Maguindanao is next to host another round of a cross-section, Mindanao-wide consultation on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro following Tuesday’s public dialogue in Sulu province. Leaders of the supposedly rivals Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attended the dialogue in Jolo, capital town of Sulu, which was organized by Hadji Sakur Tan, incumbent governor of the island province. Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council, said the planned Jan. 12, 2013 gathering of sectoral representatives from across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in his hometown, Buluan, is a “follow up” to the Dec. 4 consultation in Jolo. “We shall also be inviting representatives of the local religious, political and non-Muslim indigenous communities outside of ARMM,” Mangudadatu said. Mangudadatu said the Maguindanao provincial peace and order council will start organizing next week the Jan. 12 event, along with the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, the MILF’s ceasefire committee, ARMM Gov.
Mujiv Hataman and the region’s police director, Chief Supt. Mario Avenido. Hataman and peace activist Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, both said they will jointly support extensively the conduct of another regional dialogue in Buluan, after Tuesday’s successful dialogue in Jolo. Mercado is a convenor of more than 50 peace advocacy groups in Central Mindanao that help push the southern peace process forward. Thousands attended Tuesday’s first regional dialogue at Sulu’s provincial gymnasium, which the founder of the MNLF, Nur Misuari, and Thoks Ebrahim of the MILF, both attended.
Mangudadatu, in an emailed statement, said they are to invite to the Jan. 12 dialogue all members of the MILF’s central committee, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, government peace negotiators, leaders of the Christian and Muslim religious communities in the ARMM and neighboring administrative regions. Mangudadatu said he will request the mayor of Maguindanao’s North Upi town, Ramon Piang, an ethnic Teduray timuay (chieftain) to help organize leaders of indigenous communities in Central Mindanao into big group to attend the dialogue in Buluan.
Mercado, director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance based in Cotabato City, said it is important to ensure the maximum participation of indigenous people to the framework agreement dialogue in Maguindanao. “These communities are very old communities in Mindanao. They have their own sets of customary laws and they also govern their communities by themselves. These groups are also stakeholders to the Mindanao peace process,” said Mercado, whose peace-building projects are being assisted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany. Mercado said Mangudadatu should also invite leaders of the ARMM’s business communities to the forthcoming FAB dialogue.
Hataman said he will order his newly appointed local government secretary, lawyer Makmod Mending, Jr., and Bainon Karon, who is the ARMM’s social welfare secretary, to help Mangudadatu organize the dialogue. Mending has ministerial powers over the ARMM’s more than 100 towns, five provinces and two cities. “We have been seeing the outpouring of support for FAB (Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro) from local executives in the ARMM since the agreement was signed by the GPH and MILF panels in Malacañang last month,” Hataman said.
Karon, who is also the ARMM’s regional vice governor, is a senior member of the MNLF, which was still a monolithic revolutionary group when it signed a peace pact with the national government on September 2, 1996, but split into at least three factions while Misuari was governor of ARMM from 1996 to 2001. The MNLF’s largest, most politically active faction, led by Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, is not opposed to the planned Jan. 12 dialogue. Sema’s group and the MILF have “common strongholds” in many parts of Maguindanao. The MILF’s largest enclave in Southern Philippines, Camp Darapanan, is located in Sultan Kudarat municipality in the first district of Maguindanao. Maguindanao and several towns in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, were badly affected by the MILF-military hostilities in 2000, when President Joseph Estrada declared an “all out war” against the rebel group, and subsequently in 2003 and 2008.