On March 18, 2014, in commemoration of the 1968 Jabidah Massacre, members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who claim to be “the pioneer members” headed by Vice Chair Abul Khayr Alonto released a one-page “declaration of unity” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which was signed earlier, on March 3.
The signatories to this declaration are said to be the pioneer members (and hence, mainstream) of the MNLF. This is mainly because of the fact that they belong to the top 90 and top 300 Freedom Fighters or the first two batches of the MNLF that went abroad (i.e. Malaysia and Middle East) for military training.
In the previous months after the Zamboanga Siege of last year, Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University had been monitoring the series of meetings of the MNLF-Misuari faction. A consultative meeting was conducted last October 5 and 6, 2013 in Barangay Waan, Davao City. The said consultative meeting had Vice Chair Jimmy Labawan as the presiding officer and in attendance were Atty. Bong Parcasio, former mayor Omar Solitario, Randy Karon, and MNLF members and officers coming from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi Tawi areas.
A copy of the minutes of the meeting was distributed to concerned Bangsamoro advocates and Mindanawon peace advocates.
In the minutes of the meeting the following were the key issues that the MNLF discussed: a.) Organizational Leadership, Consolidation/unity; b.) Peace Process (Implementation of Peace Agreement/Tripartite Review) c.) Peace, Development & Security d. Engaging with GPH, Civilian authority, Military.
It was clear among the participants, as reiterated by Vice Chair Jimmy Labawan, that they will not create another faction of the MNLF.
Other meetings were also held attended by officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process who were able to hear the sentiments of the MNLF Misuari faction.
Many groups and peace advocates of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) welcome this “declaration of unity”. It gives us the strong impression that Muslim Filipinos and Bangsamoro people are united in working for peace and development in the region. It also gives hope that peace is within our reach and that the many years of conflict will soon be over.
However, questions remain unanswered. The declaration hints at a grand design of making all sectors, all Muslim Filipinos, and people under the proposed Bangasmoro territory, to get ready for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which is scheduled on March 27, 2014. The CAB is the final peace agreement to be signed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. It includes the Framework Agreement, the Four Annexes, and the important documents pertaining to water boundaries.
Yet, why use the specific identity-ridden epithet “Moro Malay Muslims in the Philippines” in the entire declaration? Why insist on using the exclusive word “Moro” as an identity marker? How was “Malay” used in conjunction with the more seemingly territorial word “Philippines”?
The Al Qalam Institute has time and again insisted the need to see the different identities and layers of different peoples in Mindanao and specifically in the ARMM which include the indigenous peoples (IPs) and the “settlers”.
We also stress the need to make this proposed “Bangsa” as inclusive as possible, to include not just the Moro but also the indigenous peoples like the Teduray, Manobo and Subanen who trace their genealogy to the same ancestors as the Islamized ethnic groups or “Moro”.
Also, putting all the blame on Nur Misuari does not solve the problems of the Bangsamoro people. It isolates more people who are also peace advocates that belong to the Misuari faction. The 1996 Peace Accord gave us a chance to organize several CSOs and NGOs coming from the MNLF combatants who are now active peace and development advocates in their respective PDCs.
The local and international agencies and nongovernment organizations have an obligation to conduct thorough discernment on the processes that we are applying in the peace agreement with the MILF. We do support the CAB. But we cannot make the peace process a one-shot deal leaving many doubts, wounds open, and a play on politics for the 2016 elections.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Qun Faya Qun means “‘Be! and it is”. When Allah (subhanwatala) thinks of anything that He wants to create, He just says Qun Faya Qun and the things come into existence. Mussolini Lidasan, an Iranun from Maguindanao, is executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, based at the Ateneo de Davao University where he is also pursuing his MA Anthropology. For questions/feedback please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)