President Rodrigo Duterte wants an active role from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the government’s fight against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group particularly in Sulu, a known bailiwick of the MNLF.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the President expressed his desire to create a coordinating body between the government of the Philippines and the MNLF to facilitate the government peace efforts in Mindanao.
Panelo said that the President made known his interest during a meeting with MNLF founding Chairman Nur Misuari in Davao City over the weekend.
Mr. Duterte particularly tasked the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) to immediately form the Coordinating Committee as he wanted it convened by next month in Davao City for agenda setting and initial discussions.
On the other hand, Misuari was hopeful that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) be involved in the consultations, similar to the previous tripartite talks with GPH, MNLF and the OIC that led to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
Misuari also wished that the consultations would allow review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MNLF to determine government compliance.
“The GPH-MNLF Coordinating Committee will serve as a venue to seek for the cooperation of the MNLF to achieve immediate peace in Sulu by, among others, helping in combatting the Abu Sayyaf group and convincing MNLF relatives to return to the folds of the law,” said Panelo.
The Abu Sayyaf group has been tagged in a number of high-profile terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, in southern Philippines.
Panelo vowed Malacanang’s full support to the committee.
“The GPH-MNLF Coordinating Committee can expect the full support of the Office of the President as we move towards our common goal of resolving the conflict that have caused deaths, suffering, and dislocation among the Muslims and Christians alike,” he said.
Members of the Abu Sayyaf group, particularly those operating in Sulu, are tausugs just like Misuari and most, if not all, of his supporters.
Panelo said that the move to create the committee is another concrete proof of Mr. Duterte’s commitment to bringing lasting peace in Mindanao.
“In resolving the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao, every undertaking that may lead to a lasting peace and prosperity to that region must be tried and tested until its fruition,” said Panelo.
“We can do no less as a people. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will walk the extra mile to bring harmony to the country and the nation,” he added.
Last January, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a product of the decades-long peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front—a breakaway group of the MNLF, was ratified in a referendum.