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Rebels, tribal leaders to ‘marry’ ideals

Mindanao groups aim to provide united front in peace talks over self-determination

The MILF peace panel with tribal community members during the consultation on Sunday The MILF peace panel with tribal community members during the consultation on Sunday
  • Mach Alberto Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Philippines
  • June 13, 2011
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Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators and tribal group leaders yesterday agreed to “marry” their common goal for self-determination during talks in Cagayan de Oro City.

“We have agreed to marry. We intend to marry,” said Mohagher Iqbal, the head of the rebel negotiating team.

The next step is for us to consult with our respective groups, then afterwards, return and plan the details of this marriage,” he added.

Central to yesterday’s talks were centuries-old ancestral agreements between Moro and the indigenous people of Mindanao, and the traditional territorial boundaries and traditional peace pacts between them.

These issues are also central to the indigenous peoples’ cultural identity, said Datu Victorino Saway of the Talaandig tribe of Lantapan in Bukidnon.

Saway said that while indigenous tribes are not active in peace negotiations, they are affected by the discussions because of the issue surrounding their identities.

“We are not included in the discussion but we are involved already. We are affected by the whole Bangsamoro territory discussion. Therefore, we should resolve this,” he said.

Yesterday’s talks were part of the rebel negotiating team’s program of holding dialogue with various sectors of society in Mindanao in response to their calls to be included in the government-rebel peace negotiations.

“We are conducting these dialogues to gather the views, ideas, and questions of others with regard to the MILF’s position and proposals in the negotiations,” Iqbal said.

While it is true there are agreements about their common aspirations, there is still so much to do, and part of this is convincing other tribes in Mindanao to ally their struggle with the Bangsamoro people’s struggle, he said.
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