MILF chairman Murad held a press conference last Sept 5, 2011, inside the MILF’s Camp Darapanan. It was his first press conference (though not the first interview) since he met with President Benigno Aquino III in Tokyo. Here is his opening statement (with the greetings and niceties taken out), and notes from the six-minute ambush interview that followed the hour-long presser.
Honoring Agreements: The Path to Peace
(excerpts from the opening statement of MILF Central Committee chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim)
After our meeting with His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, in Tokyo last August 4, the negotiating panels of the MILF and the Philippine Government met in Kuala Lumpur on August 22 to 23 where the GPH panel submitted the Philippine Government’s proposal. After all agenda items were tackled, the MILF peace panel informed the Malaysian facilitator and its counterpart that it rejected the Philippine Government proposal and would bring the matter to the MILF Central Committee. The Central Committee had initial discussion on the issue and will continue to discuss the issue, and soon we expect a decision. The decision of the Central Committee will take into consideration whether the GPH proposal can fast track the negotiations, and whether the GPH proposal is faithful to GPH-MILF agreements, particularly the consensus points.
Initially, the MILF Central Committee is inclined to uphold the recommendation of the MILF Peace Panel not to accept the GPH proposal as a working document in the negotiation. However, we are finalizing a proposal to the GPH on how to move forward with the negotiation and will relay it to the GPH through the facilitator.
During the Tokyo meeting President Aquino and I agreed to fast track the negotiations. As you are very much aware the negotiations have been going on for more than 14 years under four Philippine Government administrations. The practical way to fast track the talks is for both the MILF and GPH proposals to be faithful to agreements so that discussions can be focused on issues where no agreements are reached.
As the negotiations drag on with no solution to the Bangsamoro Question on sight, some sector of the Bangsamoro society lost hope in the peace process. This is the reason why the group of Ameril Umbra Kato decided not to tread the path of the peace process. The MILF continues to adhere to the guidance of our revered leader the late Salamat Hashim that the peaceful, democratic and civilized way to resolve the conflict between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine Government is through negotiations. That is why despite the pronouncement of Ameril Umbra Kato that his group separated from the MILF, the door is still wide open for sectors, including the spoilers, to stay on board the peace process.
For people to have faith in the peace process, parties should respect agreements and must have the political will to be creative and innovative in addressing the Bangsamoro self-determination issue.
Murad ambush interview:
Q: Leonen said kato is already hindrance to the peace talks
A: No meron din siyang pronouncement na he will not be a hindrance, hindi sya magiging hindrance. This is recorded. Meron siyang statement. But if he really…we will see the actual. If he becomes a hindrance then we’ll do something.
Q: You will do something even before a final agreement is signed?
A: If they are becoming a hindrance to the peace talks and they do something which is might not be in line with the ceasefire, then we have to do something.
Q: If kato does not to come back to milf, how long will he be allowed to stay in Camp Omar which is an MILF camp?
A: That will be decided after we declare
Q: Why is there hesistance in declaring Kato out of the MILF, he has already said he is no longer MILF?
A: As we have said, we want everybody to be on board. We will give a chance to everybody to become part of the peace process. We want the peace process to succeed, so we want everybody. But if people will sabotage, then that is an obligation to us us.
Q: Have tried to talk personally to him?
A: We have not talked but we have sent several delegations.
Q: What did he say? He said he will not be a hindrance but he just wants to create his own group. But we say, because noon una, ayaw niya na maseparate sa milf, but he just wants to establish BIFF, another military structure. We told him, that is not acceptable to the MILF. There can be no revolutionary organization with two military structures. So we dismissed that request. So dahil doon we dismissed it, kaya nagform siya ngayon ng bago niyang front, he called it Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter.
Q: What if govt invokes AHJAG?
A: We will discuss. But anyway the group is insignificant. They are not really big. They can only reach, their firearms can only reach about a hundred or more than a hundred. they are now, many of their followers are already coming back to our group, so it’s just a matter of time.
Q: No need to declare him out of milf?
A: It depends. Because this is an issue of an ulama, so we give chance to the ulama, the group of ulama. Because we do not want to isolate the ulama. If they decide that we declare him outside already of the MILF, then…
Q: Hindrance or not to the peace talks?
A: Up to now he is not yet a hindrance. They (the ulamas) are meeting on the 10th of sept so they will decide.
Q: on US forces?
A: As long as they will not intrude into our area, then we do not have anything against them.
(Question on Kato)
A: Just a matter of time that this will just die down. There is no issue that Umbra Kato can stand, because all his issues are addressed. He said he is separating from the MILF because we are not toeing the line of the former leader of the MILF. We showed to him, there is a guideline from the, of the late chairman and all our activities are in line with the activities.
Q: Leonen says they want to partner with the MILF on big economic projects, but you want to solve the political first?
A: Political first. We want socio-economic programs. But you see we already have the BDA, this rehabilitation, relief, and small scale development. So they can partner with BDA. But the MILF is concentrated on the political solution. We always believed that political solution is the priority, not development.
But we always need development. The Bangsamoro people is not struggling because there is no development. They are struggling because they want self-government, they want a political solution to the problem.
Q: Kato accuses central committee members of enriching yourselves?
A: I am trying to enrich the organization, not myself. Lies, all lies.
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