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MILF belittles BIFF threat to Bangsamoro.

Cotabato City - Recalcitrant Moro rebels do not pose a serious threat to the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous entity, which peace stakeholders look upon as a potential avenue to end the so-called Mindanao conflict, according to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim.

Ebrahim was referring to remnants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), which is a breakaway MILF group founded in recent years by the reclusive Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato.

Kato had maintained he and his men bolted the MILF because they do not believe that the latter's effort to forge peace with the government was part of their original struggle for independence in Mindanao.

Ebrahim said the BIFM has lost a unified leadership and its armed-wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has split into three factions.

Ebrahim made the claim last week when reporters asked about the potential threat the group posed to the forming of a parliamentarian autonomous entity called Bangsamoro, which is prescribed in peace accords signed by the MILF and the government.

He explained that the MILF has been trying to win BIFF members over but admitted having difficulty in dealing with the defiant group because it is fragmented.

"We cannot talk to them anymore as a whole organization. What we are doing is the individual approach," he said.

POSITIVE RESPONSE

Ebrahim said that during talks with individual Kato supporters, some had manifested positive responses.

"Just like our comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), they are positive in their response," he said.

But he admitted that there were Kato supporters whose "doors were already closed" to talks.

Ebrahim did not mention the individuals, saying only that they were among the "three groups in the BIFF."

Local initiatives and intercessions by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have reportedly helped enlist the support of the chairmen of major MNLF factions - Nur Misuari, Muslimin Sema, and Abul Khayr Alonto.

Photos obtained by local reporters showed the three MNLF leaders meeting with Ebrahim at the MILF main enclave in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao in recent months.

Sema had repeatedly expressed his faction's support to the proposed Bangsamoro entity, while Alonto personally conveyed to Murad his group's positive stance to the MILF-government accords. Misuari's support was conveyed by a spokesman during a recent interfaith dialog here on the proposed autonomous entity.

The proposed entity would cover territories, including the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Mindanao (ARMM), the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages in six municipalities of North Cotabato. ARMM will be deemed abolished upon the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

IPS AGAINST BBL

Meanwhile, indigenous people's advocates in Mindanao have assailed the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was crafted without proper consultation with IP groups in the region.

Convenors of the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF) said the government and the MILF should consider the position of the IP sector in Mindanao vis-AaAaAeA -vis the approval of the BB

LMPF spokesmen Sarx Lanos said the IP groups were sidetracked at the start of the crafting of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro until it reached the passage of BBL.

He said their group expressed concern that the implementation of BBL might adversely affect the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) law.

"There was no provision in the BBL that acknowledges and respects the IPRA law, especially in the stewardship of mineral resources and lands within the ancestral domain," Lanos said.

He said IPRA advocates, including former North Cotabato Rep. Greg Andolana, former commissioner of the National Commission on Indigenous People Ruben Dasay Lingating, Tim Alim Bandara, and IP representative to the United Nations c are set to hold dialogues with IP groups in Mindanao to come up with their strong position on the BBL.

He said the LMPF will ensure that the rights of IP groups in Mindanao will not be jeopardized once the BBL is implemented. (With a report from Joseph Jubelag)

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 11, 2014
Words:668
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