MILF Pooh-Poohs Split, Says It Will Present Draft Peace Pact When Talks Resume


By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it is ready for the resumption of peace talks with the Manila government this month even as the front confirmed reports of a split within its ranks.

In a phone interview, Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel, admitted that Ameril Umbra Kato wanted to create a separate military unit but the MILF leadership would not allow it.

“We are resolving the conflict,” Iqbal told Bulatlat.com. “He is accusing the MILF of revisionisn,” Iqbal said, adding that Kato is against any negotiation. “To him, a jihad is all about fighting, the use of arms.”

Kato, a senior MILF military commander, is known to have led the attacks in Mindanao after the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) in 2008.

Iqbal maintained the MILF can achieve its objectives with jihad as the main approach. “Fighting and negotiations are tactics,” Iqbal said. “If the negotiations will not serve the struggle [of the Bangsamoro people], we will fight endlessly.”

Formal talks are scheduled in Malaysia on Feb. 9 and 10.

Agenda

Iqbal said the MILF will present its draft of a “comprehensive compact.” “Essentially, it is a harmonization of the issue of sovereignty and our right to self-determination,” he said, adding it would be in a form of “asymmetrical state-substate relationship.” Iqbal said that the proposal aims to provide powers for the central government and for the substate in Mindanao. There will also be joint jurisdiction over certain matters, he said.

The MILF will also demand the release of 25 MILF political detainees. “They have released the Morong 43, they should also release our detainees,” he said, referring to the 43 health workers arrested in February last year.

Iqbal said they would also want to raise the issue of security and immunity guarantees in the light of the peace talks. He said that the guarantees should not be limited to the members of the panel and must be extended to the MILF leadership.

In September last year, Edward Guerra, a member of the MILF central committee, was arrested at the Davao International Airport. The MILF said Guerra was tortured and is still detained at Camp Bagong Diwa. Key military commanders are also among those detained, Iqbal said. (http://bulatlat.com)

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