COTABATO CITY, Philippines — After questioning the declaration of independence of Mindanao by Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari, Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Saturday said all of the town mayors and five provincial governors in the region have remained loyal to the Constitution.
Hataman said the 116 mayors in the ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi were not affected by what he described as the unconstitutional act of Misuari, chairman of one of the three factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“All the elected officials of the region do not recognize Misuari’s declaration and they remain supportive of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Hataman told reporters Saturday.
In the same breath, the regional governor said all Moro leaders were supportive of President Aquino’s efforts to complete the tripartite review of the peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front.
“All the leaders are looking forward to a successful completion of the GPH-MILF peace talks,” Hataman said, adding that the police and military authorities in ARMM have been closely watching the movements of the MNLF, especially on the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Early this week, Misuari reportedly “declared” in Sulu the independence of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan with Davao City as its seat of power.
Misuari had been rattling about the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, claiming it was a product of conspiracy between Manila, the MILF and Malaysia aimed at downplaying the Sabah issue.
Former Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the biggest MNLF faction, refused to comment on Misuari’s declaration.
But in previous interviews in the face of the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, Sema had repeatedly stressed that the MNLF has not turned its back on the 1996 final peace agreement.
The Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said the Aquino government has committed to fulfill the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that the Ramos government entered into with the MNLF in 1996.
In a statement, OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena said the government would not abrogate or abandon the Agreement, as it would continue engaging positively with the Misuari-led MNLF.
“The Aquino administration has always engaged the MNLF since 2010 and will continue to do so under the existing mechanism as we have conveyed to the OIC-PCSP (Organization of Islamic Cooperation – Peace Committee for Southern Philippines),” he said.
Lorena said Misuari and his contingent have always been invited as they were “present in the Tripartite Implementation Review meetings and other related gatherings over the past three years.”
The government, MNLF, and the OIC have been engaging in a tripartite review of the implementation of the final peace agreement since 2007. The review process is being facilitated by the OIC-PSCP, which is chaired by Indonesia.
“As far as the GPH (Government of the Philippines) is concerned, we are not aware of any reason for them to claim that government has abandoned them. Our aim has always been to complete the Tripartite Implementation Review so that we can move forward with concrete actions towards the development of MNLF communities, which we have already started,” he pointed out.
“We encourage Mr. Misuari to be a partner in ensuring the welfare of MNLF communities and actively engage with us in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will include the agenda of the MNLF,” he added.
Peace Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles earlier clarified that the government’s main objective in pushing for the completion of the tripartite review was to start the implementation process for the consensus points and mechanisms that the parties agreed on.
“We have already informed the OIC through the chair and members of the [Peace Committee for Southern Philippines chaired by Indonesia] that we think it is time to draw a conclusion to the review process,” she said.