Armed struggle option remains, Philippine Moro leader tells followers

Davao (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Philippine Moro leader Nur Misuari yesterday told his followers here that armed struggle remained an option for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to advance the cause of the Bangsamoro people even if the MNLF signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

"Armed struggle as an option is always there. But we are committed to our peace advocacy," he said.

Arriving on trucks and in cars, some 7,000 MNLF members in neatly pressed fatigues and supporters, including women in colourful hijabs and children, gathered at Crocodile Park yesterday for a summit called by Misuari.

The summit was held in connection with the framework agreement the government has signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a group that broke away from the MNLF in 1977. The MILF, then headed by Sheik Salamat Hashim, opposed Misuari's acceptance of autonomy under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976.

Amid chants of "Allahu Akbar (God is Great)," Misuari addressed his followers who came from various parts of Mindanao and repeatedly said that the framework agreement was "unacceptable" and could trigger a bigger war on the islands.

"Of course we cannot accept it. It would be another recipe for war," Misuari said.

Threat to '96 peace pact

He added that it was a conspiracy to dilute the gains of the 1996 peace pact, drawing a roar of approval from the crowd.

The creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Misuari said, was one of the fruits of the 1996 agreement but was being threatened by the framework agreement.

Under the framework agreement, the government and the MILF agree to expand the areas covered by the ARMM.

Misuari urged his followers to "do anything to block the conspiracy between the MILF and the Philippine colonisers because this is a complete surrender and a betrayal of the trust of the people."

"Are we going to allow their conspiracy? Certainly, no," he said.

But even as he called on his followers to stop the "conspiracy," Misuari said MNLF members should not immediately resort to violence in their efforts to uphold the interest of the Bangsamoro people.

While Misuari was obviously sabre-rattling over the government-MILF deal, rival factions of the country's communist movement were one in commending the MILF on the agreement, which they described as a landmark.

"The forging of the ... framework agreement is the result of the steadfast efforts of the MILF and the Moro people to attain their aspiration for national self-determination through revolutionary armed struggle and political negotiations," the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement.

Historic moment

In a separate statement, the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Mindanao (RPM-M), a splinter group of the CPP in central Mindanao, said the signing of the framework agreement was a "historic moment in the MILF's quest for the national liberation of its people."

It added that the pact "can be a new phase in our long quest for achieving genuine peace in Mindanao through our consistent and legitimate struggle."

The CPP, however, cautioned the MILF against being taken for a ride by the government, especially since the details on power and wealth-sharing and normalisation were still to be fleshed out.

It warned of the government's supposed "manoeuverings and duplicity" and noted that the framework agreement "heavily favours the reactionary regime and poses dangers to the cause of the Moro people."

The Maoist rebels took issue with the agreement's "dependence on government action."

These actions include the formation of a Transition Commission through an executive order by President Benigno Aquino for its funding, legislation for a Bangsamoro Basic Law and the holding of a plebiscite to ratify the charter for the new entity.

The CPP also reminded the MILF against allowing the government to gain sole control of the Bangsamoro police force.

With a report from Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao



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