Manila: The founder of a former Filipino-Muslim rebel group that forged a pro-autonomy peace settlement with the Philippine government during peace talks from 1992 to 1996 has resumed a secessionist movement and declared himself leader of Mindanao, turf of eight million Filipino-Muslims in the southern Philippines, sources said.

Nur Misuari, founder of the oldest faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) declared the independence of the Bangsamoro Republik in Daira, Lampaya village, Talipao, Sulu province on August 12, Murshi Ebrahim, his ally, said in a statement.

Misuari declared himself president of the Bangsamoro Republik, a federated state that includes the whole of Mindanao, Palawan in the southwestern Philippines, said Ebrahim.

The Bangsamoro Republik also includes Sabah and Sarawak (in Malaysia’s Borneo), confirmed Emmanuel Fontanila, Misuari’s counsel.

The Bangsamoro Republik has a federal system of government which provides equal power of Muslims, Christians, and highlanders in government, said Fontanilla.

The Bangsamoro Republik’s Constitution was submitted to the United Nations in New York on August 13, Fontanilla said, adding that Misuari is banking support from the UN, because of its general assembly’s resolution 1514 (passed in 1960) which provides the granting of independence to colonised countries.

Misuari is also thinking of establishing a government in exile while the issue of Mindanao independence is being resolved, Fontanilla said, adding that Misuari has already left the Philippines to lobby support for the Bangsamoro Republik, from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Misuari’s declaration of independence occurred following reports that the Philippine government is planning to cancel a meeting of the OIC, the MNLF, and the Philippine government to review the implementation of the peace accord signed by the Philippine government and the MNLF in 1996.

The OIC brokered the holding of the Philippine government-MNLF peace talks.

Misuari was also disappointed that the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not consult with him when they signed last year a framework agreement about enhanced self governance of Filipino-Muslims in their expanded autonomous region in the south.

The OIC recognises the MNLF as the sole representative of Filipino-Muslims in the south.

In early 2000, MNLF split into three factions. The other MNLF leaders are Habib Muhahab Hashim, chairman of the Islamic Command Council (ICC); and former Cotabato City mayor Muslimen Sema, chair of the MNLF Executive Council (EC), that ousted Misuari in 2000.

Misuari established the MNLF in Malaysia in 1968.