Review of GRP-MNLF Peace Pact a Long-Standing MNLF Demand

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF is set to be reviewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few days. The MNLF said it has been demanding such review of the said pact for several years.

Vol. VII, No. 40, November 11-17, 2007

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is set to be reviewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few days as announced by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in a press conference last week. The MNLF said it has been demanding such review of the said pact for several years.

“Even before the establishment of the Expanded ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), which (was) established by virtue of Republic Act No. 9054, the MNLF and the Bangsamoro people asked the government to consider a thorough review of the Peace Agreement, especially in its implementation,” said Ustadz Morshid Ibrahim, MNLF secretary-general, in a phone interview with Bulatlat. “When we were still in the (original) ARMM, we had asked the GRP to conduct a comprehensive and honest review of the proposed bill submitted by the government before Congress.”

Created on Aug. 1, 1989 through RA 6734, the original ARMM covered the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao. The ARMM was officially inaugurated on Nov. 6, 1990 in Cotabato City, which was designated as its capital.

The GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement provides among other things for amendments to or the repeal of RA 6734. It was specifically provided that amendments to or the repeal of RA 6734 would be initiated within the period 1996-1997, after which the amendatory law would be submitted to a plebiscite or referendum in the original ARMM provinces as well as in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sarangani and Palawan and the cities of Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, lligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Zamboanga and Puerto Princesa.

In the plebiscite held in November 2001 – less than eight months after RA 9054 lapsed into law without President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signature, in accordance with the Constitution – only Marawi City and Basilan (except Isabela City) elected to be part of the expanded ARMM.

“We wanted that the bill would actually reflect the entirety of the Peace Agreement,” Ibrahim added. “But unfortunately the voice of the Bangsamoro people was not heard instead the government came up with a unilateral and arbitrary act, without consulting the parties concerned like the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and the MNLF.”

Issues related to the implementation of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement had been a source of tension between the two camps.

Earlier this year, MNLF fighters led by Ustadz Habier Malik “detained” a group led by Muslim convert Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino in Jolo, Sulu.

Dolorfino, who also uses the name Ben Muhammad, went with Undersecretary for Peace Ramon Santos and 13 others to the MNLF’s Camp Jabal Ubod in Panamao, Sulu in the morning of Feb. 2 to talk with MNLF representatives headed by Malik. The group included two colonels, a junior officer, nine enlisted men, and several members of Santos’ staff.

The talks were to tackle the holding of a tripartite meeting, proposed late last year by the MNLF, with the GRP and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

The tripartite meeting was to address issues related to the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, and Malik’s group was protesting its repeated postponement by the GRP.

In the afternoon of that same day, Dolorfino and his group were prevented from leaving the camp, and were only released after agreeing with Malik and his men on a schedule for the tripartite meeting.

The tripartite meeting scheduled for March 17 this year was yet again postponed, and to make matters worse two grandsons of MNLF state chairman Khaid Ajibon were fired upon by soldiers while on an errand in the market of Indanan, Sulu on Feb. 17. This was followed by a bombardment of Ajibon’s headquarters, also in Indanan, and a massacre in Patikul.

The MNLF retaliated and in the wave of fighting that took place, more than 80,000 were displaced.

1996 Peace Agreement, Phase I

“Most of the controversies and differences of opinion between the government and the MNLF are with respect to Phase I of the Agreement,” Ibrahim explained to Bulatlat.

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