The signing of peace accord by the Philippine government with MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is still met with apprehension by some peace advocates, if the framework agreement really works for a lasting peace in Mindanao.
This is not the first time the Philippine government has entered an agreement with a rebel group. In 1996, during the time of President Fidel Ramos it has embarked for a Final Peace Agreement with MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) led by Nur Misuari a Tausog from Sulu archipelago, only to find out that it has to deal later on with the splinter group from the MNLF, the MILF led by Hashim Salamat from Maguindanao of mainland Mindanao.
The peace accord with MNLF has led to the establishment of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that consists of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
While Misuari’s MNLF went on to sign a peace accord with the then Ramos government, Salamat’s MILF would go on their armed struggle, occupying huge camps in central Mindanao.
Prior to the breakaway, Salamat served as vice chairman of Misuari in the MNLF until 1978 when he and other fighters broke away from the group to form the MILF.
Misuari had wanted a politically oriented campaign while Salamat was pressing for more radical action to create a purely Islamic state.
Salamat however, admitted that there was an ethnic angle involved as well. Misuari’s MNLF had been dominated by members of his tribe, the Tausogs, while Salamat and his followers were mainly from the Maranao tribe of Lanao and Maguindanaoan tribe of Cotabato.
Peace advocates are apprehensive if the MNLF and MILF could form an alliance for a lasting peace in Mindanao that would set aside their ideological differences and ethnic animosities after the government has forged peace with them.
“The MNLF is a political organization and it depends on the MILF if it wants to build alliances with the MNLF and we’re hoping that they do,” Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel said.
The MNLF headed by Nur Misuari earlier denounced the Framework Agreement by the Philippine government with MILF, saying it is tantamount to abandoning the Tripoli Agreement and the Final Peace Agreement.
Leonen, for his part, divulged there are ongoing talks between the MILF and some groups from the MNLF for possible alliance with the Bangsamoro.
While it is true that the government has tackled the two major rebel groups into its fold, local and foreign terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah are still on the rampage and capable in carrying out threats and terrorism activities disturbing the tranquility of Mindanao.