Muslims, Christians to stage protests vs gov’t-MILF deal


Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 18:21:00 08/03/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–Muslims and Christians in the Southern Philippines have assailed the “landmark deal” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks to expand Moro autonomy in Mindanao.

None other than Sultan Esmail Kiram, the heir of Sultanate of Sulu, expressed disgust over what he called government’s insensitive action of offering the areas which have been part of the ancestral domain of Sultanate of Sulu, to the MILF without prior consultation.

“I feel really very bad. What we know prior to the agreement, the MILF was claiming ancestral land somewhere in Central Mindanao. The government committed a very drastic move by offering areas, including our ancestral domain which, unfortunately, the MILF approved,” Kiram said in an interview.

“Ano ba talaga ang aim ng Philippine government, papag-awayin ang mga Muslim at Kristyano dito sa Mindanao? [What is the true aim of the Philippine government? Get the Muslims and Christians to fight each other?] Do they want us here to fight each other over ancestral domain?” Kiram said.

Kiram said he had nothing against the MILF. “We support them, but for Allah’s sake, no one has full authority to seek historical rights or encroaching over it,” Kiram said about the impending agreement on ancestral domain.

In a press conference on Saturday night, Sheikh Abdul Wakil Tanjil, deputy mufti for Western Mindanao and executive director of Salamat Islamic Institute, also questioned the memorandum of agreement (MOA).

Tanjil said even the Sultanate of Sulu, which “has all the rights for Ancestral Domain claim, respected certain territories.”

“People have the right to be consulted before agreeing and signing any deal,” he said.

Datu Albi Julkarnain, chair of the Council of Royal Datus, said the MOA on ancestral domain would “encroach in areas supposedly under the Sultanate.”

Kiram and the other Muslim leaders said they would support the protest action in Zamboanga City on Monday, a day before the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said he was expecting thousands of residents, not just from this city but as well as from neighboring towns and provinces, to join the protest action to “dramatize our opposition to the inclusion in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (JBE).”

Spearheaded by Lobregat, the protest rally will coincide with the city’s formal filing of a case before the Supreme Court.

The case seeks for a stop to the signing of the proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The rally will be the first since the mass protest in 2001 when residents, then led by Celso’s mother, the late Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat, also marched on the streets expressing their opposition to the proposal to include Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the transition government for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“We, Christians and Muslims alike, have spoken and resoundingly voted against this,” Lobregat said.

Idjirani likened the MOA to modern colonization.

“Before Mindanao or the Philippines was colonized by foreigners. Now Muslim counterparts, not foreigners, are colonizing our own people,” he said.

Ustadz Shariff Mohsin Julabbi, chairman of the MILF in Western Mindanao, objected to the idea of giving parts of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi to the MILF.

“I am an official of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I am a spiritual leader. Now I can say that those agreeing to the territories given by the government are not MILF like me, they are Maguindanaoan Iranon Liberation Front,” Julabbi said.

Julabbi was referring to the MILF leaders who belong to the Maguindanao and Iranon Muslim tribes.

Citing the Quran, Julabbi said no one had the sole right to own a place except to take care of the resources.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE. There are Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon.

Covered by the BJE are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

Teresita Sebastian, vice chair of the Mindanao Business Conference and regional governor of the Zamboanga Peninsula Philippine Chamber of Commerce, said the BJE would be “divisive and only sow confusion among the people.”

“When we were young, we did not highlight the differences in us. We looked at the commonalities and appreciated it. With this ongoing development, we are now seeing differently. The government should have done something to make people meet and see on common ground, not further divide them,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian said the business community did not deal with people based on differences. “We engage actively in business not because they are Muslims, Christians or Lumads [indigenous peoples]. In fact, our co-existence is not just mere toleration, but appreciation.”

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, assured that they would uphold the rights of people, particularly Christians, upon signing a deal with government.

“We are not barbaric. We guarantee that we will respect their rights. While we are in Islamic State, we will still follow a democratic form of government,” Kabalu said.

“We are asking the people of Mindanao to widen their thinking and not to entertain selfish desires. The past administrations tried but failed to address the Bangsamoro problem. Now, the agreement we will sign in Malaysia on August 5 will not benefit the people of Mindanao but the entire nation,” he added.

Despite Kabalu’s appeal for an open mind, protests will be held in various parts of Mindanao, including Iligan City on Monday.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the protest action would be their way of expressing their opposition to the inclusion of eight upland villages in the proposed BJE.

The Iligan City villages that were included in the proposed BJE are Rogongon, Panoroganan, Mainit, Dulag, Lanipao, Kalilangan, Hindang and Diigkilaan.

Cruz said these villages have been engaged in agricultural food production.

“Why should we be included again in another referendum when Iligan City twice rejected the move to include the city in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?” Cruz asked.

“We are not against the peace process nor are we against the expansion of the ARMM. However, we cannot allow divisions to destroy the harmonious relationship among Muslims, Christians and lumad,” Cruz added.

In North Cotabato, Vice Governor Manny Piñol said they would stage protests on Tuesday, the day of the MOA signing.

Reports from Julie S. Alipala, Richel V. Umel, Aquiles Zonio and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

One Response to “Muslims, Christians to stage protests vs gov’t-MILF deal”

  1. qwerty Says:

    style ni gloria ito for constitutional change, para ma extend ang term nya

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: