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MNLF and MILF as states

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(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) Having been officially recognized by the Republic of the Philippines and the international community as belligerent armed organizations, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Fronts are already states whose political status enjoys the same distinction as any independent and sovereign country. While they are still in a state of war against the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the existing ceasfire agreements, they  can carry on their  governmental affairs and operations within their defined and controlled territoriaL jurisdiction just like any independent and sovereign nation as long as they strictly adhere to and uphold the terms and conditions of the truce pacts they forged.

With respect to the MILF, at any point in time, it is at liberty to terminate its peace negotiations with the GPH for the establishment of a New Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) if all it wants is the status of statehood which has already been attained wihin the areas it exercises effective operational control. As long as it does not violate the existing ceasefire agreements with the Republic of the Philippines, it can continue to exercise the governmental powers, rights, obligations, duties, and perform  all the essential functions and activities needed for its peaceful statehood existence with full guarantee of protection under the pertinent and applicable internatinal laws governing states engaged in war.

This is actually the present case of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which still exists and will continue to exist as a belligerent state even  after the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be abolished and replaced by the proposed New Bangsamoro Political Entity (BJE) as mutually agreed by the MILF and GPH Peace Panels in pursuit of genuine, lasting, and sustainable peace and the development in Mindanao and Sulu. However, the dissolution or abolition of the ARMM by act of Philippine Congress does not affect the belligerent statehood of the MNLF.

In my layman’s point of view, there are five (5) ways by which a belligerent organization can lose its statehood staus, namely (1) on its own accord, dissolves itself and renounces its belligerent status (2) voluntarily surrenders to the state with which it is at war and pledges allegiance to its government, constitution, and flag, (3 total military defeat by the state it is at war with, (4) self-destruction due to incapicity to sustain its existence or mass defection of members (combat troops) to other belligerent organizations, and (5) it enters into a treaty or agreement of peace for its incorpation or integration into the body politic of the state it is at war with under certain mutually acceptable and beneficial terms and conditions.

For as long as the MNLF and the MILF maintain their hard-line position and institutional determination to uphold their bellierent status, they cannot be forced to come under the ambit of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and be subject to its supremacy and applicability.

As diplomatically expressed, the MILF wants a bigger area  of national territory for the BJE which includes places  over which it does not have effective operational control, most particularly the territory in Mindanao and Sulu which was constituted  as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by virtue of an Organic Law enacted by Philippine Congress for such purpose  to address the revolutionary struggle for self-determination led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the Chairmanship of Prof. Nur P. Misuari.

This geographical overlap or superimposition could pose a formidable obstacle to overcome by both the GPH and MILF Peace Panels since such territory had been set aside specifically for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) pursuant to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 under President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Final Peace Agreement during the Presidency of Fidel Ramos, and finally in actual implementation of Republic Act 9054, the Organc Act in 1989 enacted during Corazon C. Aquino’s administration.

The situation is made more complicated and contentious by the fact that the MNLF has remained a belligerent state up to the present with rights and political status equal to any indepedent and sovereign state.  Adding more intricacies and obstacles to the present on- going peace negotoations between the MILF and the GPH, are the royal heirs, traditional leaders, and adherents of the two ancient Sultanates who by right of blood and ancestry still claim to possess de jure sovereignty and proprietary ownership of these two ancient monarchies but have not been principally involved in the Peace Process. And what about the Lumads, where will they be in the future political realities of Mindanao and Sulu?




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