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Ex-MNLF commander rallies support for PH-MILF peace deal

/ 08:30 PM October 14, 2012

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong. Photo from congress.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines—A former Moro National Liberation Front commander believes there is no reason for the group to feel slighted by the government’s drafting of a framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, saying their respective peace agreements with the state both contribute to securing the future of war-torn areas in Mindanao.

Sulu Representative Tupay Loong, who used to be with the MNLF, also appealed to MNLF leader Nur Misuari to give the new framework agreement a chance.

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The latest agreement would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous region that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Loong said the framework agreement with the MILF should not be perceived as disregarding the 1996 peace deal with Misuari’s group, since the MILF pact would complement the MNLF peace settlement in 1996 and would fill in the gaps that it had not addressed. The 1996 deal had not resolved all of the problems in Muslim Mindanao, he pointed out.

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“[The framework agreement] should not be perceived as setting aside the MNLF agreement. The concerns of the MILF that were not part of the MNLF agreement are what were tackled in this new deal,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

He added that the importance of the MNLF’s 1996 peace deal would stand.

“There will be no framework agreement without the previous agreement. So this framework agreement will add to what was already being done, to improve the previous agreement. The ultimate goal is really for the welfare of Filipino Muslims in the country,” he said.

Misuari earlier said the framework agreement was illegal and violated the 1996 peace deal and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. He threatened to sue the government in the International Court of Justice and rejected offers to sit in the Transition Commission that would draft the basic law for the creation of the Bangsamoro.

The government’s peace negotiators earlier said the MNLF was not being left out in the peace talks with its rival group and that the government has been working with them to ensure an “all inclusive” peace process.

Loong does not think that there was any intention on the part of the government to brush off the deal with Misuari’s group when it struck a new agreement with the MILF.

“What the MILF is trying to advocate in the government is just to improve the system of governance and to expand the areas of autonomy,” he said.

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Misuari, as well as everybody else, should let the new deal work to bring about the peace it promises, according to Loong, who also chairs the House committee on Muslim Affairs.

“There is no basis for any group to disturb this because the government’s intention is to really address peace and order problems in the Muslim community so that the Muslim region can also catch up with the developments in the other regions,” Loong said.

He also said many people in Muslim Mindanao have long been tired of strife and have long wanted to live under “peace, unity, and development.”

Loong said that as a former MNLF commander who has been with the government, he has come to realize that violence is not the solution to many problems.

“I think we have to realize that development cannot be accomplished through the barrel of the gun. It’s enough that the sound of the guns was already recognized by the government as a demonstration of our sentiment. So it has happened, the sounds of guns have passed. Let us not repeat it since it has been discussed already,” he said.

“We have to sit down now and discuss all possibilities to give peace a chance,” Loong added.

Meanwhile, other Mindanao lawmakers, including the non-Muslim ones, are in high spirits anticipating the signing of the framework agreement on Monday.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez have vowed support for the new peace deal, which they hope would put an end to the fighting in Mindanao. They also praised the President, calling him a “true brother of Mindanao.”

Rufus Rodriguez said the signing, which he would attend, would be an emotional experience.

“This will spur full economic development on the entire island and liberate Muslims, Lumads and Christians from poverty,” he added.

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TAGS: framework agreement, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, Nur Misuari, peace negotiations, peace process, Peace Talks, Philippine Government, Philippines, Rufus Rodriguez, Tupay Loong
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