Philippine Muslim rebel factions meet ahead of self-rule

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation hosts leaders of three largest rebel groups in unity talks in Mindanao as Philippines officials face accusations of treason and sedition over peace deal

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The three largest Philippine Muslim rebel groups which have fallen into conflict recent years has came together in Kuwait during an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit ahead of a final peace process. 

Thursday's meeting was held in the shadow of treason and sedition accusations by some Philippines lawmakers against those who signed the peace deal that will give more autonomy and powers to Muslim Mindanao region.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Muslimin Sema met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim and Nur Misuari representative Randolph Parcasio during the OIC conference. 

The meeting has been described as "symbolic," but Sema told Anadolu Agency that it is also "a big boost to efforts to address the decades-old Moro issue hounding Southern Mindanao since the 1970s."

“Our presence here in Kuwait to represent the Bangsamoro people, to agree on how we can strengthen our bid for genuine peace in the homeland is providential. We must not hesitate to agree with each other on how to push the Mindanao peace process forward as one big family,” he said.

MILF signed a peace deal with Philippines government that seeks to create a new autonomous region in the Mindanao region with greater powers and resources. Other rebel groups disapprove of the process and continue to call for independence. The bill will replace the 26 years old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new, parliamentary MILF-led Bangsamoro entity.

MILF and MNLF representatives addressed the OIC foreign ministers during the conference and talked about the future implications of the deal.

They will also hold a “solidarity session” with the OIC’s Southern Philippines Peace Committee on Friday, AA reported.

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) law was approved by the Philippines Congress on Monday, but there has been some dissent against the bill among lawmakers, who have begun legal action against the government.

The criminal complaints target the members of government's peace panel and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, alleging they are "selling out the country in order to cater to the interests of Bangsamoro rebels in crafting a flawed basic law proposal," CNN reported. The accusations also include treason and sedition, crimes against national security. Opposition lawmakers claim the government has caved in to all of MILF's demands and signed a "one-sided" deal by excluding other Moro groups.

They also allege the proposed Bangsamoro bill will eventually lead to secession as it includes an "opt-in" provision.

Passing the law by June is a top priority of the government of President Benigno Aquino III, as the country readies for the 2016 elections. 

The Philippines government and the country’s one-time largest Islamic group signed the peace deal on March 2014, after 17 years of negotiations to end a 45-year conflict which  that has resulted in the deaths around 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in the poor but resource-rich south.

The OIC had led unity efforts among different Moro groups to establish a sustainable self-governance in the region. Turkey, among a dozen Muslim countries, has monitored the peace process since the first peace deal was signed by the Phillippines’ previous government.

TRTWorld and agencies