Who made MILF representative of Bangsamoro?—Escudero

An official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) found himself in the hot seat when senators questioned the authority of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to negotiate with the government on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

 

It began when Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on local government, asked Opapp Undersecretary Jose Lorena whether the sultanates in Muslim Mindanao were consulted in any of the agreements signed by the government with the MILF.

 

“Why did Opapp not consult with any of the sultanates? How is it that you imagine that something as wide-ranging, as important, as profound as the creation of the Bangsamoro territory in Muslim Mindanao could have possible succeeded without the support and the participation of the sultanates?” asked Marcos during a hearing on the BBL Monday.

 

Lorena said it was through the “initiative” of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) that led to the “recognition that the need to find a just, comprehensive, and lasting political solution to the problem in Mindanao should be through negotiations within the context of Philippine sovereignty and integrity.”

 

But Marcos pressed the issue: “It’s answerable by yes or no. Were the sultanates represented during your negotiations with the MILF.”

 

“They can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have a successful peace process—that we refer to now as all inclusive—when you have not included the most ancient, the royal houses, the sultanates who are still extremely important in any political change,” he added.

 

Lorena explained that the MILF was representing the Bangsamoro people when the government was negotiating with it.

 

“After the negotiation, the idea was to submit this to legislation for purposes of crafting an inclusive Bangsamoro law,” said the Opapp official.

 

At that point, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero asked Lorena who appointed the MILF to negotiate in behalf of the Bangsamoro people.

 

“Sino ba ang nagsabi na ang MILF ang tatayong kinatawan ng Bangsamoro? (Who said that the MILF would represent the Bangsamoro?) Escudero said.

 

Lorena explained that in July, 1974, the OIC made a declaration that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was the “sole and legitimate” representative of the Bangsamoro.

 

“But after the negotiation with the MNLF in 1996, on the ground there was already the MILF and the MNLF. So the representation of the MNLF and the MILF was really for the Bangsamoro that’s why the government is negotiating with these frontsThey are articulating the interests of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

 

“Itinuro din ba ng OIC na MILF ang kausapin nyo?” (Did the OIC also order you to talk to the MILF?) Escudero pressed on.

 

Finally, Lorena pointed to the government as the one that made the initiative to negotiate with the MILF.

 

“Wala (No one),” Lorena said when asked again by Escudero who told them to negotiate with the MILF.

 

“That’s the reality on the ground and I think the government made that initiative to negotiate with the MILF” Lorena said.