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A lesson from the MNLF Peace Treaty

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One of the vital concerns that had been evaded like plague by the peace negotiators in the Philippine conflicts is the issue of disarmament.  The absence of mechanisms that mandate the surrender and destruction of weapons is what makes peace treaty like one signed by the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, a mere palliative instrument that will soon be violated.

The MNLF-RP peace treaty is a classic example.  Void of any edict that would provide for relinquishment of arms, the military and political components of the moribund MNLF forces were virtually resuscitated.  The MNLF, under the leadership of Nur Misuari, ruled the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao like its own fiefdom.  The governments spent billions of pesos, excluding direct aids from the organization of Islamic Countries, to develop ARMM.  But sadly, as we all know, the money went to graft and corruption, to a bloated ARMM chairman Misuari who is a fighter and a visionary but he miserably lacked the quality to govern.  He was abused by his own men who biked the autonomous government and the corporations which were placed under the ARMM’s wing.

The ARMM government was a virtual failure.  Misuari’s convenient excuse was that the Tripoli Agreement was not implemented in full.  The truth was he had it in excesses.  This led to factionalism and, again, the call to secede from the Philippine Republic.  The Executive Committee of the MNLF virtually dislodged Misuari and ARMM voted a more moderate leader, Dr. Parouk Hussin, to replace him.  A breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, resumed its belligerency dug up their military arsenals and waged war against the government, mass hostaging of civilians, and vicious destruction of government and private installations to name a few.  The MILF established military camps in various places in Mindanao and call these their territories.  But then, these were demolished in an all-out-war waged by the Estrada administration.  In the aftermath, both sides call for cessation of hostilities and then negotiate for a peace settlement.

There are other side issues, among them MILF strategic alliances with terrorist elements like the New People’s Army and extension of sanctuaries to Al Qaeda’s Jemaah Islamiyah.  But these are other breaches which require a separate thesis.

Armed conflicts in Muslim Mindanao will never stop unless arms and ammunitions will remain in the armory of the separatist elements and leaders of tribal clans in Mindanao.  It will take time before the Sharia courts will be respected as the legal arbiters in the local conflicts.  The armed uprising of the Misuari loyalists, the emergence of another separatist guerillas and the massacre of clan members will not stop with just another piece of paper that mandates the truce between the MILF and the government.  The members of the OIC who are here to observe the implementation of the peace treaty ought to take cognizance of the fact if there was terribly wrong with the Tripoli Peace Agreement and the present peace negotiation between the government and the MILF is the absence of disarmament agenda.  Having firearms maybe part of culture for some but it has no place in a culture of peace.  Especially when these are RPGs, M-60, bazookas, armalites, grenades and guided missiles.

By Menardo Wenceslao




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