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Aquino wary of Moro leader, other peace deal spoilers
Publication Date : 26-01-2014
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he did not consider Nur Misuari, the fugitive founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a “spent force,” as he remained wary of those who would want to spoil the gains of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Yes, I am sure. It could be the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), or it could be some other group. They might be a new group,” the President said when asked in an interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday if there could be people from the MNLF who might be agitated by a peace agreement between government and the MILF.
Government and MILF negotiators completed talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday on the normalisation annex, the last document that would complete a peace agreement between the two parties aimed at ending four decades of fighting in central Mindanao.
Asked if he considered Misuari a spent force, the President said in Filipino: “I won’t say that. If you are a terrorist, even if there are only three of you, it’s enough. Even if you’re alone, it’s enough.”
Authorities are hunting Misuari for instigating his followers to take over Zamboanga City in September last year, claiming that the government abrogated the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF after it proposed to wind down the tripartite review of the organic law facilitated by Indonesia.
The government and the MNLF are reviewing some provisions of the organic law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Aquino once described the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”
In the Zamboanga siege, Misuari loyalists took hostage more than 200 residents and left a part of the city in ruins.
It was the first urban warfare fought by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the worst security threat faced by Aquino’s three-year-old administration. As commander in chief, the President personally oversaw the military operations to expel the rebels from Zamboanga.
President Aquino said spoilers would certainly be “alienated” once the people started to feel the gains of a peace agreement.
“We start off with a vast majority who is no longer supportive of your (the spoilers’) clandestine activities … There would be no more safe havens. It would be difficult for the bandit groups. If electricity is disrupted, a bridge is blown up and the produce is not brought to the market … All of this, would they gain sympathy? Probably not, so the majority will tell the others, we are living quiet lives and you don’t want to help us? So the more they would be alienated. The more they would become a lost cause, a weak factor,” Aquino said.
The President said reports reaching him indicated that other MNLF factions were supportive of the peace initiatives of the government.
In Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said spoilers “have always been anticipated.”
“We know that no peace agreement has been signed anywhere in the world [without] some people [who] don’t want it to happen,” Deles said.
She said this was among the reasons why the normalisation annex was included in the peace agreement with the MILF.
The 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF included the integration of the MNLF fighters to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but they were not made to lay down their firearms.
Deles said the term “normalisation” was used precisely to convey the message that a return to normal life for the MILF fighters and the Bangsamoro communities would not come immediately after the signing of the peace agreement.
“You have to plan it out. You have to have a [plan] for [doing] that,” Deles said.