The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has threatened to declare independence in the war-stricken region of Mindanao if the government fails to implement provisions of a peace agreement signed by the Moro group and the government 11 years ago.
(kuha mula sa:jamalashley.files.wordpress.com/
In an interview with ANC, MNLF spokesman Almarim Tillah said Muslims in the country will support an attempt by the MNLF to secede if the provisions in the peace agreement are not implemented.
“We have been tricked since day one, walang lokohan (Let’s not deceive each other); if you want this country not to rebel anymore, please give us justice. That simple justice is the implementation of the peace agreement of Sept. 2, 1996,” Tillah said.
“As long as the Muslims in the South are not given the justice due them, we are entitled to divorce in Islam. We’ll go for independence. I want to say it very clearly here in no unmistakable terms; the Muslims in this country are prepared to go independent if this government, in this political administration, and those before and even in the forthcoming administration in 2010 will not give us justice. We will now go for independence," he added.
(kuha mula sa: Battle of Bud Bagsak Jolo, Sulo, June, 1913 / www.wilsonsalmanac.com/
The MNLF fought the government for decades until the 1996 agreement. In late 2004, MNLF members fought with troops on Jolo demanding their leader Nur Misuari be freed from jail and scores were killed on both sides.
The Philippine Army has said about 100 rebels from the Abu Sayyaf and a rogue faction of the MNLF were believed to be involved in last week's clash that killed 25 soldiers and at least 31 rebels.
The fighting which broke out on Thursday morning is the heaviest in the volatile Philippine south for almost three years, but the military said it suspended operations at daybreak on Friday following a request from the provincial governor. The MNLF said its members were involved and that it had asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference to help stop the fighting.
"We informed the OIC of the current situation through e-mails and a fax direct to Jeddah," said Hatimil Hassan, the MNLF deputy head and an elected member of the regional legislative assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Tillah said the Bangsamoro people have waited for more than a decade for the realization of the peace accord. He added that some members of President Arroyo’s Cabinet do not want to talk peace. (kuha mula sa:American Soldiers with Moro Datus- 1901-1902 / http://www.mnlf.net/History/Photo_Archives.htm)
“There are elements in this government that do not want peace in the South. They are anti-peace. They do not want Muslims to take off. We do not need this government for our sustenance in the Muslim areas. We have all the rich and vast resources,” he said.
He said the problem with the government is their "military formula" in Muslim dominated areas. He said that since the time of Spanish rule, government troops were always stationed in Mindanao to quell Muslim forces from uprising.
He said increased military offensives against Moro rebels in Mindanao would create a "no-win situation" for both sides.
In a separate interview, Tillah said the best formula in addressing the Muslim problem is effective socio-economic delivery of services. He said that there has not been any national policy for the Muslims since the peace agreement was signed.
“This is the Bangsamoro policy, we don’t have it until today. I was hoping this peace agreement that was signed and to be implemented can now be consolidated to be the core reference point for coming up with a policy for the Muslims in this country,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
He said that this would be urgent to prevent the "on again, off again" eruption of hostilities. He described the situation as counterproductive and would lead to more loss of lives.
He said normal trade in the region cannot continue because some farmers and fishermen could not even harvest their produce after abandoning areas affected by military offensives.
He said the government should consider releasing Misuari to work on the drafting of the Bangsamoro policy. Misuari is facing criminal charges for leading an insurrection in Jolo, Sulu in 2001. With Paolo Capino, Reuters