The warning issued this week by the Western Command about the reported active recruitment by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of its members in Palawan should be a cause for concern for the Philippine government.
According to WESCOM, certain factions of the MNLF have been recruiting new members in exchange for a monthly salary and a promise of being issued firearms.
While certain MNLF leaders in Palawan were quick to deny the WESCOM’s claim, what makes this development a concern is the fact that the Philippine government is apparently unaware what really is the MNLF leadership up to.
The MNLF under its chairman, Nur Misuari, has a standing peace agreement with the government forged in Jakarta in the mid 70s to end the long-running conflict in Sulu and thereabouts. This agreement nevertheless did not deter the MNLF led by Misuari to lay a siege in Zamboanga City in 2013, a treacherous attack that claimed many innocent lives and brought unprecedented destruction to the city.
The MNLF has lately been raising issues with the Philippine governmment concerning the implementation of the Jakarta accord. Simply put, all is apparently not well with Misuari and his people who are supposed to have buried their axes against the government. This, despite the fact that Misuari owed his liberty to the Duterte administration following his incarceration after the Zamboaga seige
The MNLF is evidently also not at peace with the marginal role it currently plays in the peace process being pursued by the current administration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Defense officials are correct to point out that the MNLF’s recruitment activity may be a violation of the peace agreement. At the very least, it looks like a rebuilding of forces for a future renewal of conflict.
The violence that what we have seen in Zamboanga City and the destruction that has befallen recently in Marawi City are telling signs of the breakdown of the peace process. In the midst of uncertainty that the entire nation has been experiencing following the terrorist seige of Marawi, the nation can only hope our government will find the way to achieve lasting peace, not just for Mindanao but equally for other volatile parts of the country, Palawan included.
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