MNLF breaks into 3 factions

MNLF breaks into 3 factions
By Mindanao Examiner 

Abul-Khayr-AlontoMAGUINDANAO – Weeks after he declared himself new chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, Abul Kayr Alonto, whose faction claimed to have replaced Nur Misuari, has publicly thrown his support to the peace process between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been fighting for decades for self-determination in the restive southern region of the Philippines.

Alonto, who was among the original founding members of the MNLF, also urged Muslims to support the Bangsamoro agreement between the Aquino government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Speaking on a government television late last month, Alonto also said his group is all-out in supporting the peace process and also urged Congress to approve the new political entity called Bangsamoro which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao.

Moro people should unite

“The Moro people want to set their house in order but how can they set their house in order when the very key to their own hands is not in their own hands. And the sad part is that the people who want to govern them do not even speak the language that the people to be governed speak. Ito na po ang key and I believe the taught by my grandfather was saying that the key is not in their hands, the key now is the framework basic law that we look forward to that will be approved by Congress or through Constitutional amendment, please do so, let’s do it so that we can unite and spare the future generation of a war of aggression,” Alonto said.

“I will look forward that when the establishment of this government we can have a full fiscal autonomy we can budget what we need, all these revenues coming from our resources just to catch up with the nation must be used for a free education, free health and free shelter para po ang inyong kawawang samba-yanang Moro sa timogan Pilipinas ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon to set their house in order and establish a place in the sun for their children and children to be,” he added.

MNLF still loyal to Misuari

But majority of the MNLF is still loyal to Misuari, although he was deposed in 2000 by his senior officials headed by his Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussin – who along with veteran rebel leaders headed by Muslimen Sema, the front’s secretary general – who made up the so-called Council of 15.

Hussin, who eventually became governor of the Muslim autonomous region, was also deposed several years later after the Council of 15, disgruntled at his leadership, put back Misuari as head of the MNLF in 2007.

But Sema and majority of the MNLF leaders ousted Misuari again in 2008 for lack of trust and confidence. Sema’s group previously appointed Misuari as chairman emeritus, but he rejected the position and insisted he is the sole chairman of the MNLF.

Sema has not issued any public statement about Alonto’s declaration.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region and Sema’s group accused him of being an incompetent leader.

And despite the peace accord, Misuari said there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted. Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the South, and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines where he was jailed and eventually released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for his support to her election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

But Misuari’s fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu province even while under detention, but lost.

In September 2013, Mis-uari’s group again launched deadly attacks in Zamboanga City that sparked three weeks of deadly street battles that killed and wounded over 400 people, and left over 130,000 without homes following the burning of several Muslim villages. Misuari remains in hiding following the attacks.

Divide and conquer

But Misuari’s leaders and allies have accused the Aquino government, particularly peace adviser Teresita Deles as behind the rift among MNLF leaders.

Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, also served under Arroyo and Reynaldo Reyes, a key supporter of Misuari, also accused her as behind Alonto’s move to grab the leadership of the MNLF.

“OPAPP Secretary Deles, who served also under the Arroyo regime, had a hand on creating the so-called 15- member MNLF-EC (Executive Committee) group under (Cotabato City) ex-Vice Mayor Muslimen Sema to divide both the MNLF leadership and freedom fighters and to discredit MNLF Chair Nur Misuari. Now she is again creating another MNLF group using MNLF surrenderees-turned-politicians headed by Abul Khayr Alonto to neutralise Chairman Misuari and to be used by the Aquino regime to deceive both the Filipino and Bangsamoro communities as well as humanity that the new version autonomous government labelled Bangsamoro is the key to ‘just and lasting peace’ in Mindanao,” Reyes told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

“Logically, how can it be the solution to the Mindanao war when the Aquino regime is only negotiating with one splintered group of the MNLF? Can OPPAP hide the truth and hoodwink the people that the mainstream MNLF under Chair Misuari and BIFM (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement) under Ustaj Umbra Amiril Katu are not now waging the freedom struggle of the oppressed Bangsamoro people of Filipino-colonised Mindanao to regain complete independence and national self-determination?” he asked.

There was no immediate statement either from the Aquino government or Deles about the accusations. Manila and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27 at the Presidential Palace after 17 long years of arduous negotiations. (Mindanao Examiner)

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