An Islamic separatist group in Mindanao is warning of unrest if the peace agreement brokered between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) goes forward.
Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said that the new agreement is a violation of the failed peace agreement it made with Manila in 1996 and that discarding the earlier agreement could lead to a backlash.
"For us, this is double talk, a betrayal on the part of the government on the MNLF,” said Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, adding that the government should not underestimate the MNLF's strength at present.
Politicians in the area are urging lawful support of the new agreement, which prescribes the establishment of a 15-member “transition commission” to draft a law creating the Bangsamoro political entity within two years.
To become law, it will require passage through Congress and a referendum.
Those who oppose the deal can take part in the referendum, rather than sparking tension or violence, said Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of North Cotabato province.
"We've suffered enough in Cotabato. We don't want a repeat of 2008," she said, referring to a series of attacks launch by Muslim rebels after the Supreme Court declared a previous agreement unconstitutional.
Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao expressed optimism that the latest accord will open the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Mindanao, calling it "a very positive step towards peace."
Civil society leaders, meanwhile, urged Mindanao politicians running in next year's elections to support the peace agreement.
Reu Montecillo of the Mindanao People's Caucus said the support of future leaders is critical to its implementation and sustainability, adding that information dissemination will play a crucial role in generating support from Muslims and Christians.
Protestant Bishop Modesto Villasanta, head of Exodus for Justice and Peace, said the success of the peace process will depend on tangible progress: land for landless Moro farmers and just wages for the Moro workers.
"It is hoped that the peace process... will answer the basic problems," he said.
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