INTERNATIONAL Monitoring Team (IMT) head Colonel Zolkipli Hashim on Friday strongly warned that pending the comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), any movement on the ground let alone in Zamboanga City is illegal and therefore should not be pursued.

Hashim’s stern warning was addressed to an MILF group that wanted to put up an MILF Bangsamoro Political Office in the village of Cawit, west of this city.

He ordered the group to dismantle whatever structure they had erected on a piece of land in the village of Cawit “so as not to affect, preempt or derail the ongoing GPH-MILF peace process.”

Hashim issued the warning and order during a dialogue Friday in the village of Cawit between the MILF group headed by a certain Jusali Musali, mayor of the Bangsamoro, and the official of Cawit headed by Chairman Rey Modillas.

The IMT mediated the dialogue in the presence of Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde and some city councilors together with City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon.

IMT warns MILF vs putting up of Bangsamoro office in Zamboanga
ZAMBOANGA. International Monitoring Team head Zolkipli Hashim warns MILF group against putting up of Bangasamoro Political Office in Cawit, Zamboanga City while Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde listen intently. (Bong Garcia)

Musali’s group had constructed a structure on a piece of land in the village of Cawit, owned by Alex Doris, purposely for the establishment of so-called MILF Bangsamoro Political Office and a cooperative upon instruction by a certain Bob of the MILF Central Committee.

Modillas protested and brought the issue to the IMT based at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), claiming that Musali’s group did not coordinate with his office prior to the construction of the structure, thus causing apprehension among residents in the area.

During the dialogue, it was found out that Musali’s move was not authorized by the MILF Central Committee as he admitted to the IMT that there was no written instruction from the MILF for him to put up the so-called Bangsamoro Political Office.

Musali claimed that what was constructed though was a small hut but with the same intention, citing a provision in the framework agreement that a Muslim-dominated area in Minadanao may opt to join the Bangsamoro.

Major Abdurasad Sirai, head of the Mindanao Secretariat for the GPH panel, cautioned Musali and his group that the framework agreement cannot be made as basis for any movement on the ground by the MILF since there has yet to be a final agreement.

Sirai warned that Musali’s move may even cause a problem if he pursues it.

“Just wait for the final agreement. It’s almost there. Don’t do anything that might affect the ongoing peace talks,” Sirai stressed adding, “Zamboanga City is not part of the Bangsamoro and it is non-negotiable.”

Salazar meanwhile has strongly denied having been consulted on the matter by the MILF group.

Salazar said she learned about the putting of the political it after Modeillas reported to her about it.

Salazar, during the dialogue, reiterated the residents of Zamboanga City have voted in past two plebiscites against the city’s inclusion to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

She said the residents are also against the inclusion of Zamboanga City to any Bangsamoro homeland or any territory that will be claimed by the MILF or Moro National Liberation Front.