Iqbal denies MILF issued call to prepare for all-out war if BBL is shelved

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal looks at the document shown by BGen. Carlito Galvez, Jr, Chair, Government of the Philipipnes-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH) during the continuation of the hearing for SAF 44.(MNS photo)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal looks at the document shown by BGen. Carlito Galvez, Jr, Chair, Government of the Philipipnes-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH) during the continuation of the hearing for SAF 44.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Wednesday denied that their organization issued an “advisory” for other Muslim groups to prepare for an all-out war if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is shelved.

At a joint press conference of the government and MILF in Maguindanao after the latter formally returned the firearms of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force, Iqbal said he received the text message that is currently circulating, where his name was even mentioned. He added that he did not issue such an advisory.

“Ang masasabi ko dito, walang katotohanan ‘yan. Trabaho ‘yan ng mga walang magawa, ‘yung mga warmongers… Masyadong mabilis ‘yung mga warmongers. It’s just pure and simple act of warmongers, and it has never been emanating from the MILF,” he said during the press conference.

According to reports, Moro National Liberation Front spokespersons Emmanuel Fontanilla and Absalom Cerveza claimed they received the war advisory, which they said came from the MILF central committee.

However, Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest MNLF group, debunked their statement, and added that they are speaking for MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari, who abandoned the peace agreement with the government in August 2013.

Misuari has refused to surrender to the Philippine government despite an arrest warrant issued against him for allegedly ordering the three-week attack in Zamboanga in September 2013.

For his part, Datu Abu Khayr Alonto, chair of another faction of the MNLF, echoed Iqbal’s statement that the Mamasapano incident should not stop the passage of the BBL, and chided those calling for the suspension of the peace process.

“We cannot support the resumption of war in Mindanao. The incident must compel us to approve the BBL,” he said.

MILF on ‘diluted’ BBL

During the press conference, Iqbal said “there is no other option but the option of peace” for the MILF, adding that they trust Congress will not water down the BBL, discussions for which are currently suspended in the House of Representatives and at the Senate.

“I do not suppose it would be watered down because I trust the collective wisdom of Congress to pass good legislation in the form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.

He added, however, that the MILF is considering two options should this happen, including turning down the “diluted” BBL.

Iqbal said that the MILF can accept a watered-down version of the law, but it will not address the problems that the BBL is supposed to solve.

“The MILF has two options: First is to accept a diluted version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. What happenes when the MILF accepts? Ang MILF mo ay walang saysay at patuloy ang problema dito sa Mindanao because the solution, the supposed medicine given to the patient, hindi naibigay,” he said.

Then he added: “The second option of the MILF, with due respect, i-reject ng MILF [ang ‘diluted’ BBL].”

“Magkakaroon tayo ng problem kasi ‘yung ibang grupo mabibigyan sila ng moral ascendency. Pwede nilang sabihin na, ‘Kami ang tama, sabi namin sa inyo ‘wag kayong makipag-usap sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas’,” he said.

But Iqbal added that he trusts the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, who he said has shown “sincerity and commitment… that this BBL will pass Congress.”(MNS)

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