Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez has warned the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Palawan it will not continue to benefit from the government’s livelihood support funds if it insists on organizing and strengthening its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Armed Forces (BAF), in Palawan.
Alvarez was reacting to reports made by defense authorities that the MNLF has been recruiting members in violation of its peace agreement with the Philippine government.
Alvarez said the province has a P96 million livelihood support funding facility for Palawan which the MNLF can access.
“Noong una may Php12-million, second year mayroong Php24-million, sunod naman Php48-million, sunod Php96-million. Every year nagdo-doble yan [livelihood support fund] pero kung may gulo, hindi magagamit iyan,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez denounced what he said was the MNLF’s attempts to establish its armed group in Palawan.
“There is nothing like that. They need to go to the Western Command (WESCOM), and ask permission there. In OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), it’s not allowed,” Alvarez said.
He said the MNLF’s organizational activities “are okay if they are for livelihood and peace and order, and not toughening the Bangsamoro army.”
“If our brother Muslims organize for livelihood and peace and order, we will support. I will immensely support them. But if you don’t like peace and order in Palawan, then what you are doing is wrong,” he said.
He added Palawan is non-combatant and does not belong to the Bangsamoro territory and neither is it a part of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Juanito Lacubtan, spokesperson of the Palawan Unified Command (PUC), the alliance that fosters goodwill between the Yusop Jikiri and Nur Misuari MNLF factions in the province, expressed concern over Alvarez’ pronouncement
“We want to clarify everything to the governor, and we have written to him two weeks ago to make clarifications, but until today we have not received any call for a meeting with him,” Lacubtan said.
On the exclusion of the Bangsamoro army, Lacubtan said the OPAPP should make clarification about its existence to Misuari
The Palawan Unified Command-Bangsamoro Armed Forces-Moro National Liberation Front (PUC-BAF-MNLF) is headed in the province by Sahak Antoyong, its commanding general.
“We are waiting for OPAPP so this can be clarified,” said Lacubtan, who, in a press conference Wednesday, denied they are recruiting new members.
He maintained however that under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, Palawan remains part of the Bangsamoro region with 12 other areas in Mindanao.
On the other hand, MNLF Jikiri faction senior leader Estino Jairi Ayyobie, also in an interview with PNA Friday morning, agrees with Governor Alvarez that there should be no recruitment for Bangsamoro army unless a clarification has been made by OPAPP.
“What he said was true, and this is the reason why we are requesting for a schedule from OPAPP to come here to make clarifications, and to provide us a copy of the enabling law, or tell us about the implementing mechanisms of the peace process,” Ayyobie said.
“We have a very good relationship with the national government under President Duterte. Governor Alvarez is right, if OPAPP has not said anything, then nothing should be honored,” he said.
On Wednesday, July 12, the unified command of the MNLF factions called a press conference to strongly deny they are recruiting in Palawan.
“No, the term recruitment is not being used. What we are doing is consolidation of our forces,” Lacubtan said.
Asked to clarify what it meant, the MNLF Misuari faction frontrunner said it is about organizing their old members, supporters, and sympathizers.
“It’s only reactivation. The purpose is for us to effectively update them about the status of MNLF because they don’t know. This is one of the purposes. Second, it’s because the new mandate of the MNLF, according to chairman Nur, is to support President Duterte in his administration’s war against drugs, terrorism, corruption, and war against crime,” Lacubtan said.
He claimed his group has now reactivated over 10,000 in the whole of southern Palawan, and in the towns of El Nido and Taytay in the north.
Showing his identification card marked with the letters “SRSF” or Special Regional Security Force, he said their wish is to only help the Palawan government in monitoring against any threat by suspicious groups or individuals.
He also denied they are promising compensation of about Php20,000-Php30,000 and higher because membership in the MNLF is voluntary.
“We deny that. Membership in the MNLF is voluntary We have no salary. We cannot promise them these amounts since we ourselves have no money. We have no budget for that,” Lacubtan strongly denied.