and 4 in 2011, based on government data.
Misuari on Sunday revealed he is planning to meet with Islamic leaders in the Middle East to raise his issues on the legitimacy of the deal. The MNLF founder claimed that the Framework Agreement betrayed the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that were signed by the MNLF with the Philippine government.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang respects Misuari’s plan to take his cause to the Middle East but he noted the presence of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) during the signing of the Framework Agreement.
“I think ‘yung nagpunta po rito ng Secretary-General ng OIC is a signal of support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation ((I think the presence of the OIC’s Secretary-General is a signal of support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation). So, I think, that in and of itself shows the keen interest of OIC in having peace Muslim Mindanao,” Lacierda said.
“So it’s his right to do so, Nur Misuari, we cannot… But as far as we are concerned, when we informed through Secretaries (Albert) del Rosario and Ging Deles that we are about to have a framework agreement signed---this was during the United Nations General Assembly on the sidelines of the UN GA--the Secretary-General expressed keen interest. That’s why when we invited him he wholeheartedly agreed to visit and witness the signing. And so in and of itself we find that as a symbolic and a significant support from the OIC,” Lacierda said.
The OIC has called on the MILF and the MNLF to work together through a Bangsamoro Coordination Council. OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has also proposed holding a tripartite meeting among the MNLF, the OIC and the Philippine Government to discuss unresolved issues regarding the 1976 and 1996 Peace Agreements. - Rappler.com