The passage of BTC version BBL will answer 50 percent of the Bangsamoro Question and if it is reinforced by the passage of Federalism, it will answer 95 percent of the problem. Pass BTC version BBL then Federalism next. - MOHAGHER IQBAL - Chairman, MILF Peace Implementing Panel. Photo by Cocoy Paradan

Dialogue of Moro fronts’ leaders continue

Ranking MNLF and MILF leaders continue the much needed dialogue for common understanding to forge unified stand amidst the seemingly bright future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Congress.

MNLF Jikiri Faction Vice Chairmen Punduma Sani and Romeo Sema, Military Affairs and Political Affairs respectively, led more than a dozen ground leaders of the MNLF group while Peace Implementing Panel Chair and Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Mohagher Iqbal, BLMI Executive Director Ustadz Mahmod Ahmad and this writer sat for the MILF in the second phase of the continuing dialogue among the two fronts at the Marianne Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City from April 29 to 30, 2018.

At the outset challenges were identified that must be addressed such as unity of the Bangsamoro in the present state of things, biases of the majority Filipinos against the Moro, and the status of the BBL in both houses of the Congress of the Philippines.

During the session proper, a Lanao delegate suggested creation of joint advocacy engagement on the ground where both political and military components of the two fronts are represented. Another suggestion was the holding of another Bangsamoro Assembly where all sectors will be involved and a Second Dansalan Declaration will come up, referring to the 1935 meeting of Moro leaders where they announced their preference of being a special province of the United States rather be incorporated into the incoming Philippine state.

Chairman Iqbal reminded the attendees that it will be prudent for all to toe the line and obey what were agreed up in the Central Committees of the two fronts and allow them to trickle down on the ground among the followers.

He also briefed the leaders about the status of the BBL in the Congress, giving details on the engagement of the Implementing panel, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the Central Committee of the MILF giving a seemingly bright prospect for the bill especially with the long awaited certification of the measure by the president as urgent administration bill.

Chair Iqbal also recalled the Bangsamoro Assembly in November of 2017 where more than I million attended and raised the probability of a bad scenario where certain group or groups would veto what were worked out and decided by the fronts. He did not discount the possibility of another assembly but cautions the tremendous financial requirements the same will entail.

A recurring concern is the fate of 34,000 employees of the ARMM that will be affected by the transition to the Bangsamoro government. But a closer look will reveal a fact that this is not the first time that change of government happened in ARMM. The same happened when the autonomy was first set up pursuant to Republic Act 6734 abolishing the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP) to give way to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1989. And there was not much problem encountered at the time.

At any rate the Bangsamoro Basic Law contains detailed provisions on the mechanics and solutions to problems of this nature.

Then again, leaders of the MNLF from the island province of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi met again the delegation from the MILF at the Ever O Hotel, Zamboanga City from May 2 to 3 for dialogue and strategic planning on the issues confronting the Bangsamoro as a whole.

Quite frank but fruitful was the strategic planning on the second day of the meeting/dialogue. Utilizing the SWOT analysis of problem solving, the attendees recalled the strengths of the assertion of Moro right to self-determination like the intact MILF organization, easy access to the IMT, strong mass base particularly in Maguindanao and Basilan, Bangsamoro Coordination Forum and convergence of the two fronts. Opportunities they noted is basically making wise use of the identified strengths. 

Weaknesses lie in leadership vacuum and division on the ground, leaders unarticulated on the BBL, lack of information dissemination, no firm stand and easily swayed by others, lack of resources for campaign and engagement.

The threats consist mainly of the Moro and non-Moro political leaders both in mainland Mindanao and the island provinces specifically Zambonaga City, Lanao del Norte and Sulu. But they also contended that even weaknesses and threats when properly addressed and managed could turn to opportunities and strength in the final analysis.

With the active and reliable role of the secretariat led by Wahab Guialal and the boys, by and large the continuing dialogue was quite successful and encouraging to continue.