“We will reciprocate with honor and vigor”: Mus Sema 

Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on putting closure to the Bangsamoro Question during his First State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday (July 25), former Cotabato City Vice Mayor and Chairman of the MNLF-Council of 15 said that, “There is a possibility that he (Duterte) would be the last president we are to negotiate with. We are inspired by his being positive on the peace process and for that we will reciprocate with honor and vigor”.

Sema’s group is the largest among the four factions of the MNLF and the only one that signed a unified declaration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). 

 “It is easier to solve the Mindanao problem now while the moderate, older Moro leaders are still alive. The next generation of Moro leaders will surely be radical and dealing with them might be tediously difficult,” Sema said as quoted by Philstar..

Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chairman of the MILF said they are certain Duterte would keep his pledge to abide by all agreements between Malacañan and Moro groups, Philstar said in its report.

Jaafar said their trust in Duterte is bolstered by his being from Davao City and his having Maranaw and lumad ancestry.

“No one will understand better the Moro issue but a Mindanaoan,” Jaafar said.

Addressing on Friday (July 22) the 6th Infantry Division Headquarters at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, Pres. Duterte said that “In pursuit of peace, he was ready to give the MILF the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), (but) minus the contentious provisions that are deemed unconstitutional.

He also lauded Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chair of the MILF for pursuing peace talks with the government.

Meanwhile, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator emphasized during the launching of the book entitled “Mindanao: The Long Journey to Peace and prosperity” in Makati last July 19, “That the MILF will always be guided by protocols and mechanisms established by signed agreements”. 

“The continuity of the peace process will, in great respect, proceed along lines already mutually agreed upon, most essentially those stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)”, Iqbal said. 

Iqbal said Duterte administration has yet to engage formally with the MILF in the continuation of the peace process.