Sunday, November 4, 2012

Labor group hits Akbayan’s ‘red baiting’

From the Business Mirror (Nov 4): Labor group hits Akbayan’s ‘red baiting’

WITH its failure to debunk solid arguments for its disqualification, President Aquino’s favorite party-list group Akbayan has resorted to red-baiting—the same tactic employed by the administration and the military in justifying human-rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, a militant labor group said on Sunday. At the same time, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) urged the public to reject the “politics of collaboration and deceit” of Akbayan and its allied labor groups now coming to its defense. In a statement, the KMU said that Akbayan is becoming desperate since it is losing in the arena of public opinion that it is now mobilizing its labor groups to wage a propaganda campaign in its defense. “It [Akbayan] is now resorting to a platitude that even the vilest traditional politicians of the country use: that it represents the marginalized, despite all the damning evidences pointing to the contrary,” the KMU said in a statement. The KMU was referring to the “noise” being created by labor groups Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), which it said “desperately skirts the main reasons behind calls for the party-list group’s disqualification.” Acting indignant, APL, PM and BMP raised hell over the protest held by the progressive pro-worker youth group Anakbayan in Akbayan’s press conference, while curiously keeping quiet on the reason of the protest: Akbayan’s red-baiting,” the KMU said....

Army to honor tribal claims

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 5): Army to honor tribal claims

Portions of the 33,100-hectare military reservation in Western Visayas are being reviewed for possible turnover to tribal groups as part of their ancestral domain, Commander Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said. Established in 1962 under Presidential Proclamation 67, the land covers 16 of the 22 upland villages of Tapaz and seven villages of Jamindan. “Records show that in the province of Iloilo, a total of 252 Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles, covering a land area of 1,748 hectares, had been served to IP beneficiaries of Barangay Masaroy and Alcalaga, Municipality of Calinog last 2005,” Mabanta said. He said are view is being made together with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples following the mandate of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. “We’ve our own ‘Bayanihan teams’ composed of soldiers to help the NICP and IPs conduct survey and delineation activities in central Panay island to address challenges on IPs ancestral domain,” Mabanta said. “We’ve a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed at the Department of National Defense and NCIP national level,” Mabanta said. “The NCIP shall undertake the survey in coordination with the AFP, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and IPs of Jamindan and Tapaz, province of Capiz,” he said. “For the sake of peace, the military is more than willing to vacate portions of the military reservation provided that it will pass through what is required by law.”

MNLF renews call for freedom

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 5): MNLF renews call for freedom

The Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front vowed Sunday to seek independence for Mindanao before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah if the government insists on its peace treaty with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The political director of the Misuari-led group, Gapul Hadjirul, said they will be compelled to revive their position for “self determination” if the government disregards the MNLF, which has observer status in the OIC, and which views the MILF accord as a violation of its own peace treaty with the government. “If they continue to fool us and abrogate the international agreement, then we have no other recourse but to pursue our intention for self determination or independence of Mindanao,” Hadjirul said. Hadjirul described the MNLF as a “sleeping giant,” but acknowledged that another war would not bring closure to the problems of the people of Mindanao.... But the government refuses to recognize Misuari’s chairmanship of the MNLF after his ouster by a group led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimen Sema and 14 others. “They are really showing insincerity to fulfill their binding international commitment to the Bangsamoro people. This is clearly a divide and rule policy,” Hadjirul said. “In as far as the OIC is concerned, they only recognize one MNLF which is MNLF under the leadership of Nur Misuari. Muslimen Sema… is not MNLF but rather Malacanang National Liberation Front,” Hadjirul said....

Officer quits post to take blame for deaths of bandit’s wife, kids

From Malaya (Nov 5): Officer quits post to take blame for deaths of bandit’s wife, kids

AN Army officer has resigned from his post as battalion commander weeks after his men killed the wife and two children of a bandit leader in a firefight in Davao del Sur last month. Lt. Col. Noel Alexis Bravo offered to relinquish his post as head of the 27th Infantry Battalion so as not to influence legal procedures against his men who were directly involved in the incident, Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said yesterday. Bravo has been cleared of responsibility in the incident which occurred last October 18. Military officials have said the soldiers were approaching a hut in Sitio Alion, Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan town, which was supposedly serving as lair of Daquil Capeon, when they were fired at by at least five suspects, prompting the soldiers to return fire.  The military has said Capeon is a leader of an armed group associated with the New People’s Army. Bernardo said Bravo also asked to be relieved so that other officers can rise to become battalion commander. Bravo is scheduled to be replaced today by Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial.... The board later cleared Bravo of any responsibility but at the same time recommended the court martial of his company commander, 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, and 12 enlisted personnel who took part in the operation, for lapses even if it established that the incident was a “legitimate encounter....”

Palparan last of his kind in AFP, says Army chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 5): Palparan last of his kind in AFP, says Army chief

Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, infamously tagged as “berdugo” (butcher) by militant activists, is the last of his kind in the military, so says Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the chief of the Philippine Army. Bautista said the Armed Forces of the Philippines had been strictly monitoring the performance of its officers and enlisted personnel regarding the military’s program to instill respect for human rights among soldiers on the battlefield. In a recent interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer reporters and editors, Bautista said the AFP had been “seriously” addressing allegations of human rights violations against the military by prosecuting erring officers. “Is there someone like him in the Army? Not any more. Even you can answer that,” Bautista replied when asked if the likes of Palparan still existed in the AFP. “I think even you can say that the military’s human rights record now is much improved as compared to the previous years.” As for suggestions that the military is helping the fugitive Palparan, Bautista said: “I can tell you I’m not coddling Palparan....”

2 rebel camps found in Isabela

From the Philippine Star (Nov 5): 2 rebel camps found in Isabela

Two major communist rebel camps were found in the Sierra Madre mountain range in Isabela, the 5th Army Division at Camp Upi said yesterday. One camp is in Barangay Villa Robles in Palanan while the other is in Barangay Disulap in San Mariano town. The camps included 14 secluded caves and 30 newly constructed huts with cell phone satellite equipment. The 86th Army Battalion also found 25 cavans of rice and communication gadgets used by the rebels, who were not in the area when the soldiers seized the camps. Police officers and soldiers encountered rebels in the nearby town of Jones before All Saints’ Day. No casualties were reported. In Iloilo, soldiers overran an abandoned New People's Army camp in Leonen town following an encounter with NPA rebels that left one soldier dead recently....

DND deal for Italian warships nearing completion

From the Philippine Star (Nov 5): DND deal for Italian warships nearing completion

Negotiation for the acquisition of two warships from Italy may be completed within the year.
In an interview, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told The STAR the Navy is expected to come up with a decision package, a document needed to make the ships ready for operation. “I would like to say that it (negotiation) is in its advanced stage,” he said. “When we receive a decision package, we will submit to the (defense) secretary the acquisition decision memorandum (ADM) and then submit the proposal to the president for approval,” he said. “We are just waiting for the decision package from the Navy.” Manalo said a decision package includes the terms of reference for the refurbishment of the ships, the needed training for personnel that will man the vessels, munitions and other things needed to make them operational. “The ADM would start the procurement and would signal the implementation of the project,” he added. Manalo said negotiations may be completed within the year and the warships may arrive in the Philippines within the term of President Aquino if the project pushes through....  Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the two warships would be acquired from the Italian Navy at a cost of about P11.7 billion. The two warships have anti-aircraft, anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities, and missile systems and modern radars, he added. The Maestrale-class ships were commissioned in 1982 and are more capable than any of the vessels in the Navy’s inventory....

Army commander advise(s) candidates not to give campaign tax to NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 4): Army commander advise candidates not to give campaign tax to NPAs

Philippine Army (PA) commander Col. Arnold Quiapo of the 301st Infantry Brigade has advised political candidates not to give campaign tax to the New People’s Army (NPA) that are now soliciting from them. Quiapo said that there were a number of politicians in Panay island, which they cover, that had already received feelers from the NPAs. He said that he also learned that not only does the NPA solicit campaign tax but also collects for permits to campaign in infested areas. The army commander then assured the political candidates that the army, even though it is still waiting for directive from their higher headquarters and the Comelec, is ready to implement the Safe and Fair Election (SAFE) campaign.

Australia, Philippines to bolster military drills

From the Sun Star (Nov 4): Australia, Philippines to bolster military drills

The Philippine defense chief said his Australian counterpart plans to visit early next year to discuss ways to bolster security cooperation and the entry of Australian forces for military exercises under a new pact. The Philippine Senate in July ratified an accord that would allow Australian troops to train in combat exercises with Filipino forces in the country. It was a long-delayed pact that got backing from lawmakers alarmed by Manila's recent territorial spats with Beijing. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Sunday that he and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith would discuss how to enhance joint exercises, including those that would help their forces better deal with natural disasters, terrorism and other threats. Washington is the only other country with a similar visiting forces agreement with the Philippines.

Bishops support calls for resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks

From MindaNews (Nov 4): Bishops support calls for resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks

Church leaders and a peace movement here are supporting the call for resumption of peace talks between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF). Bishop Modesto Villasanta, convenor of Exodus for Justice and Peace, told MindaNews in a telephone interview Sunday that he supports the call for resumption of the talks, especially on the socio-economic reforms that will be the “meat” of the peace process as it would include discussions, among others, on land reform and distribution, and national industrialization. Villasanta’s comment came a day after Bishop Delfin Callao of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, co-convenor of Sowing Seeds for Peace, that they hope the talks peace talks will resume and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). “We hope for the resumption of the peace talks, for the full and sincere implementation of the CARHIHL which until now has been repeatedly violated every so often especially in the context of worsening state of impunity in Mindanao,” Callao said....

Sowing the Seeds for Peace is a multi-sectoral movement of advocates for peace and justice pushing for the “sustained and sincere “ conduct of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations. The peace movement said the NDF asked the group’s help to educate the public on the benefits of the CARHRIHL, which “could be a powerful tool in defense of the people’s rights.” In a forum here last Saturday, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia, NDF legal consultant, said the economic crisis “will necessitate that the NDFP and GPH will have to discuss these problems and find solutions. The armed conflict will always be there. The solutions to the roots of the armed conflict are always an urgent matter. The question is timing,” he said.

Lumads meet on GPH-MILF, GPH-NDF peace processes

From MindaNews (Nov 4): Lumads meet on GPH-MILF, GPH-NDF peace processes

Some 80 Lumad (indigenous peoples) leaders around Mindanao have gathered in Midsayap, North Cotabato for a two-day conference beginning Sunday, to discuss the peace processes between government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and with National Democratic Front (NDF). Ednar Dayanghirang, GPH peace panel member representing the Lumads and Blaan Datu Antonio Kinoc, alternate panel member of the MILF, will be attending the forum. The November 4 and 5 conference at the Peace and Development Training Center of the Southern Christian College in Midsayap, organizers say, “will provide a consultative space for the representatives of the peace panels to explain the contents of the recently signed Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) in order for the IPs to study the implications of this to the indigenous communities within and outside the core areas of the proposed Bangsamoro territory,” the press statement released by the organizing groups led by the Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM) and Mindanao Peaceweavers, said....

MILF: MILF holds crash course on organizational strengthening, program dev’t

From the MILF Website (Nov 4): MILF holds crash course on organizational strengthening, program dev’t

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) will conduct a five-day “Crash Course in Organizational Strengthening and Program Development” at the BMLI Bldg., Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao from November 4-8, 2012.  The said activity is funded and sponsored by The Asia Foundation ( TAF ) and United Kingdom-Aid, which is a leading international NGO’S that aim to provide valuable skills training, technical know-how and other related knowledge to the all- Bangsamoro participants in crafting their system of governance. These initiatives are just in time and in conformity with the recent breakthrough in the historic signing of Framework Agreement between GPH – MILF that will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government. The Executive Director of the BLMI, Mahmod Ahmad interviewed by Luwaran said TAF has been among the lead donors in helping the institution in its capacity building effort since it was founded in 2005....

CPP: PNP-NYPD agreement will lead to further US intervention, rights abuses under Aquino regime

From the CPP Website (Nov 4): PNP-NYPD agreement will lead to further US intervention, rights abuses under Aquino regime--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the memorandum of agreement between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) signed last Wednesday as “part of heightening US government intervention in the Philippines.” The CPP further said that “the agreement with the US NYPD, one of the most notorious fascist police organizations in the world, can only lead to worse human rights abuses by police operatives under the Aquino regime,” said the CPP....  “The PNP-NYPD MoA will only serve as an additional legal cover for the US government’s heightening intervention in the Philippines. It will lead to more extensive and intrusive intelligence and other types of operations by US police and military agents in the country,” said the CPP.... “The NYPD is notorious for being a fascist tool of suppression against the American people,” said the CPP. “Recently, the NYPD was employed in the suppression of protest actions at Zucotti Park near Wall St. by American workers, students and ordinary people against the pro-big monopoly policies of the American government....” “Following the pattern of its new partner, the PNP is bound to become even more brutal in dealing with protests, urban poor anti-demolition barricades and other mass actions,” said the CPP.

Bishop: Peace transition commission may need 2–3 years to work

From GMANews (Nov 4): Bishop: Peace transition commission may need 2–3 years to work

A commission that will work out the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the new Bangsamoro entity may need two to three years to do its job, a Mindanao-based archbishop said. Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who has been actively involved in the Mindanao peace process, made the assessment even as he appealed to Filipino Christians and Muslims to get involved in peace efforts. "This transition commission might take two to three years to work out the details but at the same time there is already that assurance that there should be no more resorting to armed conflict and there will be mutual agreement on the key principles that have already been agreed upon," Ledesma said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' radio website. Ledesma formerly headed the CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue and remains an active member of the Bishops-Ulama Forum. The transition is part of a framework peace agreement signed by negotiators of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in MalacaƱang last October 15....

Ledesma noted many issues and concerns would be part of the groundwork to be tackled by the transition commission.

Not so fast, MILF tells donor states, agencies

From the Business Mirror (Nov 4): Not so fast, MILF tells donor states, agencies

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has appealed to donor states, agencies and other partners of peace to exercise diligence and prudence so as not to weaken the unity of the Moro people as they look forward to the implementation of the Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao. In an editorial of the, an official website of the MILF, the group said that “an avalanche of aid offers” from local sources and foreign countries and agencies continue to pour following the signing of the Framework Agreement (FRAG) for the creation of a Bangsamoro state on Oct. 15 at Malacanang. The peace process between the government and the MILF was brokered by the government of Malaysia. “We welcomed this and we thanked them for these offers. However, these deals should and must be through proper procedures and channels. The need to understand the concepts and the intended objectives of these initiatives should be discussed and agreed first,” the MILF said. It reminded donors about the possible negative effects of such efforts no matter how noble the intention is. “Going directly to individual members or combatants of the MILF is not a good mode; it can be misunderstood; and more seriously, it would appear as an attempt to weaken the cohesiveness of the MILF, as a partner in the negotiation and in the agreement,” the MILF said....

MILF Mulls Attending OIC Conference

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 4): MILF Mulls Attending OIC Conference

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is considering sending a delegation to the 39th Session of the Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers (CFAM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Nov. 15 to 17 in Djibouti, East Africa. A reliable source told the Manila Bulletin yesterday that the MILF has received an OIC invitation to attend the OIC-CFAM, where the "question of Muslims in Southern Philippines" has been a feature since the mid-1970s. “We have already received an invitation from the OIC. The MILF leadership is presently keenly considering sending a delegation to the OIC meeting," said a source who sought anonymity. The MILF source said their peace panel and GPH's are set to meet again in Malaysia to try to hammer out deals on power sharing, wealth sharing, and normalization, the three "annexes" to the FA. The FA is the road map for a new political entity called Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He said the MILF has been present in the pan-Islamic body's conferences in the past....

Youth Alliance For Peace Organized

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 4): Youth Alliance For Peace Organized

In cognizance of the youth’s important role in nation and peace building, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) facilitated the transformation of the regional “Youth for Peace Movement” organizations into the National Youth Alliance for Peace (NYAP) through the three-day first and ever largest National Youth Leadership Summit (NYLS) last week in Southern Philippines. No less than AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie D. Dellosa personally graced the big event and saw the potential of the NYLS in integrating youth organizations towards the attainment of just and lasting peace. He also recognized the future leaders of the country in the youth today. The NYLS was aimed at building awareness, educating, and organizing the youth to support and keep up the momentum of the government’s peace efforts on all fronts. Participants of the big gathering came from the different provinces and cities of the country. The regional Youth for Peace Movement composed of graduates of local youth leadership summits in Davao City conducted by the AFP are already active in youth empowerment and community development activities....

Army officer quits post over lapses in clash that killed B’laan woman, children

From InterAksyon (Nov 4): Army officer quits post over lapses in clash that killed B’laan woman, children

The commander of the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion has resigned from his post following lapses in the military operation in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur that killed a B'laan woman and her children. Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, has resigned "to allow other third-party groups to investigate (the incident) freely and to prove that there is no cover-(up) in the search for truth in this incident," Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, 10th Infantry Division spokesman, confirmed to Sunday. Bravo's resignation will take effect Monday and he will be reportedly replaced by Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial. "(Bravo's) action is laudable and an example of a true gentleman and courageous leader who is willing to accept the consequence of his action and of his subordinates," Paniza said....

Body of Air Force student pilot in May 2012 crash found

From InterAksyon (Nov 4): Body of Air Force student pilot in May 2012 crash found

After nearly six months of search operations, the body of the Air Force student pilot who went missing from a plane crash last May has finally been found. The Philippine Air Force on Sunday said that the body of First Lieutenant Michael Arugay was found by local fishermen Saturday off the coast of Mariveles, Bataan. Arugay was still clad in flight suit when his body was recovered. The Air Force's 15th Strike Wing immediately sent a team to retrieve the body and determine its identity.  PAF chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz dispatched a Sokol helicopter to airlift the body. The recovery of Arugay's body brings to a close the search for the missing pilots of the ill-fated SF 260 TP "Warrior" that crashed off La Monja Island in Bataan last May 18....

Aquino to raise sea dispute at Asia-Europe meet

From Rappler (Nov 4): Aquino to raise sea dispute at Asia-Europe meet

President Benigno Aquino III said Sunday, November 4 that the Philippines would raise overlapping claims to the South China Sea during a summit of Asian and European leaders in Laos this week. Aquino said he expects to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of the European Union, Poland, Switzerland, Norway and Italy during the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting beginning in Laos on Monday. "At a time when parts of Asia and Europe are facing crisis and uncertainty, it is important for leaders of the two regions to discuss issues they are burdened with," he said in his departure speech....  Aquino said the Philippines meanwhile would seek "suggestions on ways to craft a just and peaceful agreement on the West Philippine Sea". Manila refers to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines has since April been engaged in a stand-off with China over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea....

Davao Sur bishop commends Army officials on military probe

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 4): Davao Sur bishop commends Army officials on military probe

Bishop Guillermo Afable of the Diocese of Digos has commended military officials for initiating the investigation by the Board of Inquiry on 13 soldiers in connection with the death of the wife and two sons of a B’laan tribal leader in Kiblawan town, this province, last month. “I commend the Army’s 10th ID (Infantry Division) for the reported outcome of the investigation,” Afable said in a text message to this writer. He said “truth and restorative justice do prevail in our Armed Forces of the Philippines. You make us proud. There is hope for matuwid na daan.” This developed as 13 members of the 27th Infantry Battalion are set to face a military court martial for allegedly violating the Rules of Engagement. Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said the result of the investigation conducted by the Board of Inquiry showed that the soldiers, including a lieutenant, who led the operating team, was found to have violated the Rules of Engagement under the Articles of War. “Investigation showed that there is a tactical lapse and gross negligence of duty,” Paniza said, adding the involved soldiers could be discharged from military service and face criminal charges and be jailed. He stressed this is to show that the military is not condoning any wrongdoing committed by the rank and file of the Philippine Army. “We shall let the rule of law to prevail,” he said....

Army troopers neutralize NPA fighter in Agusan Del Norte firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 4): Army troopers neutralize NPA fighter in Agusan Del Norte firefight

Troopers from the Philippine Army's 402nd Infantry Brigade killed a New People's Army (NPA) fighter following a clash in Barangay Tagbuyacan, Santiago, Agusan Del Norte Saturday morning. Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, in a belated report, said the clash with the 20 strong rebel band transpired around 8:58 a.m. He added that the slain rebel, who is still unidentified, and his companions are affiliated to the NPA's Guerilla Front 16 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee. Osias said the NPAs presence in the area were reported to 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Cagayan De Oro by civilians hard hit by the rebels' harassment and extortion tactics, prompting the deployment of the 402nd Infantry Brigade to the area, triggering the firefight. He added that the engagement between the soldiers and rebel group lasted for 50 minutes, that resulted in the killing of one NPA fighter and the recovery of an Ak-47 automatic rifle. Osias said pursuit operations are still ongoing against the rebel elements who immediately retreated after seeing one of their companions dead....

Army calls for peace amid on-going clashes with NPA in Samar Island

From the Manila Channel, Philippine Standard News (Nov 4): Army calls for peace amid on-going clashes with NPA in Samar Island

Despite another encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Matuguinao, Samar on October 30 killing 1 soldier, government troops remained determined to bring peace in Eastern visayas region. Major Gen. Gerardo T. Layug, 8ID commander based in Catbalogan, Samar, said they will continue their quest in achieving a peaceful community for people through sustained peace and security operations.  “The sacrifices and heroism of my men will further strengthen us in pursuing lasting peace in the area” Layug said. As this developed, Gen. Layug said their “Bayanihan” operation which paved the way for more community development projects in the area will continue....Meanwhile Capt. Gene R. Orense, chief of Division Public Affairs Office, expressed his message for the NPA members in Samar and the rest of Region 8, calling them to “voluntarily submit themselves to the government and support the government’s peace and development efforts....” The army has been targeting that the whole of Samar Island will be insurgency free by year end of 2013. The continued insurgency is said to have caused Samar Island to remain sluggard in its development. Just recently the Island received global assistance in its infrastructure, medical and capability support via 2012 Pacific Partnership humanitarian mission led by US forces. Consequently also Samar is a recipient of a multi-million pesos program of the national government thru PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) to ease peace and order and poverty in the area...

Interview with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: 'We will fulfil the peace plan'

From the New Straits Times (Nov 4): Interview with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: 'We will fulfil the peace plan'

FOR A BETTER FUTURE: Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim talks to Leslie Andres on his journey to sign a framework agreement with the Philippine government:

Question: There are complaints from some groups that they have been sidelined in the peace talks with the Philippine government. Is this true?

Answer: On the domestic front, there is overwhelming support among the Bangsamoro people. There are groups which have expressed their reservations, but they are the minority. (The talks) open the door to dialogues with all Bangsamoro groups. This is why we are going "door to door" to have dialogues with all the groups. This is not just for the MILF but for also Bangsamoro.
We are optimistic that they (those who have expressed reservations) will support the peace plan soon.

Question: When you talk about groups expressing reservations, does this include Nur Misuari (leader of the Moro National Liberation Front)? Does the MNLF pose a threat to peace?

Answer: The MNLF has broken into five factions. Only Misuari has reservations. The others are supportive or have not stated their opinion. In 2010, the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation set up a memorandum of understanding, which Misuari signed, to establish a coordination mechanism for peace among all of us. Unfortunately, this has yet to become a reality. So far, there has been no violence (on the part of the MNLF). Misuari has about 1,000 people in his group. We are hoping that the ICFM can step in so that we can work together. We are saddened because Misuari has also been a leader of Bangsa- moro and sacrificed for it. What we don't understand is that we have achieved something, but he is not supportive of it.

Question: Do you still need the support of the international community?

Answer: This is why we are lobbying (foreign) countries (to aid the Bangsamoro people).
We hope all the countries that supported the peace process, especially Malaysia which worked hard to make it a reality, as well as non-governmental organisations and the International Monitoring Team that was set up to ensure the ceasefire was respected, will help us so that the people can feel there is an impact after signing the agreement.
We need to have their support to initiate rehabilitation.

Question: In what areas can Malaysia play a role?

Answer: Our priority is life-building (nation-building) programmes to help the people. We have been at war for decades and our people have suffered much. We welcome projects that will benefit the people. We are looking at agri-aqua projects as our lands are rich in (resources). We are especially interested in the Felda scheme in Malaysia. We have vast public land for oil palm projects that can be distributed (to the people). We are also looking at infrastructure projects such as building roads and even (the setting up of) small factories.

Question: Has Felda made any approaches or have you approached them?

Answer: In Malacanang (Palace in Manila, where the signing of the framework agreement took place), President (Benigno S. Aquino III) said he would raise the matter with your prime minister. Our analysis shows that it (Felda) can help our people.

Question: What about humanitarian aid? Do you need this?

Answer: Of course. There have been international NGOs here as early as 10 years ago helping with rehabilitation and humanitarian issues. We find that Malaysian NGOs are actively helping people in other parts of the world. With the signing (of the framework agreement), they can help us, too.

Question: What about education?

Answer: Education is one of our priorities because we lag behind other parts of the Philippines. Most of our people are not educated. If we can get grants or scholarships from international universities, like those in Malaysia, we can send our people to study there.

Question: Now that the framework agreement has been signed, where do you go from here?

Answer: Our two panels have to iron out details such as power and wealth-sharing as well as intergovernmental relationship. In the middle of this month, maybe we will return to Kuala Lumpur to start working on the annexes to the framework agreement. The president has to issue an executive order to set up a transition committee to draft basic laws for the two panels, which will serve as the governing laws for the Bangsamoro government. Hopefully by 2014 or 2015, we can establish the transition authority as a provisional government here. By 2016, we can form a government (by election). (The government) will take a ministerial form, so the election process may vary from the presidential elections. Anybody can aspire to take any position. It will not be dominated by the MILF.

Question: Has there been any resistance to this plan?

Answer: We have support among the Bangsamoro people. Among other Philippine people, some don't agree. Some people want a federal system. I think most politicians don't agree with this plan.

Question: Has there been any impact (of the signing of the framework agreement) on the grassroots?

Answer: We need to let the people know that there is an alternative to holding arms; that they can lead a normal life.They must also feel that they have security. So, we will establish a police force. Once our situation normalises, it will be better. It will not if they (continue to) hold firearms.

Question: Being a Muslim majority area, will you be establishing a syariah court?

Answer: There is already a syariah court established by the federal government. But it only deals with personal matters such as inheritance issues. We have agreed to expand the court's coverage.
We will have both syariah and civil courts as there are non-Muslims residing here. We will also respect the traditional means of settling issues practised by the indigenous tribes.

Question: Will the Bangsamoro government be looking at the legal system in Malaysia, where syariah and civil courts exist, as a model for its own system?

Answer: There will be some similarities. Our situation is the same (as Malaysia) but then every situation is different (from country to country).

Question: How do you see the roles of President Aquino and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the peace process?

Answer: We are happy that President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib are popular and strong leaders. That gives the agreement a boost and guarantees that it will be implemented. We especially appreciate Prime Minister Najib's presence at the signing. We are also grateful that the Global Movement of Moderates (mooted by Najib) is aligned with the peace accord. You will notice that moderate Islamic movements are prospering in the world. This also energises us to shift our own political line to a more moderate movement. We are also inspired by the moderation policy in Malaysia. We would like to (put forward) our unending expression of gratitude to the prime minister for his government's support. His encouragement and ideas give both parties much fuel. Likewise, we thank the Malaysian people who sympathise with us. (As for Aquino), we have a common understanding on the need to complete the peace process. At first, we were looking at a six-year transition period but it was agreed that this might take us into the next administration. That is why we opted for a three-year transition period, from 2013 to 2016 (when elections will be held a form a Bangsamoro government).

Question: So, you have confidence in President Aquino?

Answer: With the previous administrations, we felt they were just trying to contain the situation and not solving the problem. Now, after more than two years of negotiating with the present administration, we have a framework agreement for peace. We are convinced that the president has the political will and sincerity to solve the problem.

Question: What next for the MILF?

Answer: There are two options available to us. The first is to become a political party and the second is to serve as an Islamic (non-governmental) organisation.


Banners are erected along the route to Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim’s house at Darapanan Camp Camp in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao. Pic by Effendy Rashid