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

Signed on Sept. 2, 1996, the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement provides among other things for the organization of MNLF forces to be integrated into the AFP into separate units. This is covered in Phase I of the Final Peace Agreement, which provides that:

“a. Five thousand seven hundred fifty (5,750) MNLF members shall be integrated into the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP), 250 of whom shall be absorbed into the auxiliary services. The government shall exert utmost efforts to establish the necessary conditions that would ensure the eventual integration of the maximum number of the remaining MNLP forces into the Special Regional Security Force (SRSF) and other agencies and instrumentalities of the government There shall be a special socio-economic, cultural and educational program to cater to MNLF forces not absorbed into the AFP PNP and the SRSF to prepare them and their families for productive endeavors, provide for educational, technical skills and livelihood training and give them priority for hiring in development projects.

“b. In the beginning, the MNLF forces will join as units distinct from AFP units. They will be initially organized into separate units within a transition period, until such time that mutual confidence is developed as the members of these separate-units will be gradually integrated into regular AFP units deployed in the area of autonomy. Subjects to existing laws, policies, rules and regulations, and approbate authorities shall waive the requirements and qualifications for entry of MNLF forces into the AFP.

“c. One from among the MNLF will assume the functions and responsibilities of a Deputy Commander of the Southern Command AFP, for separate units that will be organized out of the MNLF forces joining the AFP. The Deputy Commander will assist the Commander of the Southern Command AFP in the command, administration and control of such separate units throughout the aforementioned transition period. The Deputy Commander will he given an appointment commensurate to his position and shall be addressed as such.”

The organization of the MNLF forces joining the AFP into separate units, which was specifically agreed upon, never took place.

“The Agreement actually calls for the establishment of separate military units,” Ibrahim said. “But what the government did is the opposite.”

Worse, the AFP has over the past six years engaged in what MNLF vice chairman Jimmy Labawan described as “provocative actions” that have forced the MNLF to retaliate.

In October 2001, the military was then in hot pursuit of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who had abducted tourists in Sipadan, Malaysia. At one point they announced the defeat of an “Abu Sayyaf contingent” in Talipao, Sulu.

The massacre in Talipao led the MNLF, just five years after signing a peace agreement with the government, to once more take up arms. According to MNLF leader Nur Misuari, a former political science professor at UP who was then ARMM governor, the Talipao massacre was a “violation” of the 1996 peace agreement.

Misuari, who was then in Malaysia, ended up being arrested and subsequently detained in a military camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (38 kms south of Manila). He is presently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City.

Since October 2001, there has been sporadic fighting between the AFP and the MNLF.

MNLF

The MNLF traces its origins to a massacre of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters recruited by the government in 1968 for a scheme to occupy Sabah, an island near Mindanao to which the Philippines has a historic claim.

Sabah ended up in the hands of the Malaysian government during the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965). His successor Ferdinand Marcos conceived a scheme involving the recruitment of Moro fighters to occupy the island.

The recruits were summarily executed by their military superiors in 1968, in what is now known as the infamous Jabidah Massacre.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the MNLF that same year. The MNLF waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent Muslim state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Moro peoples.

The Marcos government insisted on a plebiscite to settle the coverage of the autonomous government that would be established. The MNLF refused to recognize the results of the plebiscite and peace negotiations bogged down.

GRP-MNLF peace negotiations went on and off until 1996, when the two parties signed a Final Peace Agreement. This same Agreement is slated for review in Jeddah in the next few days.

“Hopefully (the review) would be a good step toward a better understanding and knowledge on the implementation of the Peace Agreement,” Ibrahim said. “Because there is no other effective means to solve the problem than for the contending parties to meet across the negotiating table.” (Bulatlat.com)

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